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  1. One of my players enjoys writing up our sessions, so I thought I might share them with everyone. Background: We play for about four hours on Discord once a month. Most of the group has some RPG experience, save one. The others are familiar with BRP, but none has played Pendragon before. We are sometimes a bit loose with details of medieval society and Arthurian canon, whatever the latter is. Our starting knights: Sir Nerys (le Sorciere) of Broughton - A child of another knight known for Aurelius’ continental campaigns, who died along Sir Owain’s sire. Known for her warm feelings for her family, her generosity, and her love of books. Sir Owain (of the Four Heads) of Stapleford - His father fought with distinction with Aurelius from Galicia to Mount Snowdon, gaining great honor and the king’s appreciation until he died in the Frisian raids. Notable for his loyalty to the count, and his recklessness. Sir Rhian (the Mad) of Shrewton - Her mother died under Aurelius in Galicia with great glory. Notable for her excitement, her welcoming nature, and her affection for her family. Sir Tyngyr (Baronbreaker) of Cholderton - His family were staunch Vortigern loyalists; his father renounced the High King shortly before dying of plague. Known for being just and honorable, but most of all for hating Saxons.
  2. The Meetings It was the third year since Cerdic declared himself Westseaxacyning. Aelle had been the Cantacyning for eighteen years and it was eighth year since he had named himself Brytenwealda. Guercha One-eye the Angelcyning was still disputing Aelle's claim to be Brytenwealda for the past three years. It had been a hard, cold winter and food was short. Hretha had the land in her grip for longer than even the oldest people could remember. The Tamyse was often frozen and people huddled round fires telling stories of the summer. Sol-monath was late because the snows fell after Yule and stayed until The Festival of Hretha. Wulfhere led the sacrifices at the festival to placate the Winter goddess of Death but people said she rejected the offerings. Winter was hard on the animals and despite picking the best possible sacrifices the goddess did not seem satisfied. She took many of the older and weaker people too. Offa was pleased with his new batch of ale which at Dunstan’s prompting he had called Anvil Ale and he thought he should serve it at the Yule festival to help cheer the people up. The Hrothgarsons had managed to travel to Wincen Cæster for Cerdic’s Yule festival. Cerdic was in fine form. He had spent the year consolidating his lands and allocating land to new settlers. Westsæxe was the only kingdom that was not at war and Cerdic’s lands had benefited from the peace. There had been the usual border skirmishes with Dumnonia but other than some burnt farms there had been no change in the borders. Stuf advocated strongly for a war with Dumnonia this coming year. He said that his spies had reported the Britons had been fighting amongst themselves and they had weakened each other. He thought it was time to strike for the Sæfern sea and split the British kingdoms in two. Cerdic disagreed and said that although he acknowledged that there had been fighting in the far west, his spies had also reported that the Bear had been victorious and he had been elected Brytenwealda by the other British tribes. Therefore, it would be likely that an attempt to reach the Sæfern Sea would mean fighting just not Dumnonia but other British kingdoms who would come to the defence of the Brytenwealda. He said that he intended to try and split the tribes and conclude peace treaties with Gwent and possibly send another embassy to Kernow. Cissa had been fighting in the north advancing against the Chilternsæte and Wæclingas and the repercussions of Wæcla’s poisoning and Wlencig’s gruesome death were yet to be seen. There had been skirmishes between the joint forces of the Chilternsæte and Wæclingas and Cissa of Aeglesburgh over the blame for Wlencig’s death and the poisoning of Wæcla but no outright battles. War would be expected after the crops are planted. Gwent had moved spearmen into Spinæ and Brige and had built Burghs on the west side of the Tamyse to protect their lands from Cissa and the Miercians. It was reported that Aelle intended to raise his army and go north. Cerdic had already given Wulfhere instructions to aid Wæcla covertly but not enough to provoke Aelle into breaking the peace treaty. He was clear he was not ready for another war. There was not really any surprise when the news reached Wincen Cæster that Wæcla had divorced Brithwen and had married Ealhwyn Hrofsdotter. The news from the Angles was more comforting. Guercha One-eye had tried to capture Colnacæster but had been defeated by Sæberht Ingwaldson, the Upplingascyning in a battle near Colnacæster. Sæberht had mobilised the East Saxon tribes of the Hæmele, Vange, Denge and Ginges and the Angles had been routed. On the way back north, the Hrothgarsons stopped at Taddenlæge to talk with Tadda about the affairs in the area. Uthric went to talk to Orin and to see his children. Wulfhere also saw his children but they were unsure who he was, which upset him as he still was annoyed that Bronwyn had not chosen him. He spoke at length to Tadda and Rowena about the situation. Rowena said that he should get remarried and said that her widowed daughter would make an excellent wife and the children already spent a lot of time with her. Wulfhere said that he had a lot of things to do this year and marriage was not one of the things he had considered but he said that he would give some thought to Rowena’s suggestion after midsummer. On the return home, Wulfhere summoned the people for the first Moot of the year. He said that since there had been peace for a while that taxes would be returned to normal. There was some grumbling but most accepted that if the harvest was good they should have plenty of food to feed the people with more to spare. Cwen had asked Wulfhere to agree to hold a weekly market in Pontes. She thought that because it was at the crossroads of the Tamyse and they would benefit if trade came through. Wulfhere said that he thought it might lower the tax burden on the people over time and gave her money to set up what was needed. Beorthric wanted to know if Wulfhere would expand his lands to bring in more sheep. He thought that there might be a greater need as more people came north to settle and the market would help create more demand. Wulfhere agreed that he would give him a further three hydes of land that were too poor for farming. Cwen had already discussed building larger brewing houses with Offa and they agreed that setting up a Merchant’s Inn would help to create a bigger attraction. Offa had been pleased that his Anvil Ale had been enjoyed at Yule and had other ideas for different flavours using seasonal herbs. Cwen agreed that she would supervise the building of Wulfhere’s Hall as she said even she was frustrated about his tardiness in getting it finished. Wulfhere was keen that the Hall would be the administrative centre for his lands and a focal point for the people. After the Spring festival when the people lit bonfires and drew water from the wells and springs to help with healing the sick, Aelle came to find Wulfhere. He arrived at dusk with fifty mounted warriors. He was keen to hear from witnesses who had been present at his son’s death. Wulfhere thought Aelle looked older and more worn by his recent troubles. He rarely smiled when talking and seemed short tempered with his men. He was polite with the Hrothgarsons and did not offer any offence or hostility. Wulfhere said that he had been present when Wlencig had come to Wæcla’s Hall looking for his imprisoned wife Ealhwyn, who Wæcla had accused of poisoning him. Wæcla had been badly injured by his chief Huscarl, Sceirhead, and was possibly dying at the time and was not present in the Hall when Wlencig arrived. Wlencig had intimidated Iænbeorht, Wæcla’s Boldweard, and had tried to force his way into Ealhwyn’s rooms but he and his bodyguards were forced back into the main hall by the guard on Ealhwyn’s door. It was then Wlencig was attacked by the leæch, Dunric. Aelle was keen to know if this was the same leæch that had been responsible for so many deaths in Cædering and had set a Déaþscufa loose on the people of the region. Wulfhere confirmed that it was and said he thought that Dunric might have wanted the power that killing Wlencig would have released for appeasing spirits. Uthric told the story of how Sceirhead had tried to kill Wæcla and how it had been said that he had been paid by Cissa. Aelle wanted to know if Sceirhead could also have been in league with Dunric but Uthric said he did not believe this was possible because the leæches had healed Wæcla. Aelle asked how Ealhwyn was involved in events and what had been her part in the death of his son. Uthric said that he did not think she was involved in the killing and she had prepared Wlencig’s body to return to his father. He did not think it wise to mention she had not been over concerned by Wlencig’s death or her admission to him that she was Wæcla’s lover. Aelle had heard that she had since married Wæcla and said that he considered her to be somehow involved with Wlencig’s death. He said that he would give 20,000 silver for Dunric’s head. He said he considered Wæcla and Ealhwyn as his enemies. Aelle asked if he could stay the night and Wulfhere said that he would be honoured although he was concerned that the King’s men would eat much of his winter stores. Wulfhere was using Dunstan’s Hall to host Aelle because his own was still being constructed and could not host anyone while it remained unfinished. Dunstan’s Hall was also still unfinished and was still lacking ornamentation and decorations that people expected from a Þegn. However, the Hall was serviceable and the biggest building in Pontes but could not hold all Aelle’s men and some stayed in Hambladensted or Farnhamble. Aelle drank a considerable amount of Offa’s ale but instead of becoming more morose, he cheered up and spoke at length with Offa about brewing. Nevertheless, the Hrothgarsons were relieved when he left to cross the Tamyse in the morning and travelled toward Aeglesburgh. Aelle had only left a few days before the guards told Wulfhere that a noble woman and her guards had come across the bridge from the north side of the Tamyse. Wulfhere and Cwen had been trying to estimate how much food they would need to redistribute to ensure the people did not go hungry. He was not happy that another noble had come to Pontes which would require use of more precious resources. He went to seek the news and to find out what had prompted a visit. He was surprised to see Brithwen, the former Wæclingascyninge, in Dunstan’s Hall. He greeted her and gave her the title of Cyninge but she reproved him and said that he might not have heard the news but that she was no longer a Queen. Wulfhere offered her hospitality but she declined any feast. She said she would only stay one night and leave early in the morning to travel to Wincen Cæster as she desired to speak with Cerdic. Brithwen asked for a private room as she did not think it was appropriate nor did she feel capable of a public appearance. Wulfhere was surprised but did not say anything. He said that Cwen would come and see to her needs. In the morning Brithwen left with her five guards and pack horses. Cwen told Wulfhere that Brithwen had not spoken much. She had not said why she sought out Cerdic and Cwen could not get any of her guards to talk. Wulfhere thought that she would seek Cerdic’s protection. She could not have gone to Aelle as he would have used her presence for his own purposes against Wæcla. Seeking protection from Guercha One-eye would have been equally dangerous as he had not forgiven the Miercians for taking the land that he considered his. On the day that Brithwen left, Tathere the fisherman came to Uthric with another man, called Oscytel, to say that the fishermen were upset with some recent events and had come to ask his advice. Tathere showed him two bodies. One was one of the fishermen and the other was a white body of what looked like a man. Tathere said that the dead fisherman and Oscytel had been clearing the fish traps earlier that morning. There had been a heavy river mist, which was not unusual for the time of year, when a war boat had suddenly come out of the mist and hit the stationary fishing boat. Oscytel had been knocked into the river but Byrnheard had been able to hold on to the sides of the boat which had proved to be his death. One of the warriors in the war boat had speared him. Uthric looked at the body and there was an obvious spear thrust to his throat which had likely killed the fisherman. Uthric asked where the war boats had gone but Oscytel said that he was unsure as he was trying not to be seen because he had not been keen to suffer the same fate as Byrnheard. However, from their direction of travel, he believed they may have gone up the Cœln. He had seen five boats crammed with warriors with white bulls on their shields. Uthric looked at the other body but did not touch it. It was a white man. He had no apparent colour. His hair, skin and staring eyes were white. Uthric asked Tathere if anyone had seen such a creature before. He was hesitant to call the creature a man. Tathere said that this was the first such creature he had seen and he hoped that he would not see another. Uthric ordered them to burn both it and the net that it was entangled in away from the settlements. He said he would give them money to replace the net. Uthric asked the fishermen to keep an eye on the river and he would give them more instructions later when he talked to Wulfhere. Uthric went to find Wulfhere and was surprised to find him talking with the Ealdorman Hrof. Hrof greeted Uthric and asked for the news. Uthric was reluctant to tell him what the fishermen had said and showed him but was happy to tell Hrof how he had found his wife. Hrof said that he was glad that their search had ended and Meire had returned. Hrof said that he was travelling north to support Aelle at Aeglesburgh but had stopped in his journey to discuss his daughter, Ealhwyn. He had heard some concerning reports of events in Verulamacæster and was keen to hear the Hrothgarsons’ opinions. He said that in truth Aelle would question him about Ealhwyn and he needed to be certain about the answers. Hrof told them that they should not spare his feelings or hold back information for fear of offending him. He said that he thought that Ealhwyn was endangering the peace by her actions and he did not have a good feeling about what was going to happen. Dunstan said that from their observation, Wæcla and the Miercians were creating a defensive confederation to protect themselves against Aelle, Guercha and Cerdic. He thought also that if the Miercians and Angles were going to fight each other then they would not be fighting south of the Tamyse. Wulfhere said that Wæcla had stressed that the confederation was defensive and would not be offensive unless provoked. He said that Ealhwyn had told him that she had been convinced by her cousin, Sæberht, the Upplingascyning, that she should be part of the confederation. She had met with Wæcla and they seemed to have formed a closer pact by becoming lovers. Hrof said that he had heard that this was so. He said he regretted that he had insisted that she had married Wlencig as it was a political, but also a particularly joyless, union. The two were opposite in personality and Ealhwyn had despised Wlencig. Hrof asked about Iænbeorht and Brithwen and how they had been involved in the unfolding events. Uthric said that it was likely that Iænbeorht was Cissa’s spy and agent. He had left suddenly when Wlencig had been killed by the leæches so they had not had a chance to question him. Wulfhere said that there was no evidence that Brithwen had been involved in the deaths or attempted murders. He did not think it was wise to mention that Brithwen had gone to Cerdic. Hrof thanked them for their insights and said that he had to try and think how he would deal with Aelle and his anger. He said his other problem would be what to do with Ealhwyn when she was captured. Hrof went off to see to his men and horses and Uthric took the opportunity to tell Wulfhere what the fishermen had told him. Dunstan and Wulfhere were dubious about the story of war boats on the river. No-one else had seen them and Dunstan said that the fishermen were not truthful. He thought it likely that it was an internal feud about fishing rights and they were only trying to cover up a murder. Uthric said that he thought that could be the case. He said that they might remember the white bull shield was Cœlfrith’s which was a strange thing because they had heard that he had been killed by Aelle. Wulfhere said that they should not take chances and told Uthric to raise the Fyrd. He thought that they should find out if there were five boatloads of hostile warriors on the Tamyse and be prepared. Dunstan said he would talk to Tathere and put the fear of the gods into him to make him tell the truth. Uthric gathered 50 men and took them as far as Duromagus but could not find anyone who could tell him of war boats on the Tamyse. He took a boat and visited his friend Eadweald at Cescwin but Eadweald said that he had not had reports of hostile warriors. When he returned to Pontes, Hrof had left and gone north. Hrof had discussed the building of Wulfhere’s Hall with Cwen and Wulfhere. He had given advice on what Wulfhere should include and promised that he would send two tapestries from Friesland to put on the walls. The Hrothgarsons were discussing what they should do next when news arrived that Cerdic was coming to talk to Wulfhere. Wulfhere said that he was surprised that suddenly Pontes had come to be the centre of the world. In a short space all the Kings and Hrof had visited him. He wondered if Guercha One-eye might be next. Cerdic greeted them and asked them for the news. Cerdic said that he was interested in seeing how they had been getting on with building the fortifications. Cwen had told him that they had struggled to get Stonemasons and people capable of building and he had been pleased to help out. He said he thought he might offer his advice as he had recently finished the fortifications in Wincen Cæster and had become quite an expert in building. Cerdic looked at the bridge and asked if they might have thought about pulling down the towers on the far side in case there are hostile forces on the opposite bank and therefore deny anyone a strong position to attack south Pontes. He said they should be careful about destroying the bridge when taking the towers down as no-one was capable of building such an impressive bridge since the Romans left. When Wulfhere looked confused about Cerdic’s talk of building, he said that he was really interested that Hrof and Aelle had spent time in Pontes and asked their opinion of events. Wulfhere told Cerdic that Aelle had been asking about the death of his son which he wanted to blame on the Wæclingas. Cerdic was interested in the motives of Wæcla and his usefulness as an ally against Aelle. Wulfhere said that in both conversation and observation of Wæcla, he held true to his principle of being part of a defensive coalition rather than expansionist but he agreed with Cerdic that Ealhwyn Hrofsdotter was a conundrum. Cerdic had already asked Wulfhere to covertly support Wæcla and he repeated his views that they should support, advise and trade with the Wæclingas but ensure that any active co-operation was deniable. Wulfhere said that he would do his best. Cerdic said that a fisherman had asked him for an audience and had spoken about his concern about five warships on the Tamyse. Cerdic asked if Wulfhere had heard this news. Dunstan said that the fishermen were not always truthful and they seemed to be working to their own agenda. He said they had spent days and considerable resources looking for boats but there had been no evidence they actually existed. There had been a body of a dead fisherman but no-one other than one fisherman had seen the boats. He said both he and Uthric had concluded that the fishermen were lying again. He proceeded to tell Cerdic of the previous incident that nearly broke the truce with Aelle. Cerdic acknowledged that the Hrothgarsons had done well. Cerdic stayed the night and although he spoke little at the feast, Wulfhere noted that Cerdic took in everything that went on and often asked pointed questions about events. In the morning Cerdic asked about the people living between the Wey and the Æmon and who they owed allegiance to. Wulfhere said that the land was mostly marsh and the peoples living there were living between Hrof’s lands and their own. Cerdic asked Wulfhere to talk to the people and get them to swear fealty to him. He thought the land would be useful in the future should it come to a war with Aelle. Wulfhere was glad that he left in the morning to go South as he did not believe they would have enough food until the harvest if he had to continue to host Kings. Wulfhere was still grumbling about the food he had to use for the Kings but both Dunstan and Uthric began planning to visit the lands from the Wey to the Æmon. Uthric thought that they should take 50 men as a show of force to the inhabitants but Dunstan had the view that force was not necessary because they needed to persuade people rather than threaten them. Wulfhere, when he finally paid attention to the conversation, agreed with Dunstan and they agreed 25 warriors would be sufficient. Wulfhere said that he had been thinking about a design for his shield. He thought that he had been remiss in not deciding this earlier because as an Ealdorman he had the right to have his own design but it also showed others of his power. Dunstan suggested that he should use a squirrel design because there seemed an overabundance of the curious creatures in their lands. Wulfhere said that he had been thinking of something more frightening such as fýrdraca1 or a heoruwearh2and that few people would consider a squirrel to be a creature that provoked fear in his enemies. He thought that a black wolf would be an appropriate symbol for his men. Uthric said the difficulty might be actually drawing it on the shield but if he also had a black background then the drawing would not matter. Wulfhere ignored his suggestion and decided that he would have a black raven on a red shield. In the end Wulfhere decided only to take 15 warriors with him in his trip to the Æmon. He was concerned that while they did not trust the truth of what the fishermen had said, there needed to be men to respond to any threat and he thought it was better to leave warriors under the command of Halig, his youngest brother. Wulfhere insisted that his brothers put on their best clothes and that the warriors had their new shields ready and weapons honed as if for war. He also brought some gifts for the local leaders of the marsh people to impress them with his generosity. He said to his brothers that an Ealdorman should be a bēáhġifa3 for it denoted generosity and respect for others. His brothers wondered if Wulfhere was not getting carried away with his power. Wulfhere asked all those in the district that could come to meeting for he had some important news. There were many families who lived in the area but they were widely separated by marshes and bogs and it took several days to get the meeting organised. Wulfhere had brought some of Offa’s ale and gave it to the folk who gathered before he spoke. He told the people of the changing nature of the north and the recent troubles when Cissa had ravaged the north side of the Tamyse and then the lands between the Wey and the Lodden. He reminded them that they had no Lord to protect them should Aelle begin to covet their lands and invited them to consider what they might do should war break out between the Kings. He said from experience that it was best to be under the protection of one King because there was now no option to be neutral as the people who used to live on the north of the Tamyse found out. The chief people of the district were impressed by Wulfhere’s speech and even more impressed when he gave them thick silver bracelets. They said they would consider his words carefully and would give him an answer in a few days. They thought that their deliberations might be improved if they were able to drink more of Offa’s fine ale. Dunstan said that he would ensure some was sent as he did not want them to be thirsty if they needed to talk so much. Uthric thought that they could come to the market every midweek and Offa’s ale was always available for those that were thirsty. Several days later, Wulfhere received a delegation from the people of the marshes and all their leading people swore allegiance to Wulfhere. Uthric thought that Offa’s intervention might have been significant in their decision but Dunstan said it was the weekly market that was the main factor. Wulfhere did not offer a view on the matter. The Hrothgarsons decided that they should seek out Wæcla and tell him of Cerdic’s support. Cwen said it might be a good idea to take him a wedding present but Wulfhere grumbled about the cost of buying a king a present. However, he accepted that it would be a good reason to meet Wæcla. Both Cwen and Æthlind asked for cloth for new dresses if they were travelling through Lundenwic because the market there had expensive cloth from Frankia and Frisia. Æthlind had seen a new style of dress when she was in Wincen Cæster and was keen that she looked her best for when Dunstan’s Hall was finished. Cwen thought they should get some cloth for Ealhwyn too but Uthric thought that she would probably prefer a sword too. Æthlind, who had never met Ealhwyn, said that she thought Uthric’s opinion was unbelievable. Cwen said that Æthlind was maybe right but for the wrong reason. She found a sword difficult after a long period of fighting because of the weight and much preferred a spear. She recommended that Æthlind should join her when next she practiced with the warriors. At Veralamacæster, they found that Wæcla was not there. He was with the Warband and King Wulfgeat of the Chilternsæte raiding Aelle’s lands. Wulfhere thought they could talk with Ealhwyn, but the Cyninge had also gone to war with Wæcla. Wulfhere asked for a guide to take him to Wæcla because no one could tell him when the King would return and he was not prepared to wait in Verulamacæster. Wæcla welcomed the Hrothgarsons and introduced them to Wulfgeat, the Chilternsætecyning. Wulfhere told Wæcla that he brought greetings from Cerdic on his hopes for his swift recovery from his injury, congratulations on his recent wedding and that he had brought him a gift for his wedding to Ealhwyn. Wulfhere presented the sword and jewelled scabbard along with a fine gold embroidered blue cloak for Ealhwyn. Wæcla thanked them for the gifts but wanted to know why the Hrothgarsons had really made the journey. He thought that the greetings, well wishes and presents could have waited and yet here they were sitting in a cold camp in the Chiltern Hills. He thought that Wulfhere might have come to tell him something else. Wulfhere conceded that Wæcla was indeed perceptive and the real reason was to tell him that Cerdic would offer discreet support, should the need arise, and to pass on Hrof’s greetings to his daughter Ealhwyn. Ealhwyn was angry at her father’s message because she had heard that he had come to join Aelle in the north and they were likely to be on opposing sides. Wæcla said he was more amused by Cerdic’s message and wanted to know what Cerdic’s discreet help really meant and importantly what Cerdic wanted from the Wæclingas in return. Wulfhere addressed Ealhwyn’s anger first and told her that in his opinion her father wanted to know that she was safe. Uthric said that Hrof held her in high regard and that his coming north was because that he was Aelle’s liegeman and Aelle was infuriated by the death of Wlencig. Dunstan said that they had been very clear that Wlencig’s death was due to Dunric and Wlencig’s arrogance rather than the Wæclingas. Wæcla said that he thought these were fine words but the truth was that Aelle was here to destroy the Wæclingas and the Chilternsæte and must be stopped. He was keen to know how many spearmen Wulfhere would give as that is what he most needed at present. Wulfhere said that he would send twenty of his best Warriors north on his return to help with the defence for which Wæcla expressed his gratitude. Wæcla pressed Wulfhere for Cerdic’s real reason for helping the Mierce for he presumed that Cerdic was not keen for open war with Aelle at present. Wulfhere said that Cerdic was keen for alliances and trade. Uthric reminded everyone that there was a new market in south Pontes and that Mierce merchants would find it a useful way to sell their goods. Wæcla said he was not sure about Cerdic’s real intensions but would take it at face value if Wulfhere swore on what he had said. Wulfhere agreed and they parted in friendship. As they were leaving, Wæcla took Wulfhere aside and asked him if he had heard any news of Brithwen. Wulfhere chose not to tell him that she had passed through Pontes a moon ago and Wæcla said that he was keen to find out where she was. He told Wulfhere that she had left with the royal treasury and he was keen to find out what had happened. Wulfhere said that he would send a message if she had been found. When they were traveling Dunstan wondered what they would do if Wæcla asked for more warriors. Uthric said he wasn’t that worried about sending more men as there were always young men looking for fame, glory and war loot. His main concern would be that Aelle would discover their duplicity and he thought this might not go well for them. Wulfhere said he believed they might be in real trouble then. Dunstan said that they should talk to Hrof about what would happen if Aelle should die or be killed in the fighting. He thought the whole political situation would change rapidly and he still harboured a grudge against Cerdic for not protecting their families. Wulfhere said that speculation was difficult but they should keep their relationship with Hrof cordial. When they returned to Pontes, the news was that Dunric, Nægel and Snyring had visited Hereweard and all had gone into the forest together. The word was that they were performing a ritual that no doubt involved lots of blood sacrifices to dark powers. (1) Fýrdraca is a fire dragon (2) Heoruwearh is a savage, bloody wolf (3) Bēáhġifa is a Ring-giver, a Lord
  3. Fire and Violent Death After the Moot, Wæcla held a feast and invited the Hrothgarsons to the High Table to discuss why they had come to Verulamacæster. Dunstan told the story of the Bannucmann in the hope that he would distract Wæcla’s attention but got himself tongue-tied and the listeners lost interest in his telling of the tale. Dunstan was upset with himself but most of the warriors were so drunk that Wulfhere said to him that he did not think it would affect their standing in the Hall. Wulfhere noticed that Wæcla did not drink much and he thought it might be a good idea to copy the King. Uthric had been brooding throughout the meal and did not say much. He had said to Dunstan that he was worried that Dunric had suddenly appeared again and had a feeling that this did not bode well for anyone. Dunstan explained to Wæcla that Uthric’s poor mood was because he had been worried that Dunric had come to his Kingdom and he did not see it as a coincidence that Wæcla had then been poisoned. He told Wæcla of their past dealings with Dunric and how he took great interest in death and killing innocent people by causing extreme suffering and pain. Wæcla said he was unsure what Dunstan wanted him to do. He said he was aware that leæches often sacrificed people to further their aims and while he did not agree with it, he accepted that it might be necessary for others to live. He thought priests and leæches were often inscrutable in their actions and he had found that trying to judge their motives as good or evil was essentially difficult and, in his experience, never successful. Wæcla thought Dunric may be evil and act evilly, as Dunstan had said, but he was, without doubt, being prompted by the gods or spirits. Wæcla did not see that he was therefore in a position to judge him or act against him without more evidence. Wæcla said he was more interested in their relationship with Hrof, Aelle and Cerdic. He said that they had by now heard that he had imprisoned Ealhwyn and he wanted to know if they could tell him how Hrof might respond. Wulfhere said that he could not claim to know Hrof well but they had met him a few times. He had found him to be a generous man to his friends but he was implacable as an enemy. He did know that he was fond of his daughter and that he could only guess that Hrof was still unaware of Ealhwyn’s imprisonment. Wæcla said he had been thinking how he should respond to Hrof and had not yet decided what to do with Ealhwyn. Uthric wanted to know if that was because he thought Ealhwyn was not guilty of poisoning him. Wæcla said he was still not sure but the evidence pointed to the fact that she was the only one who could have put the poison in his cup and the bottle of poison had been found in her sleeping chambers. Uthric said that the King must be aware that he had many enemies and not all of them identified themselves openly. Wæcla agreed with Uthric and said he thought this was a consequence of trying to be fair to everyone. Some mistook his justice as weakness. He asked if they knew of Aelle's intentions. Wulfhere said that Aelle's motivation was unknown to him but that he had found Aelle, in general, to be more open than Cerdic. One could always tell what Aelle was thinking as he tended to be hot-headed and emotional. Cerdic, on the other hand, did not let emotions rule his actions. Wulfhere said that, as he was the most northerly of Cerdic's Ealdorman, what he could tell Wæcla was that Cerdic had currently no thoughts of invasion of Mierce. His goal appeared to be to thwart Aelle's attempt to take land north of the Tamyse. There was peace at present between the two Kings but Wulfhere said that he could not see it lasting. He said both were too ambitious. Wæcla thought that if they fought each other then they would be likely to leave Mierce alone but it was clear to him that he could not really trust either King. They talked of other things that were more immediate and Uthric admitted that he had come north to find his wife, Meire. Wæcla was keen to hear the story and Uthric was able to keep the King’s interest with the tale. Wulfhere asked if he could have Wæcla’s opinion on Brithwen’s relationship with Iænbeorht as he had observed it to be overfamiliar. Wæcla thought Wulfhere's comment amusing. He said he would forgive the remark as Wulfhere was more than likely unaware that Iænbeorht was Brithwen's mother's brother. Wulfhere was surprised and apologised for his insinuation although he had found the interaction strange. Wæcla said that his wife, the Cyninge, was beyond reproof. He asked if they would be leaving in the morning but Uthric said that Meire was unwilling to leave without ensuring that Ealhwyn was declared innocent. Wæcla said that he thought this would be a good thing and when Dunstan asked if they could visit Ealhwyn in her rooms, Wæcla said he could think of no reason why that could not happen. When they were alone, the Hrothgarsons discussed the information that they had and what they needed still to do. Wulfhere said he still had suspicions about the Christians but that Cissa, Aelle’s son and Northern Warleader, had most to gain from Wæcla’s death. Dunstan said he was still confused by what was happening and said that it would be a lot simpler to take over the Kingdom rather than all of the plotting and poisoning. Wulfhere said that it would surely be sufficient to have someone in charge who is well disposed or willing to become a vassal of another Kingdom. Uthric said he was confused too but his confusion was about Ealhwyn’s motivation. He reminded his brothers that Ealhwyn was Hrof's daughter and married to Wlencig, Aelle's son. He wondered if the she had been acting on Aelle's behalf. Wulfhere said that they all agreed that Aelle and Cissa would benefit most from Wæcla's death. They could then absorb the lands of the Wæclingas and expand their territory further east but to do so they would need a compliant or inexperienced King. He wondered who might succeed Wæcla if he had died. There was no guarantee Wæcla's son, Scænwulf, would be the next Wæclingascyning as the Moot would need to vote for him and from what they had seen of him they were not sure he was capable of ruling a Kingdom. None of them had any idea of the power distribution in the land and what would happen at the Moot. Uthric had drunk too much the night before and felt very unwell the next morning. Dunstan on the other hand, was moving around noisily and whistling which caused Uthric to complain about inconsiderate people. Dunstan decided to leave Uthric sleeping and avoid an argument. He went into the main Hall and sat at one of the benches calling one of the serving women over to ask if he could have something to eat to break his night fast. He paid the serving woman, Mildburh, compliments and asked her opinions on the food. Mildburh was flattered by his attention and was happy to spend time talking to him. However, she said that she had to make it clear that if he was trying to get her to sleep with him then he would be wasting his time. She did suggest that if that was what he was interested in, then he should seek out Edoma, the kitchen maid, and that giving her some silver would get him what he wanted. Dunstan said that he had only been making conversation and settled down into eat his food. He did keep talking to Mildburh as she went about her chores and she returned his comments with equal enthusiasm. When Wulfhere joined Dunstan, he noted that Dunstan seemed to have attracted the attention of another woman and wondered why he needed to be surrounded by women and thought perhaps that he was not satisfied with only one. Dunstan said his mind was fully on Æthlind and that she was in every way beautiful, intelligent and hard-working and therefore all he needed. She had also given him a new son, Alhstan, who he believed would be a famous warrior one day. Wulfhere laughed as he noticed that Mildburh was paying close attention to Dunstan's plate and seemed to always be nearby by despite the number of other men in the hall looking for food. Wulfhere asked Mildburh if the king had a Beorsceale1 and who ran the household, particularly at feasts. Mildburh said that Brithwen, as the Cyninge, was in charge of the household but Haneald was the Boldweard2 and assisted the Queen. The boy, Oswui was the Beorsceale and it was he that sometimes served ale to the King. Wulfhere thanked her and when she was out of earshot said that once again Dunstan had got an attractive woman interested in him. Dunstan said that Wulfhere had misjudged him and if Wulfhere was interested in sleeping with Mildburh, he might find himself disappointed. He thought that Wulfhere would be more successful if he sought out Edoma, the kitchen maid, and gave her some silver. Wulfhere looked quizzically at Dunstan and said he was obviously still drunk as he was still not making sense. Dunstan shrugged his shoulders and said he was only trying to be helpful. Uthric eventually joined them in the main Hall and as he ate, Wulfhere discussed what they must do. He thought primarily they should see and speak with Ealhwyn but it might be also useful to talk to Haneald and Oswui. Dunstan said that he would like to talk to Bairre the Priest as he did not trust Christians to not cause trouble wherever they went and he thought it best to find out what his motives were for being in Verulamacæster. Uthric mumbled something about Blacksmiths and cauldrons but neither of his brothers were sure what he meant for he spoke so low and haltingly, frequently stopping midsentence to hold his head. While they were waiting for Wæcla to come into the Hall to gain permission to speak to Ealhwyn, Wulfhere talked to Haneald the Boldweard. Wulfhere thought Haneald was guarded in his responses but he was not sure who he was protecting. Haneald said that during feasts it was his duty to ensure that the Hall had enough food and drink, making sure that the servants were continually filling the drinking horns and trenchers. He said it was always the Cyninge's duty to ensure the guests at the High Table had enough to eat and drink but, on that particular night, Brithwen had not served the High Table became she did not want to embarrass the Cyning, who sat alone with Ealhwyn. Haneald said it was not up to him to comment on the actions of the King but he left Wulfhere with no doubt that he disapproved of Wæcla's behaviour. He said that Oswui, the Beorsceale, had served Wæcla and Ealhwyn that night. Wulfhere said he would like to talk to Oswui if that was possible. Oswui was brought into the Hall at Wulfhere’s request. He was a young boy of about eleven summers and Wulfhere thought he was likely to be the son of some favoured Þegn. Oswui was nervous and as he spoke he constantly played with an amulet of silver and gold that hung around his neck. Oswui said that he had given the Cyning and the Lady Ealhwyn drinks all night. He said that late into the night, Wæcla had suddenly stood up, had fallen over and had then begun to shake. Oswui said that despite what people were saying he did not believe Ealhwyn could have poisoned the Cyning because she was too nice. Wulfhere said that just because someone seems nice does not mean that they sometimes do things that are wrong. Oswui became flustered and upset by Wulfhere's words and held more tightly onto his amulet. Wulfhere asked who had given Oswui the drinking horns to give to the Cyning and was told that it had been the Cyninge. Oswui was startled by Wulfhere's question and possible consequences and said he did not think that Brithwen would have poisoned her husband. Wulfhere thanked him for the talk and went back to the bench where he had left Uthric and Dunstan. Dunstan had despaired of Uthric recovering from too much ale the night before and had left him to seek out Bairre, the Christian Priest. He asked directions from the guards on the Hall door and was told that Christians were not allowed to live within the city walls. They believed that he lived at a shrine to the Christian god to the east of the City. Dunstan eventually found the Priest, Bairre mac Guilla where the guards had told him. He was a small, round man with thinning hair and a stained robe. Bairre was excited to see Dunstan and told him he was welcome and glad he had sought him out to hear the message of the gospel. Dunstan said he was unsure what that might be but said he was always open to discussion. Dunstan acknowledged that he was not overly familiar with Christians and his previous experience of them had not endeared them. Bairre said that he thought that this may have been an unfortunate experience as he believed that most Christians were good people. He likened them to fishermen except that they were interested in saving souls. Dunstan frowned so heavily, Bairre took a backward step. Dunstan said that neither idea filled him with joy. He disliked fishermen because they had given him unending trouble. He was also not happy about any discussions about souls having lost and then found his own recently. Bairre said that he would like to hear the tale sometime but Dunstan said that he was not keen to tell it at the moment and it would need to be told at a later date, if Bairre was still interested. Dunstan decided he needed to change the subject and said he was keen to hear why the Priest had come to Verulamacæster because he was certain there were no other Christians in the area. Bairre reluctantly admitted this was true. His own people who were left in the area had taken up worshipping demons and idols. He had come with two junior priests to tend the shrine of Alban, a Christian martyr, who had been beheaded by the Romans for hiding a Priest. Dunstan said that he thought that the Priest must have been a criminal or else he would not need to have hidden. He therefore should have been given over to the Romans but Bairre disagreed and said Alban had been a good man. Dunstan said he was not sure he would ever understand Britons or Romans. They seemed to have an ability to cause unending harm to each other. Bairre said that he thought that characterisation of Christians was unfair and he reached to touch Dunstan’s arm to guide him towards the shrine. In doing so he revealed his hands that had been concealed by his robe. Dunstan noticed that his fingers were stained black and he asked Bairre why this was so. Bairre said that he spent his spare time copying out sections of his God’s Holy words in a book. The black stains were ink. Dunstan said he had never heard the word ink before and he pressed Bairre for an explanation. Bairre showed him the book and Dunstan said that he would call the marks in the book Runes and if this was the case then Bairre could rightly be described as a sorcerer. Bairre was upset by Dunstan’s words and repudiated that he would ever be involved in sorcery. Dunstan remained unconvinced and said he thought he should return to his brothers. Bairre asked him to come back again. Uthric had eventually gathered himself and had gone to the street where the īsernsmiþas3 worked. He asked around about small cauldrons but none of the īsernsmiþas said that they would do such a job unless specifically commissioned. They said that no-one would want such small cauldrons to cook with. Uthric noticed that most of the īsernsmiþas had black hands and when he asked them about the colour they explained that working with hot metal always caused burns where slivers of the metal and charcoal mixed to turn their hands black. One of them said that it was considered lucky and he had found that the women liked it. Uthric said that he thought he could manage woman’s interest without burning his hands black. Wulfhere was waiting for Wæcla to come into the Hall but when he arrived he was having an ongoing argument with his son, Scænwulf. Wulfhere was not close enough to hear what the argument was about before Scænwulf left in anger. Wulfhere decided that he would wait for Wæcla to calm down before asking to see Ealhwyn who might be another source of anger for Wæcla. He decided he might await the return of his brothers and continued to watch and wait but Wæcla did not seem to concerned about Scænwulf’s behaviour. Wulfhere concluded that it must be a regular occurrence. Wæcla continued with his daily tasks and was ensuring that his judgements from the Moot had been carried out. He brought Hwætmund the Merchant to see him and reminded him that he had made an agreement to charge a fixed price for cloth and yet he had heard that he was still overcharging. Hwætmund tried to claim it had been an accident but Wæcla said he was not interested in excuses. When his brother’s returned Wulfhere was still sitting listening to Wæcla. He said to them that it was easy to see why Wæcla was a popular King. He was very focused on protecting his people from those that would exploit them but Wulfhere said he also thought that he had many enemies because of that. Dunstan said that Kings are likely to have enemies. Uthric agreed and pointed out that Dunstan continually complains about Cerdic to anyone who will listen and even to those that tell him they are not interested in his views. Wulfhere told them he had witnessed Scænwulf argue with his father and Dunstan wondered if he could have attempted to poison Wæcla. While they were discussing this, Sceirhead the Chief Huscarl, came over and asked them if they needed some exercise. He said he was planning a trip to the Chiltern Hills and thought he could use more people that knew how to handle themselves. He thought the Hrothgarsons’ reputation was sufficient for them to have a prominent place in his Warband. Wulfhere respectfully declined the offer and said that if their time was their own there was nothing he would like better than exercising with Sceirhead. Sceirhead said he was disappointed and maybe their fame was only made up by Lēoþwyrhtan4. Wulfhere chose to ignore Sceirhead’s provocation. Wulfhere said that he would continue to watch the Hall and Uthric and Dunstan should go and meet Ealhwyn. He thought he might learn information by watching the interaction and the added bonus was that he could also continue to drink Wæcla’s excellent ale while he did so. Uthric and Dunstan went to see Ealhwyn. Outside the door, one of Meire’s brothers stood guard. He did not respond nor hinder Uthric or Dunstan when Uthric said that they were here to visit Ealhwyn. Uthric explained why they had come to see her and Ealhwyn’s initial hostility was replaced by a warm welcome. Ealhwyn was grateful that Meire had not deserted her and that the Hrothgarsons were searching for evidence to allow her to be freed. She was adamant that she had nothing to do with Wæcla’s poisoning. Ealhwyn could tell them little that they already did not know about the night Wæcla was poisoned. She was initially reluctant to tell them her business with Wæcla but when Dunstan said that it would be difficult to help her if they were not aware of everything she was doing. After some thought Ealhwyn agreed to their request but she made them swear an oath of silence before she told them. Ealhwyn told them that she had agreed a plan with Saeberht, her cousin to create a Miercian confederacy to defend themselves against the three most powerful Kings, Guercha One-eye, Aelle and Cerdic. It was Sæberht’s opinion that all three had shown intent to invade Mierce to further their aims to be Brytenwealda. The Miercians, on the other hand, only wanted to be ruled by their own elected Kings. Uthric said that he found this strange and could not quite work out why she was doing this. He said she was, after all, Hrof’s daughter and Wlencig’s husband and both had strong loyalty to Aelle. Ealhwyn acknowledged what both had said but she said she believed that people needed to choose their own destinies and Aelle, Cerdic and Guercha would not allow that. After a moment she added that despite his love for her, her father would also not allow people to seek their own wyrd. As for her husband, Wlencig, she had no real feelings for him. It had been a marriage to cement the alliance of their respective fathers. Uthric asked about her relationship with Wæcla and, after a moment of silence, Ealhwyn admitted they were lovers. Dunstan said that he thought this might be a motive for the poisoning. Uthric agreed and wondered if Ealhwyn had been blamed to stop her relationship with Wæcla. Ealhwyn said that while this was possible it was likely to be a more political act. Uthric and Dunstan went back to talk to Wulfhere. Dunstan thought there were too many layers to Wæcla’s poisoning. There were many people who could have had a motive but he thought by focusing on those that would benefit most they might be able to find out what had happened. Wulfhere said that in his view it must be one of the Kings who has paid someone to get rid of Wæcla. He thought that Wæcla was possibly the only one that could hold a Miercian Confederation together. Wulfhere said that no-one would pretend to know Cerdic’s mind but he seemed to be focused on lands to the west. Aelle, through Cissa, was the most active north of the Tamyse and no-one knew what Guercha’s plans were. Uthric thought Aelle or Cissa could have bought one of Wæcla’s people and that person was responsible for the poisoning. Dunstan thought that they needed to free Ealhwyn and leave. He thought they might blame Bairre mac Guilla or ask him to preach against adultery to infuriate the King. Neither Uthric nor Wulfhere thought of Dunstan’s plans as useful. As they were leaving the Hall, Mildburh came over to Dunstan. She reminded him of the questions he had asked her that morning and said that he might be interested that Brithwen had a disagreement with Sceirhead this morning in the herb garden and directly afterwards she had another argument with a man she did not know. She thought he was likely a craftsperson from his clothing. Dunstan thanked her and gave her a broach which she was delighted with. He asked her to continue to listen for any other useful bits of information. She moved closer to him and whispered that the Cyninge’s maid, Estrith, had told her that Brithwen was angry at Wæcla because of his relationship with Ealhwyn. Brithwen had told Estrith that she feared that she and her eldest son, Scænwulf, will be discarded and Wæcla will have children with Ealhwyn. Wulfhere gathered his brothers to talk about what they now knew. He started by saying he had been thinking that they were basing their premise on Meire’s word that Ealhwyn was not guilty of poisoning Wæcla. He wondered if they should also consider that she could have poisoned him. Uthric said that if Wulfhere doubted Meire, he might want to take it up with her brothers. Wulfhere ignored his comment and reviewed some other points. If Brithwen was divorced by Wæcla would that mean Iænbeorht would be dismissed as the Hlafweard5. Would the threat of losing his position be enough for Iænbeorht to consider killing Wæcla to keep his role and to uphold the honour of his sister’s daughter. Dunstan said they had forgotten about the leæches and in particular Dunric. He reminded them that any situation involving Dunric is likely to involve a significant amount of deaths. Wulfhere said he did not get the sense the leæches were involved. He thought they would not need to poison someone to commit murder and were unlikely to be so secretive about it. They preferred to be ostentatious and very public in their killings. Bairre the Priest could be involved because Christian’s like to sow discord as they had all seen in Dumnonia. Dunstan said that Bairre had been writing runes in a book and was clearly a powerful sorcerer. Uthric asked what they thought about Mildburh’s information and wondered if the craftsperson that Brithwen met could have been an Īsernsmiþ. Wulfhere said that he could not tell for sure but the one thing he did know was that, the more information they got, the more complexities and more possibilities arose. He said his head hurt with overthinking. When Dunstan left the Hall, he noticed Bairre standing and staring at Meire. She was teaching her children the names of flowers and herbs that she had placed on a table. Bairre was making magical symbols with his hand and muttering under his breathe. When he noticed Dunstan, he said that he had been unaware that the Sais had sunk so far into evil as to allow a brùnaidh6 to live amongst them and in doing so they would imperil his and others’ souls. He said that this woman was obviously a fae, and she needed to be exercised. He thought it had likely been her that had murdered his comrade, Iola, and taken his blood for her foul and idolatrous sacrifices. Dunstan said that Meire was his brother’s wife and she had not been known to sacrifice people. He thought, if young Hrothgar was to be believed, that it was better not to mention that she seemed to have a propensity to burst into flames because that might annoy Bairre more. Dunstan said that he was dismayed by Bairre’s news and asked what had happened. Bairre said that they had found Iola this morning and he had had his throat slit and every drop of blood had been drained from him. He had then been pinned to a tree with a spear point. He blamed the fae woman and was going to speak to Wæcla about Iola’s death to demand justice. Wulfhere and Uthric were sitting together talking but listening to what was happening in the Hall. Both thought that there was a connection between Aelle and his desire to become more influential in Mierce. They were eavesdropping on Wæcla’s discussion with Iænbeorht while trying to look like they were minding their own business. There were two interesting pieces of information overheard. Wæcla and Iænbeorht discussed a possible treaty with Aelle to preserve the peace. Iænbeorht was keen for a deal to maintain the peace and allow the people to recover from ruinous wars, poor harvests and illness. However, they could not agree and Wæcla thought that they needed to negotiate from a position of power with Kings like Aelle. Wæcla brought up that he was also worried about Sceirhead’s recent attitude and his continual questioning of his authority. Iænbeorht said that they both knew Sceirhead was a hothead and his diplomacy was usually carried out with a spear. Wæcla said that he hoped Sceirhead would develop some sense of composure that did not involve always killing people. Wulfhere was worried about Wæcla’s proposal for an alliance with Aelle. He felt this was how Aelle spread his influence by using intimidation and a threat of violence and he was certain that Cerdic would not be pleased with this development. Uthric thought Cerdic’s anger would be because he hadn’t thought of it first but he was thinking that taking Sceirhead down a notch would not be a bad thing for Wæcla’s authority. They were both surprised and amused when the Priest, Bairre made an appearance to complain about the murder of Iola, his comrade, who he claimed had been sacrificed by a devil. Uthric was not so amused that Bairre accused Meire of being a demon and that Wæcla needed to do something about her. Wulfhere had to restrain him from threatening violence in the Hall and breaking Wæcla’s peace. Bairre said that he was going to sit outside Wæcla’s Hall and go on hunger strike to shame Wæcla until the murderer was punished. Wæcla tried to appease Bairre but he was not in the mood to be placated. Wulfhere suggested to Uthric that to take his mind off Bairre he might want to talk to the Īsernsmiþan about the person Brithwen had met in the herb garden. Uthric thought he might benefit from time away from the atmosphere in the Hall. He spoke with Tancred, one of the Īsernsmiþan, who was unusually talkative. The news on Īsernsmiþanstræt was that Mercheld, one of their number, had the day before decided to leave and go to Lundenwic. Tancred was under the impression that Mercheld had not planned the move and it was a quick decision. There had been a lot of speculation as to the cause and some gossip about falling out with Brithwen. Tancred dismissed the gossip as he thought it unlikely Mercheld would know the Cyninge other than by sight. He did say that Mercheld had been at odds with Wæcla because last year his son had been killed by Scænwulf, Wæcla’s eldest son, over an argument about a horse. Mercheld had thought that the wergild was not enough and had made his thoughts known to anyone who would listen. Uthric thanked Tancred for the information and left to see Meire and to make sure that her brother was still guarding her. He was not pleased about Bairre’s threats against her. The Hrothgarson’s mood was subdued that night as they ate their evening meal in Wæcla’s Hall. Their mood seemed to infect the nearby benches and spread to the other people present as the night wore on. People spoke in low voices and there was not much laughter. The door was opened suddenly and a blast of cold night air silenced the Hall. Sceirhead came into the Hall with about ten of the Huscarls. He was still in armour and armed. Gold shone at his throat and wrist. Wæcla asked why he had come dressed for war and had broken the peace of his Hall. Sceirhead threw a sack on the King’s table which fell open and said to Wæcla that he had solved his problem with the miners. Inside the sack were severed heads. Wæcla was furious and said that he had not had a problem with any miners and Sceirhead would need to pay wergild for the dead with his new gold jewellery. Sceirhead drew his sword and would have moved toward the King if some of the warriors who, although unarmed, pushed Sceirhead and his men away from the King. Uthric drew his seax and taking a shield from the wall moved in between Sceirhead and the King. Sceirhead did not hesitate but attacked Uthric. The fight was unequal and Uthric could not land a significant blow or when he did Sceirhead’s armour turned his seax. Sceirhead wounded Uthric in the arm and leg which convinced Uthric that this was not going to end well. Sceirhead was a skilful and capable warrior and even fully armoured Uthric would have struggled against him. Dunstan had taken a shield from the wall of the Hall and Wulfhere had picked up a shield from a wounded warrior. Both ran to help Uthric. Uthric had jumped backwards but was bleeding from his wounds. Others were now running to engage the rebel warriors and although Sceirhead himself was keen to land a killing blow on Uthric, they began to withdraw in case they were overwhelmed. Someone threw a javelin at Wæcla when he was organising the defence and he did not see its flight until too late. It caught him in the chest and the force knocked him backwards. There was a momentary lull in the battle as the enormity of what had just happened sank in. Dunstan and several others reacted first and went to see if Wæcla was still alive, shielding him from further thrown weapons. Wulfhere picked himself off the floor. He had tried to parry a spear thrust, slipped on a discarded bowl and collided with a Hall post, hurting his ribs. When he got to Uthric, Uthric was bandaging his own wounds and lamenting that his good tunic was now ripped and covered in blood, not all of it his own. Wæcla was still alive but gravely wounded. Someone had staunched the wound but the pool of blood beneath him suggested that he had lost a lot of blood. He was barely conscious and his men were calling for a leæch. Uthric volunteered to look at Wæcla because he had some experience with battlefield wounds. The loyal Huscarls were reluctant and voiced their concerns that Uthric could be in league with Sceirhead and seek to kill the King. They were over-ruled by Heremann, one of the senior Huscarls who pointed out, without attention, Wæcla was likely to die anyway and Uthric was the only one with some level of skill. Uthric packed the wound with herbs he asked the Kitchen maids to bring from the herb garden and the bleeding was stopped by tight badages. Wæcla was still unconscious but Uthric said he could do no more and Wæcla now had to battle to stay in Miðgarðr or go on his journey to Neorxanwang. Some of Sceirhead’s warriors had been wounded and had been left behind when Sceirhead made his escape. They were keen to avoid death by hanging and willing to talk to Heremann. They told him that Cissa had given Sceirhead gold to kill Wæcla but they were certain that he had not poisoned him. They said that Sceirhead would rather stick a spear in someone while looking him in the eyes and he thought the use of poison beneath him. Heremann thought there was truth in their words and ordered that the captured warriors were executed by beheading rather than being hanged as criminals. The information helped Heremann understand why Sceirhead had turned on his King but did not help in the mystery about Wæcla’s poisoning. Iænbeorht and Heremann discussed what they needed to do to secure the Kingdom. Iænbeorht asked for scouts and warriors to be sent after Sceirhead but it was clear he had left the city. A search of his sleeping quarters found gold buried in the earth floor and the suspicion was that this was some of the gold he had been given to kill Wæcla. The Aethling, Scænwulf wanted to take over from his father but both Iænbeorht and Heremann told him that while he was still alive, Wæcla was still the Wæclingascyning. If Wæcla died then the next King would be a decision for the Moot. Iænbeorht reminded Scænwulf that the Wæclingas had no tradition of passing on Kingship from father to son. The only thing that was decided was that Heremann was elected by the loyal Huscarls to be the new Chief Huscarl. The Huscarls would not willingly follow Iænbeorht and Scænwulf, while liked by the Huscarls, was too young and unproven in such an emergency. Uthric asked Heremann if he could see Ealhwyn to make sure she was not hurt. Uthric hoped to persuade her to leave in the confusion of Wæcla’s wounding but she declined. She thought the Miercian Confederation more important than her own safety and that she might be better to take her chances when Wæcla recovered. Uthric said he wondered what might have happened to her if Wæcla had died or perhaps if he now died of his wounds. She said she would not think of such things. Dunstan and Wulfhere were trying to make sense of what happened. The suddenness of the violence had been unexpected and the potential difficulties for the kingdom were huge should Wæcla die. Dunstan said that he would be keen to leave and get back to the relative safety of their own Halls. He was disappointed with Ealhwyn’s answer when Uthric returned to his brothers to tell them of her response. Uthric said that the thing he could not get out of his mind was that he still wondered how Dunric was involved in events. The violence and death were his trademarks particularly when friends fight each other. They sat in the Hall and tried to work out what had happened and what they should do about it but only tied themselves in knots going over old ground and old theories. Uthric said that he found it interesting that Brithwen had not been prominent in the Hall and he wondered what she was doing. The answer came when Mildburh brought them some ale. She told them that Brithwen was with Wæcla making sure that he had everything he needed. Mildburh also told Dunstan that she had reconsidered her earlier words, and if he still wanted to sleep with her that would be a good thing. Dunstan said that he was honoured by her offer but would have to gently refuse. He told a tearful Mildburh that he was always faithful to his wife. Uthric smiled when Dunstan told him what had passed between the two and said that Dunstan needed to behave himself with women in future. He thought it was not a good thing to upset the serving women as they might die of thirst if they refused to serve any more ale. In the morning there was no further news. Some said that Wæcla had died during the night because they had heard the wails of mourning women. The rumour spread to the point where Heremann had to tell the Hall that Wæcla, while still unable to talk, was still alive and that his fever had broken overnight, which was a good sign. A messenger came from the warriors who had been sent after Sceirhead saying that they had tracked him to close to Aeglesburgh but had not dared to go any further as they were in Cissa’s lands. They would watch and hope to catch Sceirhead if he left the safety of the city. The Hall was still in a sombre mood and men mostly ate or drank in silence. The quiet was interrupted by shouting from outside. The noise made the men in the Hall look for weapons. The doors burst open and six men in armour strode in. Uthric recognised Wlencig, Atheling of the Cantaware and thought that the Atheling’s entrance might get interesting. Wlencig demanded to know of Iænbeorht where his wife was being kept and, when he did not answer, threatened him with violence. The warriors in the Hall were silent despite this being the second time in as many days that Wæcla’s peace had been broken, even though Dunstan noted that they were drawing their seaxs but keeping them hidden under the benches. Heremann tried to restore some semblance of propriety by asking Wlencig to formally introduce himself and state his business. Wlencig’s response was to threaten to take out Heremann’s eyes with hot needles if he did not keep quiet. The situation might have got out of hand as Wulfhere noticed several of Heremann’s warriors go to get their weapons, but Brithwen, who had been standing in the shadows, asked Wlencig to refrain from violence and she would tell him where to find his wife. Wulfhere thought that Wlencig was still considering violence when he suddenly bowed to the Cyninge and asked her pardon for the interruption. He said he had been abrupt because he had heard that his wife had been imprisoned and that he was keen to find out the truth of the matter. Brithwen graciously accepted his apology and said that she believed the Lady Ealhwyn was in a side room. Wlencig took his men down the side passage and Uthric thought he might go after them to see what would happen but sounds of fighting and yells of pain discouraged his idea. It was only a few heartbeats later when Wlencig reappeared in the main Hall. He was followed by only two of his men and both were wounded probably fatally judging by the way they staggered. Dunstan was sure that Wlencig did not seem to be injured but he had lost his helmet and Wulfhere thought there was a look of terror on his face. He remarked to Dunstan that something horrible must have happened because he had seen Wlencig in Shieldwalls and he was always calm. Uthric said he suspected that one of his wife’s brothers might be the cause of his terror but the passageway was silent. No-one could say for sure where the three hooded figures had come from. Afterwards there was much debate if they had been in the Hall all along as none of the guards had seen them pass the door. Wulfhere said that they might have come in because nobody’s attention had been on the door from the moment Wlencig and his men had gone down the passage. Two of the hooded men threw backed their hoods, lifted their heads to the roof and howled. Uthric recognised the leæches, Snyring and Nægel. Their cries were answered by half seen spirit shapes that looked like giant wolves and that had begun to circle the Hall. Where they touched human flesh, they left a chill like that of the grave. The crowd in the Hall moved as far back against the wall as possible trying to make themselves small and unseen. Some of the wolf shapes had enough material form to rip the sturdy benches and toss them aside. The central figure was still hooded and he stared at Wlencig who was on his knees at the feet of the figure. The cloaked figure threw back his hood and light gleamed off his single eye while blackness gaped from the other. The figure screamed. It was an unearthly pitch that jarred everyone who heard it and at the same time he raised his hands and flame jumped from the central fire pit to his hands. He slowly lowered his hands and fire engulfed Wlencig’s head which burst into flames. The Aethling of Cantaware died horribly and painfully while the one-eyed man howled at a pitch that hurt human ears. Snyring continued howling and pointed at the door of the Hall. Spirit wolves gathered in a pack around him and bounded toward the door which burst its hinges outwards. Screams and ripping sounds were heard and people would not go to investigate for fear that they might meet a grisly fate too. As suddenly as the leæches appeared they left. Dunstan recognised the one-eyed leæch as Dunric and said afterwards that he was sure Dunric grinned at him as he left. Uthric said that he had not particularly liked Wlencig but he did not deserve a death like that. Wulfhere said that deserved or not he was not keen to be in Verulamacæster as there would be consequences to Dunric’s actions and he for one was not keen to see them. Heremann restored some semblance of order and threw a cloak over Wlencig’s body. Uthric said that now might be a good time to see if Ealhwyn was still alive and said he would make it his business to find out. He went down the side passage, stepping over the bodies of three of Wlencig’s guard and nodded to Meire’s brother, who did not respond. Ealhwyn was against the back wall of the room guarding herself with a meat knife. She visibly relaxed when she saw Uthric and said that she thought the fighting outside had been men sent to kill her by Wæcla. Uthric said that he thought that was unlikely as Wæcla could presently not issue any orders as he was either dying or possibly dead already. He told her that she was also a widow and her husband’s body lay in the main Hall. Ealhwyn said that she needed to understand this in detail and followed Uthric to the main Hall. No-one tried to stop her and no-one said anything about her release as she asked questions about the events. She ordered the serving women to take Wlencig’s body and wash it in preparation to be sent to his father. She then went to find Wæcla. Wulfhere wondered if the ease at which she had left her prison and none had challenged her was because Meire’s brother had been standing one pace behind her with a drawn and bloody sword. Uthric said that he believed Wulfhere to be correct as he would not be keen to challenge his wife’s brother. Dunstan had ventured outside and had found a body, who he assumed was Bairre mac Guilla, torn asunder by the spirt wolves. Dunstan said that he thought Christianity would have to wait a while to gain a foothold in Mierce. The mission to Verulamacæster and the shrine on the Hill outside the city appeared to have ended abruptly and bloodily. By the morning Heremann with the help of Wulfhere, as a ranking Ealdorman, had organised the cleaning of the Hall and removed the dead. Heremann had sent for Iænbeorht who had not been seen since the night before. The messenger returned with the news that, in all the confusion, Iænbeorht had left during the night with his guard and a pack horse. Heremann sent warriors to search Iænbeorht’s hall in the hope of understanding his disappearance. Snyring the leæch also came to the Hall. He stood silently for a long time looking at the destruction as people moved away from him. He then told Heremann that he had completed a sacrifice and the Lady Ealhwyn was to remain free as she was not guilty of the poisoning. Heremann asked if Ealhwyn was not guilty could the leæce tell him who he should blame but Snyring did not respond. Wulfhere advised Heremann that he should let the matter drop for the moment. With Ealhwyn’s release from her captivity, Uthric sought to convince Meire that they should go before the weather became too difficult to travel. In truth, Uthric had discussed with his brothers that the situation was becoming very dangerous and Wulfhere was concerned that their continued presence might upset the balance of power in Aelle’s eyes, particularly since his son had just been killed. Meire was reluctant to leave but said that she would go with Uthric as their time together would be short. Uthric asked her what she meant by short and wanted to know if she had some premonition about his death. Meire said she had not had a premonition but a summoning. She told him that she had spent seven years as his wife and their time would soon be over. She would return with him for a short while to Pontes to see that the children were safe, that much had been granted. Uthric said he was confused and wanted to know who had summoned her. Meire said it was her father, Tannatar, also known as the Lord of the Hollows and it was a summons she could not refuse. She told him the summons had been the real reason her brothers, Horith and Ardreth, had come to her. Uthric said that he did not like this news but Meire kissed him and said that all things must end. Dunstan had gone out of the Hall and his attention was attracted by a crowd of people gathered around a building. He pushed his way to the front of the crowd to where Nægel was standing with a smile on his face. Bairre’s remaining scribe had been nailed to a wall of the building. Nægel asked Dunstan if he approved. Dunstan did not answer Nægel’s question but instead asked what the leæches were hoping for with all this death and killing. Nægel told Dunstan that events in the Spirit world were more important than in Miðgarðr. Leæches were always trying to overcome and destroy the spirits left behind by the Britons and as Dunstan no doubt recognised this was not an easy task. Death was just a transition for leæches and Dunstan should not concern himself with the deaths. Those that died still lived in the spirit world. However, the killing released power for those that could use it to overcome powerful enemy spirits. Nægel said that the death of a King’s son caused a formidable release of power. Nægel asked Dunstan about Meire’s children and if the halflings would be going to Pontus or with Meire. Dunstan said that he was not aware that the two were different. He said that he did not like Nægel’s question but the leæch just smiled at him. The Hrothgarsons left Verulamacæster that afternoon. Uthric would not stay when Dunstan told him what Nægel had said. He discussed letting Orin ap Brinn foster the children as a way of keeping them away from the leæches. Dunstan said he thought that Orin should be warned of the danger and see if he could get a Druid to help protect the boys. Meire said that they would be safe as she would ensure they were hidden. Uthric said he could be satisfied with that. When they got home, Wulfhere travelled to Wincen Cæster to meet with Cerdic and told him of the news of their travels. Cerdic said that they had done well and that if Wæcla survived his injury, he was unlikely to side with Aelle in the future. He thought Cissa had gambled on the throwboard and lost. Cerdic said that it was plain for all to see there were dangers in gambling. He told Wulfhere that if Wæcla needed support he was to give it to him, but help should always be covert rather than given openly. He did not want to provoke the peace treaty yet. (1) Beorsceale is a cupbearer (2) Boldweard is a household steward (3) Īsernsmiþ is an ironsmith (4) Lēoþwyrhta is a poet (5) Hlafweard is a Reeve or Steward (6) Brùnaidh is Scottish Gallic for one of the Fae
  4. Poison and Treachery The old Roman city of Verulamacæster was decaying. Many of the buildings had collapsed and had been replaced by Saxon buildings. Some of the most impressive still stood and it was possible to imagine what the city had looked like in Roman times. In the old days the British tribe, the Catuvellauni, lived in the area of their chief city that they called Verulamium. It was said the Romans had built the city to make the Catuvellauni more like them. They had succeeded but had also made them soft and weak in warfare. A generation ago the Angles had moved east from Anglia seeking more land and had fought and defeated the Catuvellauni occupying their land although they had ignored their city. Five summers ago, the Angles, in their turn were defeated and displaced by an East Saxon tribe, the Wæclingas, who sailed up the river Lygen and attacked and conquered Verulamacæster. The Wæclingas had not been as superstitious as the Angles and their King, Wæcla had made their main settlement at Verulamacæster or in East Saxon, Væclingascæster, the fortress of the people of Wæcla. Verulamacæster still had strong Roman walls and many of the crumbling Roman buildings were still occupied. Wæcla, the Wæclingascyning, had made his chief dwelling in the main Basilica, an immense Roman building set at the centre of the city. The Hrothgarsons were impressed by the decaying grandeur. Wulfhere thought that while the building might be magnificent he wondered if it would be hard to heat and therefore cold in the winter. Uthric said he was less keen to discuss architecture and very much more interested in talking to Wæcla as soon as possible and find out where Meire was. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers to lænbeorht, the King's Gerēfa1. Uthric was disappointed to learn the Wæcla was away on the business of his Kingdom. Iænbeorht said that he did not expect Wæcla to return before the Cyningmoot in two days’ time. Uthric asked if he could talk to Ealhwyn and was surprised to learn the she had been imprisoned. Wulfhere wondered why this had been done as he thought that it might not bring Wæcla much luck when either her father, the Ealdorman Hrof, or her husband the Aethling, Wlencig, discovered what had happened. lænbeorht said that he was in no doubt that Wæcla was justified in his actions as Ealhwyn had attempted to poison him. Dunstan wondered how this was possible but Iænbeorht did not answer his question. He said to his brothers he did not trust Iænbeorht with his thin, pock-marked face and nervous twitch. He said he did not like the way lænbeorht never looked anyone in the eye and constantly fidgeted with his tally sticks. Uthric asked him if he had heard any news of Meire who he believed had accompanied Ealhwyn. Iænbeorht did not answer Uthric's question but left going through a side door. Uthric was at a loss and unsure what he should do next. One of the guards, Theodric, talked to Wulfhere. He said that a woman, much as Uthric had described, had been with Ealhwyn and had taken up residence in Hering's Inn in the town. He thought Uthric might want to be careful of the woman and he should know that most of the people who had dealings with her had thought she had been uncanny. The warriors thought that she might be a drýicge2. She had removed herself from Ealhwyn's quarters and had gone to stay in the Inn with one of her guards. Uthric thanked Theodric and gave him a thin silver arm ring. The Hrothgarsons made their way to the Inn and asked for Hering to enquire if Meire was still at the Inn. Hering confirmed that there was a woman living in the upper floor and said that he hoped that they had come to take her away as he and his patrons found her too strange but were not keen to confront her and ask her to leave. He said that there were often strange noises coming from her room and smells like the Charnel pits of Nastrønd. He also objected to her bodyguard who never talked and allowed no-one to talk to her. He had therefore not been able to ask her to leave. Uthric said while the description of the woman sounded like Meire, he had never known her to act like Hering described. He also wondered who the guard might be and if the situation that Hering described was true would they be able to get past him to see if it was Meire. They went up some stone steps to the upper floor and were confronted by a man in full chainmail and a closed helm. He held a naked sword held in his hand and he turned to meet Uthric as he approached. Uthric stopped and waited. Dunstan put his hand on his seax as he thought this situation might not end well. Uthric asked the man if he could enter to see Meire. The man did not speak but nodded his agreement. However, he stopped Wulfhere and Dunstan with a movement of his hand and the implied threat of his sword as they moved to join Uthric. Neither Wulfhere nor Dunstan decided that it was a good time to argue the rights and wrongs of the Guard’s decision. Uthric opened the door and was hit with a blast of heat on his face. It seemed that the room was on fire but when his eyes stopped watering he could see Meire surrounded by a ring of fire. She was naked and appeared to be talking in a language that he did not know to someone he could not see. He stood in the doorway for several minutes and the flames died down. Meire turned to him and said to him that he was late in coming again but she had come to expect this. She thought he might want to greet his children while she got dressed. Uthric only then noticed that both children were sitting on the bed. Uthric went to his sons, Hrothgar and Sigebeorht who were wide-eyed and sitting rigid on the bed. Uthric said that he and Meire needed to discuss matters. He thought the children might be better not to hear what needed to be said and proposed that they spend some time with his brothers. Meire agreed and warmly kissed both children who in turn hugged her tightly. Uthric took both boys to Wulfhere and explained the situation. Wulfhere was reluctant to take the boys. He said he would prefer to hear from Meire what had passed but the prospect of having to fight her Guard with only his seax and no shield or armour did not fill him with hope. Dunstan thought that in that case Wulfhere would have to accept the current circumstances and that he would have to wait for any news after Uthric had finished talking with Meire. Dunstan said that he was also not keen to force the issue with the Guard. Wulfhere took the boys downstairs to the tavern and bought food and ale. As they sat waiting on the outcome of Uthric’s conversation with Meire, Hrothgar asked if he could ask Wulfhere a question. When Wulfhere said that he thought he might be able to cope with one question, Hrothgar said he would like to know if his father could burst into flames like his mother and wondered if it was something he was also supposed to do also. Wulfhere was not sure what Hrothgar was talking about but he reassured him that people generally didn't go on fire and his opinion on the matter was that Hrothgar had no need to burst into flames. Meire told Uthric the tale of her understanding of events. She explained that she had accompanied Ealhwyn at Sæberht's request to meet with the various petty-kings of the East Saxons throughout Mierce. Sæberht and Ealhwyn had hoped to forge alliances of the small kingdoms against the larger predatory Kings. Not only were the Britons a constant enemy, Guercha One-eye was pushing west again, hoping to gain control of lands his men had lost seven summers ago. In the west, Aelle was trying to gain influence on the lands north of the Tamyse and had established his forces at Aeglesburgh. The view was that he wanted more land to claim the Brytenwealda. People of Mierce were also concerned about Cerdic's motivation and his plans for Mierce. Ealhwyn had brought Sæberht's message to Wæcla. She had intended to travel on to meet with Iota, Cyning of the Chilternsæte, after delivering the message, but had delayed as she was enjoying the company of Wæcla. Ealhwyn’s plans were in disarray when Wæcla was then poisoned at his own feast. He had been sitting alone with Ealhwyn, having dismissed his Þegns so he could talk in private with her. Ealhwyn was the only person near Wæcla and Iænbeorht had found a bottle containing hemlock in her rooms when she was arrested after Wæcla had collapsed. However, Meire said she did not believe Ealhwyn would poison him. She had no reason to do so as Ealhwyn was convinced it would be better that a strong King like Wæcla was an ally rather than dead or an enemy. Besides Meire thought that they may have been lovers. She told Uthric that Wæcla had many enemies and any of them could be responsible for the poisoning. She had tried to seek otherworld help but could get no clear understanding of what had happened. She had discovered the source of the poison, hemlock, had been harvested in the north woods. She told Uthric she would not leave until she proved Ealhwyn innocent and she was released. Meire then informed Uthric that she fully expected him to help her and as a penance for leaving her alone for so long. Uthric had not said anything during Meire's explanation. He said he thought he had no choice other than help Meire in her task. However, he said that he might like to know who her strange guard was. Meire said that this was easily cleared up unlike the mystery of the poisoning as the guard was her brother Horith. Her other brother was Ardreth and he was guarding Ealhwyn. Uthric did not come back down to the main room in the tavern so Wulfhere had to pay for sleeping areas in the common room for himself, Dunstan and Uthric's children, Hrothgar and Sigebeorht. Dunstan was annoyed that Uthric had left them to look after his children but Wulfhere said that Uthric had been separated from Meire for almost two years and they needed some time together. In the morning Uthric joined them in the common room. Uthric told them of the discussion with Meire and their need to free Ealhwyn. He thought they could complete the task by making an assault on Ealhwyn’s prison and free her before escaping. Wulfhere said that violence was only one option. He felt it might be better to speak with Wæcla first and thought that there may be some merit in discussion. Wæcla had not harmed Ealhwyn which might mean many things but he clearly was either afraid to kill her or he did not believe her guilt. Dunstan said that they could look in the north woods. He reminded them Meire had said that the hemlock came from the north woods. He thought it might be useful to look to see what they could find. Uthric took Hrothgar and Sigebeorht back to Meire and told her they would go into the north woods. Meire told them that they should look for a lightening-struck oak that looked like a troll. They went first to Wæcla's Hall to talk with Iænbeorht. As they approached him he was talking intimately to a well-dressed noble woman. Dunstan thought that it was Iænbeorht's wife and was surprised that when the woman was introduced the was the Cyninge, Brithwen. Wulfhere chose to ignore the intimate exchange and introduced himself and his brothers to Brithwen. Brithwen made polite conversation and asked their business in Verulamacæster. Wulfhere said they had been looking for Uthric's wife who he had unfortunately lost and had been looking for her for over a year. Brithwen asked Uthric if he had found her to which Uthric replied that he was pleased to report that he had. Wulfhere decided that Uthric might say something about Meire as he sensed that she had not been popular in the Hall and even somewhat feared. He asked Iænbeorht when Wæcla was due back as he wished to talk to him before they went back south. Iænbeorht thought he should be back tomorrow but at the latest in the morning of the second day to attend the Cyningmoot. Wulfhere said that he would go hunting and they heard that the north woods had some wild boar. He wished both a good day and left. Dunstan wondered if Iænbeorht and Brithwen were having a relationship. Wulfhere said that it certainly looked like it and thought that Iænbeorht may have tried to get rid of Wæcla to be with Brithwen. Uthric said that was unlikely. He said he would be astonished if any woman chose Iænbeorht. After some hours of searching they found a lightening-struck oak that resembled a gnarled troll. They found evidence that someone had dug up hemlock plants and Dunstan found a blue thread from a cloak caught in a bush. Wulfhere thought they might have some evidence to find out who made the poison. Uthric said he thought they had found something but that it was not real evidence. He asked them to consider how many people had blue cloaks and did it really have any significance that someone had dug up hemlock plants. He thought that while someone digging up hemlock might not be a common event it was not in itself suspicious. He pointed out neither event might have any connection to the poisoning of Wæcla. Wulfhere said he agreed with Uthric and that they needed to be careful about drawing conclusions and making allegations as they were strangers in this land. Uthric said that he should never have agreed to help Ealhwyn and the sooner they left this land the better. He said he was not hopeful. While Uthric and Wulfhere were discussing their problems and feeling sorry for themselves, Dunstan had been looking at the soft ground and found a set of small human foot prints. He suggested that his brothers might be better employed helping him follow the tracks. He thought that maybe in doing so they might be able to put to rest the question if the things they had found are connected with the poisoning of Wæcla. Uthric and Wulfhere agreed and praised him for his efforts. It did not take that long until they came across a clearing that had a small moss-covered dwelling. An old wizened woman was tending an open fire over which a small cauldron was bubbling. She looked up and greeted the men. Wulfhere introduced himself but almost immediately recoiled from the overpowering smell coming from her. He gathered himself and resisted the urge to vomit and asked her if she lived alone in the woods. The woman named herself as Háthygge and said that she lived alone in the woods by choice. She said no one was really interested in an old woman, living alone without any wealth. She said people found her useful as she was excellent at brewing potions and asked if they had perhaps come to buy a potion from her. Wulfhere said they were more interested in the potions she may have made recently rather than ones she might still have. Uthric said they were interested in anyone who might have bought a hemlock potion strong enough to kill a man. Háthygge said there had indeed been such a man who had bartered for such a potion. He had offered her gold but she had not been interested. She told them gold only attracted bandits and neither the birds that gave her eggs or the bees that give her honey accepted gold as fair exchange of goods. Dunstan said that he had not thought of bartering goods with animals before now and despite his interest in such deals, he was actually presently more interested in who the man was. Háthygge said that unfortunately she could not tell him a name for the man but she could tell them that he did offer two excellently made small cauldrons which she accepted as payment. She broke off the conversation to point out the bubbling cauldron over the fire and suddenly left to go into her dwelling and quickly returned with another similar cauldron. She invited them to inspect it and admire its quality. Uthric said he could appreciate the quality workmanship but wondered if she might describe the man who gave her the wonderful set of cauldrons. Háthygge said that she had not much to tell about him other than he wore a hooded cloak and his hands were stained black. She did think it was odd at the time but had not thought to ask him how he had got black hands. Wulfhere asked if the man's cloak was blue and he took the blue thread from his pouch to show her. Háthygge said that the man had in fact worn a brown cloak but she thought that the thread might be from her best cloak if they were interested in that. She went back into her dwelling and showed them a threadbare blue cloak that had been patched and sewn where the weave had come undone. Wulfhere thanked her for her information and Uthric was moved to give her his own cloak which he thought might keep her warmer than her old cloak. Háthygge said she was grateful for Uthric’s gift and asked if they were sure they did not want to buy potions. All of them respectfully declined. On the way back to Verulamacæster they discussed how this information might be of help but none of them could come up with any clear way forward other than they were looking for a man with black hands. Dunstan said he had not yet noticed anyone with black hands in Verulamacæster but at least it was something positive. Wulfhere said their current information was that they had connected the buying of poison with the brown cloaked man and that he had black hands. He wondered why someone might have black hands but could not think of any reason. Uthric said that he had been thinking about small cauldrons like the ones given to Háthygge and he thought they were unusual. Most people bought larger cooking cauldrons and the smaller ones seemed to be specialist in design. He thought it might be useful to ask some of the blacksmiths who might have made them and if anyone had bought two recently. It was late when they got back and when they went to the Kings Hall they found out Wæcla had returned earlier that day but had retired early. Uthric was frustrated. He said he wanted to sort this mystery out, take Meire and return home before the weather became too difficult to travel. Wulfhere said that they were now on a course and they would need to follow it to its end if they were to get home. The next day they attended the Moot. People had come from all over the Kingdom seeking justice from Wæcla. Some had not had satisfaction at either the Þegns or Ealdorman's courts and had appealed to the King. Others had issue with Wæcla's judgements and thought they could get him to reconsider. The Hrothgarsons were impressed with Wæcla who seem to know his people and they also thought his judgments were fair. Dunstan thought this was the kind of place he would like to live. Wulfhere said that many of the Kingdoms problems arose from refugees from wars or people who had been displaced and come north. Some of them were settlers from Saxony who had arrived by boat. He also thought that while many of the judgements were for the benefit of the majority of the people, they also increased the dissatisfaction of some powerful people. He pointed out that Sperling, the Miller, was aggrieved at having to pay the King two sacks of flour for every ten sacks milled. Wæcla had pointed out that many of the new arrivals did not have enough food for the winter and he was building stocks so that he could feed hungry refugees but it increased the hostility of Sperling the Miller. Wulfhere said that there were probably more millers who felt as angry as Sperling. The Cloth merchant, Hwætmund was also angry that Wæcla had set the price for cloth and did not allow him to overcharge. Wæcla told Hwætmund that if more people survived the winter rather than freezing to death then he would be able to sell more cloth in the future to more people. Wulfhere thought Hwætmund was not that interested in future profit and that he remained angry. Uthric said that he would be more concerned that Seirhead the Chief Huscarl was at odds with Wæcla over how to deal with the iron miners that they had discovered working in the Chiltern hills. Seirhead had wanted to raid and kill the miners whereas Wæcla wanted to incorporate the miners into his Kingdom and then tax them in iron. Wæcla had pointed out that the kingdom could do with its own source of iron and he was pretty sure Seirhead or the Huscarls were not skilled in extracting iron from the Chiltern hills. Uthric thought that Wæcla’s views only seemed to enrage Seirhead. Seirhead had countered that the Huscarls had not had any chance to fight and they were grumbling about not getting much wealth from raids because of Wæcla’s peaceful attitude to everyone. Uthric said they should be aware that some of the Huscarls seemed to support Seirhead rather than Wæcla. He also thought it might increase the level of aggression over the winter if the Huscarls had been unemployed over the summer seasons. The farmers preferred peace and security but the Huscarls liked conflict because it brought them wealth and renown. They might end up fighting each other. Two leæches, Snyring and Nægel, had complained about the presence of Christians in the city. They objected that Wæcla tolerated them both as Britons and importantly they worshiped another god. Nægel said that the local spirits were angry and hard to placate because of the presence of the Christian shrine. Snyring said that it would probably satisfy the spirits and gods if they were to sacrifice the priest, Bairre, to Thunor. Wæcla said that in his opinion one god was the same as another. He thought the Leæches needed to accept that people can choose what god they worshiped and, in his opinion, it did not matter if it was Thunor, Woden or the White Christ. Uthric had felt it was important to stand and up and ask to speak on his experiences of Christians. He introduced himself to Wæcla who then gave him permission to speak. Uthric spoke passionately about the wars that the followers of the Christian god had caused in Dumnonia. He said that they had fought against their own king and Cerdic and Aelle had almost overrun Dumnonia because of their treachery. He said it was his opinion that the Christians were never satisfied and if they increased in number then they would want to eliminate anyone who worshipped different gods. He said that it might be in Wæcla's best interests to expel the priest now. Wæcla thanked Uthric for his views and said that he would talk about this later with him. After Uthric had spoken, Nægel and Snyring came to talk to him. They said they liked his views on Christians as it was in alignment with their own thoughts. They thought that Uthric and his brothers, if they held the same views, might like him to come to their dwelling and talk with another leæch called Dunric who had similar ideas on how to deal with Christians. Uthric said that he had met Dunric several times and that he did not have a high opinion of him. He thought Dunric might have a similar view of the Hrothgarsons as they had not been friends in the past. Nægel said that Dunric would not take offence about the past and he should come as requested. When the Moot finished the Hrothgarsons decided to take a walk around the walls of the City to discuss what they had observed and heard. Dunstan said that the prime suspect had to be Dunric. He noted that Dunric always caused trouble wherever he went and he for one would not be surprised if he was behind poisoning Wæcla. They should remember what he had done to Tadda. Wulfhere said that there were many people who had issues with Wæcla and after the Moot the list of suspects with a motive had got longer. He thought that they now needed to talk to Wæcla to discuss the matters with him. (1) Gerēfa1 is a Steward or King’s Reeve (2) Drýicge2 is a witch or sorceress
  5. The Adventure of the Beare Four squires there were in castell Vagon in the londe of Salisbury, and these four hyght Idres, Andred, Edward and Pellandres. Now these squires did jouste ryght well and did ryde as well as any knyght, but had never ben on ony adventure...
  6. Well. Since RuneQuest have become my new indulgence, I found myself in the precarious situation of *not* being the GameMaster for the Monday Night game, as I was in the campaign before, where we played Pendragon. So... I ended up digging up my Mythic Gamemaster Emulator along with the new RQG books, and sat out on a Solo Campaign, which, surprising to me, is not a unknown concept for RuneQuest, hence the name SoloQuest. That Google Doc is now around 150 pages long, so I've now decided to share it all with you wonderful folks. Yes. I am a man with far too much time on my hands, and a drive to learn myself new stuff; which ended up giving birth to the story of Angian and Senela, a pair of characters created to experience the immensly fun work of @Andrew Logan Montgomery, Six Seasons of Sartar. I'll also be mixing in a few things from the unfortunately defunct "Valley of Plenty", hoping that it can provide some good backstory for the characters and how they grew up with friends. I'll try to refrain from retelling his work, but invariably, there's going to be some places where there's going to be some major spoilers, and fortunately, RPGs are a cooperative media in nature, so everything will be different to you folks. I won't be trying to explain all of my thought process and how the Mythic GME works indetail, there are other places one can go to find that, and I'll be modifiying it as I go along, as it was also a way to learn myself to play SoloRPGs. Also, I will probably get a lot of things wrong. This is the beauty of a media where I don't pay editors. Furthermore, I ended up using the expanded family history from Jonstown Compendium to flesh out the lineage of the main characters as well as the QAD for NPC stats. The characters was mostly made with random rolling and the amazing Rune Die that is in the Dice Set. I'll be writing my own comments in blue. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The Saga of Angian and Senela Who are we? Angian Son of Orl Will be trained as a heavy cavalryman of the Haraborn Clan of the Colymar Tribe. Born on Windsday, Fertility Week in Earth Season - The Feast of Ernalda. My name is Angian, oldest son of Orl Swordsson, a mighty weaponthane to the King of Sartar, who fought many battles in the King’s personal band. He died fighting the Tusk Raiders when I was a young boy, and I was raised in the household of my uncle Gordangar, chieftain of the Haraborn. Angian is a strapping lad, having always been tall for his age. He comes from a long line of warriors, with his great-grandfather Angian the Fell-Handed, who served both King Sarotar and King Umathkar; a veteran of both the Invasion of Tarsh and the Trollkiller Wars, the rescuer of Princess Minara, a deed that earned him and his kin the enmity of the Mostali, but in the end, Angian the Fell-handed was murdered by the treacherous Malani tribe. His grandfather Kenstrel, was a member of the Royal Guard, who was at Prince Tarkalor’s side even in the worst of times. Kenstrel died gloriously at Grizzly Peak where he saved both his King and Queen. Angian’s father, Orl never met his own father, but was raised on the legends. Orl came of age in the days before the Lunar Invasion, and served with great glory during the Battle of Boldhome, earning him great renown as a man of honor. In the years that followed, Orl rode as a mercenary, wintering at home only to ride out again in spring alongside his sisters in their own warband. However, one fateful autumn, Orl was returned on his shield by the aunts, as he had fallen in combat against the loathsome Tusk Riders of the Ivory Plinth. As his father had done before him, Angian also grew up with his father’s legend, a legacy that was nurtured by his ambitious mother, Urios the Weaveress, who seemed to resent being left behind as a widow by her adventurous husband, forcing her to be considering her options for the future while she still has four children to care for. Alright folks, this is Angian. He'll be our Warrior for this game. I ended up making him the nephew of Gordangar to make it possible for me to be connected to the leadership of the clan, especially with how some of the dice seemed to love Angian's ancestors. Lot's of Reputation and an Honor score that was maxed out. However, it DID come with the disadvantage that the unofficial motto of the family seems to be "Live Fast - Die Young". His stats are well above average, as I cannot seem to roll shitty for characters in RQG. As for his runes? He's AIR, EARTH, FERTILITY and MOVEMENT. Not amazing for a Warrior, but it'll do. Passion-wise? High-as-Hell Honor, a Passion for the Kingdom of Sartar and a Loyality to the Feathered Horse Queen as well as the King of Sartar. Senela, Daughter of Nala Trained as a Entertainer to the Haraborn Clan of the Colymar Tribe Born on Waterday, Movement Week of the Earth Season - The Days of Uleria. I am Senela, Daughter of Nala the Outlaw and Berik. My mother was a brave woman who fought against the tyranny of the Lunar yoke. Just like her, I know the way of the harp and have a voice that pleases both the ancestors and the Spirits. Furthermore, I come from a lineage of scholars, and my grandmother has taught me from childhood to have complete mastery of our Heortling tongue and the finest of penmanship. And while my mother was chased away by the oppressors, my father has made me aware that I have a destiny to fulfill as he’s quite aware that the future for the Haraborn is not gonna be easy. Senela is a beautiful girl, with a great mane of black curls draped across her shoulders. Everyone notices her, and she is quick-witted and physically hale. She is the oldest daughter of a long line of scholars, dating back to their ancestors in Esrolia. It marks her as a bit of a foreigner, being only four generations removed from an emigrant, but no one pays it much head. Her great-grandmother was a handmaiden of the Esrolian Princess Arkilla who came to Sartar, and that same handmaiden ended up marrying a Colymar warrior. Said warrior died in a skirmish against the Malani, but the family was now members of the Enjossi Clan. Years later Senela's grandmother, Veressa, served in Boldhome as a scribe, navigating court politics as well as the rising Lunar threat. Prior to the Battle of Grizzly Peaks, Veressa fled from the city, up into the mountains, and there she found a life for herself among the nearby Haraborn Clan. There, Veressa wed a man who already had sons, and within a year, this half-Esrolian woman had given birth to a healthy baby girl, who was named Nala. Nala and her siblings grew up as the juniors of Riddle Watch's children, and while Nala was taught to succeed her mother’s scholarly skills and sharp intellect, Nala was always more of a girl who desired adventures, and she rode alongside Chieftain Gordangar as his Battle Herald during the invasion of Sartar, and has been a trusted companion in wartime ever since. Like her mother, Senela’s skills with the harp are quite notable, but it is her voice that has caused people to take note of her and her future. Nala never really settled, but she married a man after the Boldhome Campaign, his name was Berik, a gentle soul from the Enhyli Clan. However the rebellious Nala could not stay still, especially after the infamous raids of the Tusk Riders cost the life of several of her friends, due to the overlords indifference. As Starbrow’s Rebellion broke out, Nala joined up, leaving behind her family to fight for Sartar’s freedom. Yet, all she got out of it was a sentence as an outlaw, after which she ended up on the side of the Durulz during the Duck Hunt and subsequently fled to her ancestral land in Esrolia. Senela has grown up half of her life without her mother. And to give us a glimpse into the social part of Glorantha, here we have our Entertainer. Senela was not as lucky with her Family History, but the life of her mother is, to say the least, eventful. The family has an impressive amount of literacy, and to tell the truth, they're also blessed by Ernalda, fortifying their Earth Rune. We'll be starting the game some time before the rebellion, so Nala will be around in the first couple of scenes in the game. Statswise, I'll be sharing character sheets at a point, but at this point, I can say that Nala is hardy youngster, but sharp as a needle with an INT 18 and a CHA 17. Runewise? She's EARTH, WATER, HARMONY and MOVEMENT. Senela is the niece of Borkar the Goldentongue, the Issaries Trader of the Haraborn, also making her the greatniece of Jodi White-Hart, the Lhankorite Lawspeaker. Her uncle Jaran is also the scribe of the village, giving Senela some quite nice connections in the local clan. Passionwise? She hates the Malani for their treachery that killed both her great-grandfather and her grandfather, she fears the Trolls for their darkness and will come to Hate the Lunar Empire when her mother is exiled. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alrighty. Now that we've gotten ourselves a pair of MC's (and twice the amount of scenes for this story - thank you KFF, you smarty pants - Author's Note) it's time to start setting things up. The way that Mythic works is that we state the Expected Scene, and figures out if there's going to be any twists on that. With prewritten games, it's more timeconsuming to do that. But, without further ado... Childhood - Fire Season of 1612 - Age 8 Act I - Scene 1 - Senela Chaos Factor: 3 - Low Expected Scene: Wake-Up and Leave Set-Up Roll: As Expected. In the quiet solace of the Quivin Mountains, the Clan of the Haraborn had settled generations ago, now isolated from the troubles of the world around them. And, as befits a couple of children, they paid little heed to the ongoings of the world around them. After all, when you’re eight years old, it’s hard to imagine anything else than the immediate now. For Senela, the day began as her mother was singing for the rise of in the central hall of Riddle Watch, the old family farmstead at the foot of the hills. The young girl crawled from her bunk in the children’s room and ran across the courtyard, into the main building of the farmstead where she saw her mother Nala remove the loaves of bread from the pan. Her grandmother, the stoic and script-wise Veressa, gave her granddaughter one of her rare smiles, as the summer day just seemed to lighten the mood. Her father, Berek, poured her a cup of salted tea and then ruffled her hair, something that Senela did not mind at all. “Sene, my little terror; since you’ve been helping out your mother for the past few days You’re coming with me to market day today,” her father said. Senela just nodded as she wolfed down the bread that her mother gave her; her mother just gave her a bit of side-eye and smirk, while her father looked dismayed at her. “You know, you’re still supposed to taste the food, otherwise you’ll be hard-pressed to remember it when you’re hungry and can’t have food. Just look at your cousin Melos, he can keep himself from eating in one breath.” Melos, being the son of Uncle Jenros, was always a pleaser. It always amazed Senela how he could be so good to handle the adults; Senela knew that he was just as big of a troublemaker as she was. [ I found this to be a good place to bring in an NPC. Melos is one of the pre-defined NPCs - The group of friends that our Main Characters hang around with. It’s Melos, Hara, Ula and Darestan. Melos was rolled up to be from Riddle Watch, making him a part of the same lineage as Senela. Thus, it’s her cousin. Melos is Deceptive, Thoughtful, Mutable and has the Illusion Rune; Melos’ father had the traits of Proud and Self-centred; fittingly, his son Melos is just a pleaser. However? Is Senela gonna react to this? We can try to see if her Harmony outweighs her Movement. 75 Harmony vs 75 Movement: r83vsr53 - Movement wins. ] “Yes,” Senela began to agree with her father, but quickly changed her mind “but Melos is also eating slowly because he’s trying to avoid lifting sacks onto the cart with uncle Jenros and you. But, I can lift instead of him!” Senela brushed the crumbs away from her chins, and stood up. Her father sighed, and Senela knew that her grandmother was probably staring daggers at Berik, but she did not care. She ran out to help with the sacks, and then, it was off to adventure at the market! [ Scene End. Chaos Factor Remains at 3. NPCs Introduced: Nala, Berik, Uncle Jenros, Grandmother Veressa, Cousin Melos. Threads: None. ] ------------------------------------ Act I - Scene 2 - Angian Chaos Factor: 3 - Low Expected Scene: Wake-Up and meet with friends Set-Up Roll: Altered - Alright, Angian slept in - Mom would be displeased. “Wake up, you lazy boy” was the first thing that Angian heard that morning. For a short second, he remembered that he had dreamt about Orlanth, the King of the Gods up among the clouds and how he had been flying among the Cloud Sheeps. That all disappeared as if it was dew in the sun, as his lovely mother, the fair Urios, seemed to be almost furiously prodding him. “Mother?” “This is the third time I’ve been calling on you! You’re supposed to be dressed by now,” she berated him as she almost dragged him out of his blankets.” [ Meet Angian’s mother - Urios. Her runes are Disorder, Earth, Truth and Beast. So, she’s Self-Centered, Sensual, Physical and Inquisitive. ] After being dressed and rubbing out the sleep from his eyes, Angian went into the hall and sat down by one of the tables where his mother and his aunts had prepared food for everyone. Buckwheat pancakes, jugs of mare’s milk and fresh bread with butter. Besides him was the other children of the Chieftain’s household; his younger brothers, Kos and Yanalan as well as his younger sisters, Essa and Sena, adding onto that the three daughters of the Chieftain, Derinna, Hara and Ulanina. It was a small horde of kids, and in a smaller household, Urios would have been fighting an uphill battle in vain to control this little horde. But, here, the watchful gaze of Chieftain Gordangar as well as his wife, the proud Velora and even more imposing, the dreaded and embittered presence of grandmother Korra Longfingers; all that meant having a small army of children was quite manageable. Sometimes, Angian was seated next to his uncle by his mother, as all of the women hoped that Gordangar could teach the oldest boy of the household a thing or two about life, which often ended up with Gordangar trying and Angian never really understanding what his uncle was talking about. It wasn’t long before the kids were allowed to run out to play, as Market Day was about to begin. While Gordangar had to receive Issaries’ Godtalker in the city megaron, Angian was free to run outside alongside a small group of children that he knew quite well. There was his cousin Hara, the middle daughter of the Chieftain, who was their unofficial leader, always making sure that everyone got along and was a friend to all of them. Second, Angian was the strong boy that was tasked with lifting things and making sure that other kids did not bully them. Ulannina was Hara’s younger sister, and she was the one of the friends who always made things happen, Ula always had ideas for games and schemes to entertain them all. Then, there was Darestan, a son of one of the Thanes. Darestan had the best eyes for details and could spot trouble from a mile away. He could be mean, but he was often also friendly enough. Some said that he had Trollblood in him, but Angian doubted that could be true; Darestan was just insecure. As the four of them ran outside towards the market, they could see the Riddle Watch cart, and with that, the final members of their little band had arrived in town. Senela was the smart one. She knew how to read and had many stories and ideas, but most of all, she was Hara’s best friend. With her, came Melos, her cousin. Melos was a bit of a scrawny kid, and Angian did not like how well he lied, but Senela wanted to have him around. [ Scene End. Chaos Factor goes to 4. NPCs Introduced: Uncle Gordangar, Mother Urios, Aunt Velora, all of the siblings, Ula, Hara, Darestan, Grandmother Korra Longfinger. Threads: None. ] Act I - Scene 3 - Angian & Senela Chaos Factor: 4 - Low Expected Scene: Go with friends to play games Set-Up Roll: As expected. They wandered around for a half hour and realized that there was nothing to do that same day. Everyone were too busy with the Talking God that it seemed like the rest of the village was even more boring than usual. But, also as per usual, Ula had found something for them to do. This time however, it was just throwing rocks at an old, half-rotten hitching post. Angian shrugged, but it seemed like Senela was not having it. “Ula. This is not a good game. It’s barely a game." [ Well. Senela is not really the kind of person who likes throwing things. Then, First Actual Skill Roll! Roll 63 vs Orate 40 - Failure… Well. ] Ula shrugged, “Well, I say it’s a game, and you’re just not interested because you know you’ll lose.” She looked to her sister, “Hara, we’re going right? Tell me we’re going to play my game.” [ Hara is Harmony primary. She’s going to be taking the most diplomatic approach ] Hara, ever the diplomat, sent Senela a glance and just smiled at her sister. “Of course we’re doing that. Just, remember that most people haven’t had the chance to try it yet.” Soon, at the old paddock, Ula explained her game, that everyone were sure that she just invented. The object of the game was to stand on the opposite side of the old paddock, some fifteen or twenty feet from the stick, and then hit the stick with a thrown stone. The stone had to hit the ground on it’s way before hitting the stick. Then, whoever hits the stick the most times before everyone becomes too bored with the game would win.. [ Well. Time to do some DEXx3 Rolls Angian [15+10 = Throw Rock 51 - 88 77 13 34 35 76] Ula [15+5 = Throw Rock 45 - 31 94 69 65 11 62] Senela [15+15 = Throw Rock 30 - 32 07 46 89 58 76] Hara [15+0 = Throw Rock 15 - 41 69 04 05 96 97] Darestan [15+5 = Throw Rock 20 - 55 67 14 25 29 87] Melos [15+0 = Throw Rock 15 - 00 ] ] The game began, and at first, it seemed like everything was great, but the first thing Melos did was to throw away his rock; sending it flying into the grass which forced him to go look for it. Angian howled in joy when his rock actually hit and for a while it seemed like he’d win, right until Hara decided to step up, placing more than one shot right in on the post. However, on her final shot, Hara missed completely, instead hitting poor Melos on the arm just as he returned, causing the game to end and Melos to howl in agony. [ 3 pts of DMG to Melos’s right arm. OW! ] This caused several adults coming down to take a look at the children and what they were up to. Among those was Nala, the ever-smiling entertainer of the hall as well as Senela’s mother. As usual, Nala came down to makes sure all of them were patched up after having done something stupid. Of course, Nala always scolded them, but not too much this time, after all, there was a wound to look at. Placing Melos next to her, Nala began to sing a small song to the wound, and the rock began to move out of the wound, gradually mending flesh back together. Senela just looked at her mother in awe, but also knew that this magic had been given to her mother by the Black Stag, the protective spirit of the Haraborn Clan. “Why did you do that mother?” Senela asked. “Isn’t it wasteful to use magic like that? Father says that you have to learn lessons when you get hurt.” “We take care of our family, blossom.” Nala just smiled, “and all of this clan is in truth our family. We stick together, and we sing for each other.” Nala reached out to her daughter, the two of them sharing a long gaze. “Besides, just because the wound is now closed, it does not mean that Melos will forget that lesson anytime soon. Don’t walk around places where they’re throwing stones towards.” Nala smiled at the small band of her daughter’s friends that had kept themselves at a respectful distance, and just laughed a bit. “Go with your friends, Sene. Maybe sing them a song about how painful a flying rock can be.” Senela, struggling to remember such a song just nodded, and darted off with her friends. [ Scene End. Chaos Factor stays the same. NPCs Introduced: Uncle Gordangar, Mother Urios, Aunt Velora, all of the siblings, Ula, Hara, Darestan, Grandmother Korra Longfinger. Threads: None. ] --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alright. It's late, but I got PLENTY more to go. Just you wait, in my current text, this little critters are adults and ready to mess things up. We're not even started on the Six Seasons of Sartar yet! Till next time!
  7. Taxes, Re-building and the Ale of Alnoth Wulfhere decided that when he returned he would travel his lands to see what changes had occurred over the year. He was met by delegation after delegation of Farmers on his travels. Many complained that there had been a bad growing season due to adverse weather conditions and many of the crops had rotted in the fields which left them with little surplus to pay their rents for the year. Others said that they had been forced by Aldfrid the Hlafweard1 to work on the fortifications at Pontes and they had not enough people to work on their fields and their farms had suffered. All the farmers said that they felt that they had been unable to complain to Wulfhere because he had been absent at wars or on business of his own. They wondered if the Ealdorman and their Þegns were absent who they should make a complaint to when they wanted a reduction in their rents similar to the last year. Wulfhere said he would take their suggestions under consideration and would look into their circumstances but he told them he would not make a decision immediately but he would give the farmers an answer in a few days when he called a Moot. Wulfhere told his brothers of the farmers requests. Dunstan was annoyed by the request for half rent. He felt the farmers wanted to have their Solmonath Honey cakes and eat them too. Uthric said that there had not been a good crop this year. He told them that he had seen for himself that heavy rain had rotted a lot of the crops in the fields and a lot of the grain had been contaminated with a white blight. He told that one of his farmers, a man called Heahmund, had gone mad after eating the grain and his family had become sick and been lucky to survive. Wulfhere asked Uthric to check what the surplus would be and they would make a decision about rents. He thought that if there was genuine hardship then it was reasonable to reduce the rents. Uthric said he agreed that the rents should be reduced as it was always more useful to have live farmers who would pay future rents rather than dead ones who might be impossible to get anything from. Cwen asked Wulfhere if he was agreeable to let her learn how to use weapons. She told him that she would never again let a man hold her as a chattel and she wanted to learn how to protect herself. Wulfhere said that it should be up to her what she wanted to do. In his view, she was now a free woman and the daughter of a former Ealdorman. He said he had realised how much she had been misused by other powerful men and it might be a good idea to learn how to protect herself. Cwen said she was grateful and accepted that she did not need to ask his permission but she thought she should ask him none-the-less in case he thought it odd that she was practicing with a spear. Dunstan had been set the task of reviewing the defences in Pontes. He was concerned about the lack of effort in building the palisade and asked Aldfrid, his Hlafweard, to account for the inaction. Aldfrid said that he had discovered that his task had been made harder because it was clear that there were two distinct groups in the districts. There were those that came from the old families who had lived in the area for several generations and then there were the newcomers. The newcomers focus had been in trying to set up their farms and produce enough food to feed their families. They had not seen the point in building defences if their families starved to death. He had got little support from them in the building. The older families had sent people to work on the defences but there were never enough of them and work proceeded slowly. Dunstan was not happy with his response and told Aldfrid that he might consider a new Hlafweard if the situation did not improve. Cwen had been listening to Dunstan’s conversation with Aldfrid and thought this was an old argument that Dunstan would lose every time. She told him he needed to look at the problem afresh and that maybe he should suggest to Wulfhere that they seek woodwrights and stonemasons and pay them to construct the defences. She said that she intended to travel to Wincen Cæster and the thought it might be a good idea to call on Cerdic as she believed he owed her a debt for his previous behaviour. Dunstan then spoke to Wulfhere and got him to agree that he would pay for wrights or masons. He said that Cwen was going to Wincen Cæster and had offered to hire the men for the task of building the defences. Æthlind, who had become friendly with Cwen, said that she and Cwen would take charge of getting the defences and Þegn's hall built as it was clear that none of the brothers had been able to organise anything significant. Cwen said that she remembered that Hildegard always used to say that it was better to not let the brothers make plans as they were not that good at arranging things on time. Dunstan said he thought that this was unfair but Cwen asked him how long they had been planning and trying to build the palisade and their Halls. Neither Dunstan nor Wulfhere had an answer for her. Beorthric and Hildegard arrived before the Horvert feast. They brought the brothers’ siblings Egfryd, Idris and Sigtrygg north also. Egfryd was now a man of 16 summers and he had been apprenticed to a Blacksmith in Cissa Cæster. Dunstan, who had always cared for Egfryd since they found him hiding from the Bannucmann in a shearing pit, made sure that he got work with the local blacksmith, Ceadda, to continue his training. Idris was now a young woman of 15 summers and was following Hildegard in her ability to organise people and tell them where they were going wrong in their lives. Hildegard said that she thought Idris would have excellent prospects for her future if she continued to learn from her mother. Dunstan wondered if he should perhaps take Idris under his wing in the same way he had helped Egfryd. However, he decided against it when Idris asked him why he had not yet managed to build his Hall yet, thinking that his task to reform Idris might not be successful. Sigtrygg was 17 summers and had been training as a warrior. Wulfhere invited him to join his household which Sigtrygg said he would be pleased to do so. Beorthric also brought over 100 sheep along with the shepherds who looked after them. Beorthric was keen to get good grazing land but the farmers were concerned the sheep would ruin their crops. Beorthric resolved the problem by offering to slaughter 50 of the sheep and hold a grand feast to feed the whole district. The farmers thought this was an excellent idea and fully supported Beorthric’s plans. Hildegard said that they hoped to recruit women for their weaving sheds to produce cloth for the next year and she would talk to them at the Hærfestlic2. Wulfhere allocated Beorthric land and Beorthric then hired men to build sheds for his wool. Hildegard talked at length with Offa. She told him she had heard that he made excellent ale and wondered if he would be prepared to brew enough ale for Beorthric's feast at the Hærfestlic. Offa said that he would be glad to help out as he appeared to have time on his hands however, he doubted that there would be enough barley available to make ale due to the poor harvest. Hildegard said that she thought that problem would be easy to overcome as Beorthric would buy enough barley to make ale for the feast. Offa said in that case he thought that if Beorthric could manage to get the barley on time then he would be able to make good enough ale for the feast. Wulfhere agreed with his brothers that they would again reduce the farmers’ rents by half. He told the farmers that the reason for the poor harvests was that they had perhaps neglected to perform the Haerfestlic rituals correctly. He told them that they may have neglected the beating of the grain to make sure the evil spirits were chased off. He informed them that this year the last grains harvested would be collected and the grain would be beaten in the time-honoured way to chase out the Blight wóddréam3 and to ensure a good harvest for next year. Wulfhere appointed trusted men to gather the last grain for he thought the hungry farmers would try to conceal the grain to eat it. He asked Hereweard to oversee the ritual to ensure it was done correctly. He told the farmers that while their rents would be reduced by half again this year, he expected full rents would be re-instated the next year. Tathere asked Wulfhere if the fishermen would also benefit from a reduction in rents but Wulfhere said he did not feel this was necessary. He said that as the fishermen had not presented a case to either him or his brothers as to why the rents should be reduced. Tathere said that he felt that the fishermen were always singled out and they had to bear the brunt of the farmers inadequacy. Dunstan, who felt strong antipathy to Tathere for his part in the FisċgúÞ, had to be restrained by Uthric. Uthric said that Dunstan needed to be careful about singling out the fishermen as they were needed, particularly when food was short. Dunstan said that he would be calm but muttered under his breath and he gave Tathere dark looks. He told Uthric that he had no longer any stomach for smoked eels. Wulfhere made a grand speech to the farmers in which he told them that in order to protect themselves, they needed to establish strong defences, grow enough crops and establish their herds. Dunstan thought these three points were a useful motto for the people of the districts to remember and he repeated them often to his farmers. Uthric spoke with Wulfhere about Lucnot. He was of the opinion Lucnot had either suffered too much in his captivity or an déaþscufa had settled in his soul. Wulfhere said that it would be better to send him to Orin. At least he would be with his own people and not likely to kill any Saxons in a fit of rage. Uthric said he would be happy to take Lucnot and make sure he was settled with the Atrebates. He said he intended to settle a sum of silver on Lucnot to help him build a farm. Wulfhere thought it might be good if Uthric also took his sons to Tadda to foster as at present he did not have much time to be a father and he thought young Wulfhere and Offa would benefit from being with Tadda. Uthric said he would be happy to arrange it and he thought Tadda would be honoured by the task. Cwen overheard Hildegard discussions with Offa about ale. She said she thought it would be an excellent opportunity if Offa set up a brewery for his ale. She had been thinking that South Pontes needed to establish a regular market as it was ideally placed between Cerdic's lands and Mierce to the north. If the peace held with Aelle, they might also attract traders from Hrof’s lands. Wulfhere said that he agreed with the idea of a market and that if successful would bring more people and power under his control. He said he thought that he could support Cwen in her venture. Uthric said that Beorthric was likely to have cloth next year that needed to be sold so if they could establish a regular market it would bring in more silver. Offa thought he might like the idea of setting up a brewery. In truth he was enamoured with Cwen and as Dunstan pointed out to Uthric when they were travelling to Calleva that he believed Offa would have followed her to Nastrønd if she had asked him. Uthric was of the opinion that Cwen had her eye on Wulfhere but Wulfhere for whatever reason seemed oblivious to her. Dunstan said that Cwen was the second most beautiful woman in the district as his wife, Æthlind, outshone her in every aspect. Uthric ignored Dunstan and his views as he knew that his own opinion would likely to start another dispute and he was weary of endless discussions about wives. It just reminded him he had not yet found Meire. At the Hærfestlic, Beorthric and Hildegard had spoken to the woman of the district about making cloth. Many of the women were keen to be involved but none wanted to work in the sheds Beorthric intended to build. They told him that they needed to be on their own farms dealing with the day-to-day business. Hildegard came up with a compromise by suggesting the woman could work in their own dwellings and when they have made the wool into thread they could bring it to the weaving sheds where it would be made into cloth. The women were pleased with the suggestion and a bargain was struck. After Hærfestlic, Cwen, Æthlind and Offa left to go to Wincen Cæster. Cwen told Wulfhere she was confident that Cerdic would give her the things they needed. Wulfhere said that he wasn't so sure that Cerdic would be so helpful, but he was impressed in her confidence on the matter. Uthric was keen to get to Colnacæster to find Meire. They intended to travel through Lundenwic and then on to the land of the Upplingas. Uthric said that they could get information from the merchants in Lundenwic to find out which way to travel as they were unsure which road to take to Colnacæster. Uthric was keen to take the horses but Wulfhere worried that they might be a target for thieves. Dunstan said that he thought they could deal with any bandits and as they were both well-armed and looked dangerous, he did not feel that anyone would attack them. Wulfhere remained reluctant but was swayed by Uthric who thought it was important to travel as fast as possible before the weather got worse and the winter came. When they arrived in Lundenwic they found that a fire had destroyed most of the buildings. The burnt area was still visible but it did not look as if it had been a violent destruction. The Way station was still in use as it was built by the Romans and stood on its own surrounded by the burnt land. The roof was newly thatched, suggesting although it might have also been burnt but the Roman built stone walls had survived. Uthric asked one of the gate guards what had happened. The guard told them there had been a fire in one of the houses that had spread throughout the closely built dwellings. Some of the people who survived left and went north. Others built their homes in the new settlement. Dunstan thought Lundenwic was much diminished from the last time they were there. It was more squalid and smelt worse. Wulfhere asked if the settlement was still ruled by the Angles but the guard told them that it was a free settlement and owned no allegiance to any lord. The Angles had been displaced by the Upplingas and Hæferingas but neither were interested in Lundenwic and left it alone. The guard said that if they were looking for a lord they should talk to the Merchants who were always keen for Spearmen to help guard their goods. Wulfhere said that they were passing through and were only interested in food and somewhere safe to sleep. The guard directed them to the Inn in the Way station. Uthric asked the Merchants in the Inn if they remembered a woman called Ealhwyn. One of the merchants remembered that a noble woman fitting her description had come through Lundenwic just over half a moon ago and said she was going to Colnacæster. He remembered her because she had not been pleasant to deal with and had made many unreasonable demands. Uthric asked if the Merchant remembered a woman called Meire and said she had a green tinge around her temples. The merchant laughed and said he might have remembered a woman such as that, however, there was no such woman with Ealhwyn's party. Uthric said to his brothers that he was worried that they might again be disappointed in their search. Dunstan said that he felt he could remain hopeful as they would at least hear some information when they found Ealhwyn but Uthric said he had a bad feeling about the future and that he was not sure he would ever find Meire. Wulfhere said that he and Dunstan would support Uthric until he decided that there was no hope. Uthric said he thought that time might be near. In the morning they left Lundenwic and they all felt better. Dunstan said that the smell in the air was bad and he thought that maybe the newer settlement was built on marshes. Wulfhere said that someone should take charge of the place and develop it properly. Uthric thought that if it were not for the bridge over the Tamyse, no-one would even bother to live there. He pointed out that it was a day’s journey at least from the sea and it would be better for trading ships to go to Hrofnacæster or Anderida. He was also sure there were easier ports to access in the Angle lands to the north. As they travelled northeast, the weather got worse. Often, they travelled in heavy rain but were able to find places to stay either at Way stations or at farms that served the Roman road to Colnacæster. They stayed a night and a day at Celmeresfort and another at Mældun because the weather was so bad. The people they talked to were known in the south as East Saxons but they identified themselves by tribes such as Hæmelingas, the Denge or the Hæferingas. Wulfhere wondered were all these people had come from. When he asked them, they said they had recently arrived and they had been so many they were able to push the Angles north and hold the lands against any retaliatory Angle incursions. Wulfhere was impressed and he guessed that Guercha One-eye was not having it all his own way. Eventually they arrived at Colnacæster. The city had been built by the Romans and many of the Roman buildings still stood and were occupied by the Upplingas for as Wulfhere noted they did not appear to suffer the usual Saxon concern that the old buildings were full of ghosts. The Upplingas King was Sæberht and he was Ealhwyn’s mother’s brother’s son. The Hrothgarsons were impressed by Saeberht’s palace which stood at the centre of the old city and was the grandest building they had ever seen. There were strange animals painted on the walls or on the stone floor and they wondered if creatures such as that still lived in these parts. Uthric said that it might be dangerous to stay in the open as he was not sure if you could kill creatures like that with iron. Dunstan said cold iron was as good as anything for killing weargas. They asked if they could speak with King Sæberht but were told that he had gone to see a ship docked at Old Hythe, the port where goods were landed for Colnacæster. Wulfhere thought they should go to Hythe but one of the warriors, who named himself as Ingweald said the king would return before nightfall and they were likely to have a wasted journey. Uthric asked about Ealhwyn and Ingweald said he thought she might be with the King as she was close kin. He said she had arrived some weeks ago and the King had spent three days talking to her in his private chambers. Ingweald thought that the King was planning some special event which he thought could mean war after the Spring planting. In Ingweald’s opinion, that would be a good thing as there would be silver and glory for all who wanted it. Ingweald was of the view that if they wanted to join as Sæberht’s oath warriors they had come at the right time. Uthric said that in other circumstances he might consider the offer but he was looking for his wife. Ingweald said that it was odd that Uthric had come to Colnacæster to find a wife. He agreed that the women of the Upplingas were the most beautiful but was surprised that Uthric could not find a woman who would be willing to marry him in his own land. He didn’t think Uthric looked that bad and he was richly dressed and looked like he could handle himself in a fight. Uthric said that he had come to find his wife who had been taken from him and he had hoped to find out from Ealhwyn where she might be. Ingweald said he was sorry he had misunderstood but Uthric's accent was hard to understand. He thought as way of compensation that they should try some of Alnoth's apple ale. He believed that it was possibly the best tasting ale he had ever had the pleasure of drinking. Dunstan said that he felt he could not pass up such a treat if it was good as Ingweald had attested. Wulfhere said that he too had a sudden thirst and that he would hate to have been in Colnacæster and left without trying Alnoth's ale. Uthric said that he might try a small amount because he wanted to speak urgently to Sæberht and being drunk was probably not a good thing when asking a King for favours. Wulfhere and Dunstan said that they could leave the asking of favours to Uthric and that they would be more than happy to give an opinion on the ale. The King did not come back until after dark and he only briefly came into the Hall to greet his warriors. Uthric did not have time to introduce himself. He said to his brothers that he had a bad feeling about this. Not only was he unable to speak to the King but he would not be able to indulge himself in Alnoth's ale for fear of being unable to speak sensibly to the King in the morning. Neither Wulfhere or Dunstan could open their eyes fully the next morning. Wulfhere remarked the light seemed to be stronger in the north and the birdsong louder. Dunstan said he had to agree with Wulfhere but he thought that this effect might have been caused by Alnoth’s ale. He noted that he had been able to learn the local Saxon dialect quickly because after five horns of ale he had found that he and Ingweald could understand each other perfectly. He wondered if the ale allowed easier learning of other languages. Uthric had meantime presented himself to Sæberht and explained his request. Sæberht said that Uthric spoke well and he was moved by his plea. Uthric was disappointed to learn the Ealhwyn was no long in Colnacæster but Sæberht was able to tell him that Meire had been with Ealhwyn and that she was well. Uthric asked the King if he could tell him where he could find Ealhwyn because he was keen to be reunited with Meire as soon as possible. Sæberht told him that Ealhwyn had gone to visit King Weacla in Veralamacæster. Uthric thanked him for the information and asked which way he would travel to get to Veralamacæster. Sæberht told him to return to Lundenwic and then travel northwest along the Roman road. Uthric wanted to set out immediately but Wulfhere said that he needed to clear his head first by dipping it in a cold stream. Dunstan was little better than Wulfhere and equally reluctant to leave just at that moment but when Uthric threatened to go by himself they packed their things and left with him. Uthric said they needed to move quickly. He noted that the year was near its ending and the weather might take a turn for the worse so as not to allow travel. (1) Hlafweard is a steward (2) Haerfestlic is the Harvest festival. A feast is held to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. The last grain harvested holds a spirit. The grain is beaten to chase the spirit out before being planted again where the seeds will be sown in the next sowing season, thus blessing the crop. (3) Wóddréam. An evil spirit
  8. Restoration and Divorce It took a week to travel from Anderida to Hrofnacæster. The Hrothgarsons had travelled along the Roman road using Way stations or staying at Steadings along the way. Northern Ceint was rich and fertile. Ruins of Roman houses were everywhere. Some had been scavenged for stone and others were intact apart from the roofs which had fallen in. Dunstan thought of himself as a builder and he was intrigued to see how the Romans had built their farms and dwellings. He discussed it with his brothers and Uthric pointed out that and seemed obvious to the Romans, withy making was not the height of building and Dunstan might want to stick to being a Þegn. As they approached Hrofnacæster they could see the still extant Roman walls surrounding the Old Roman fort and dwellings that guarded the stone bridge over the river Meduwaen which flowed into the sea. On the shoreline they could see two armies drawn up for battle. The larger army had the smaller army trapped against the shore. None of the Hrothgarsons could conceive why a battle was being fought in Ceint but they went to the top of a low hill to get a better view and to wait for the inevitable outcome. Wulfhere thought the smaller force did well to stand up to the larger one for so long but their Shieldwall was breached and the battle was suddenly over, ending in rout and slaughter for the smaller force. Uthric could see that the larger victorious Army had howling black wolves on their shields and he told his brothers they were Hrof's men. He said he had no idea who their opponents were. Dunstan was concerned that war had broken out again between Cerdic and Aelle but Wulfhere said that was unlikely. Some of the merchants they had met on the road would have told them if the situation had changed. He thought it more likely that the defeated army were raiders and probably Angles. They sat and waited for something to happen. None of them thought it was a good idea to approach the battlefield as strangers in case they were accused of belonging to the smaller army. The wait was not long. They had been seen and a party of ten warriors were sent to find out who they were. The leader of the warriors introduced himself as Baldthryth Siferthson and asked why they were sitting on a hill, armed for war. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers and told Baldthryth they had come to seek counsel from Hrof. Baldthryth apologised for not recognising Wulfhere. He explained he had been at the Battle of Dunum and had been with the Aethling Stuf when he had relieved Wulfhere's small force that had been holding the gate. He told Wulfhere that he had stood behind him in the Shieldwall in the latter part of the battle. Wulfhere said his memory was not what it was in his youth and besides he had been facing forward in the battle owing to the amount of Dumnonians trying to kill him. He said he had not thought at the time to look behind him. Baldthryth laughed at Wulfhere's comments and welcomed them to Hrofnacæster. Wulfhere said that he was interested the Baldthryth was now Hrof’s man having so recently fought for Stuf. Baldthryth said that he had come to Hrofnacæster because of a woman and joked why else would anyone choose to uproot and travel across the country. He said that besides that, Hrof was an excellent Lord and rewarded those who were loyal to him. He brought the Hrothgarsons to Hrof's hall and got the servants to give them food and drink after their journey. Baldthryth told them that Hrof would be some time. He was seeing to the wounded and hearing the deeds of those of his men who had died in the fight. Wulfhere said that they were in no hurry to leave since they had only got here and the ale was of such good quality to make a person want to wait longer. Dunstan asked if he could have a bowl of porridge from one of the servants. He said that he had not had a decent bowl of porridge for several weeks and his mouth was beginning to water at the thought of one. He then started an argument with Uthric about whether the porridge should be salted or honey should be added. The argument was still going on when Hrof arrived and he thought that he would give his opinion and sided with Uthric in that adding honey was best. Dunstan who had been arguing for salt was silenced for the first time in weeks. Wulfhere wondered if they shouldn't stay longer at Hrof's hall as he enjoyed the momentary peace and quiet. Hrof was a huge man although he was well into middle age. He explained he was in an agreeable mood since he had just defeated several boatloads of Angle raiders and captured their boats. He also had taken some prisoners and after they were questioned he would have them executed to deter future raiders from coming. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers and Hrof said that he had heard some of their exploits from Baldthryth. He told them there would be a victory feast that night and he thought that it might be interesting to hear Wulfhere's view of the Battle of Dunum. Wulfhere said that he would be glad to tell the tale for it had been an interesting battle. Hrof was interrupted by one of the servants who told him that the prisoners had been questioned and that they would be executed soon. Hrof asked the Hrothgarsons to join him in watching the prisoners’ deaths. He explained that they would be beheaded for although the crime of raiding was one where the perpetrators should be hung as lowly criminals, Hrof’s view was that they were still warriors and should die like warriors. Dunstan was looking at the line of prisoners when he recognised Offa Pendason who they had met at Danasted and who had thrown an anvil at the Bannucmann, precipitating his timely demise. Dunstan told Wulfhere and Uthric that the man near the end was their friend, Offa. Uthric thought Offa might be more grumpy than usual as he was about to lose his head but that they should seek to help him to keep him in a better mood. Wulfhere was worried about approaching Hrof with such a request as he was not sure what his standing with Hrof actually was. Uthric suggested that he offer wergild for Offa's life. Dunstan said that they better act quickly as Offa was almost at the front of the queue to face the axe wielding executioner. He did wonder how Offa might react to being saved from death when his comrades were to die. Wulfhere talked to Hrof and told him that the tall prisoner in the line was their friend and he wanted to ask Hrof if he could buy the man's life. Hrof was intrigued how Wulfhere might be friends with an Angle raider but he stopped the executions to allow Wulfhere to state his case. Wulfhere briefly told Hrof that Offa had been instrumental in helping put their father's spirit to rest and that he was sure Offa could give a good explanation as to why he was now in Ceint rather than Mierce. Hrof said that he would not usually grant clemency for raiders who he considered criminals but he knew that Wulfhere was a good man and could trust his judgement. Uthric and Dunstan were listening to Wulfhere and Hrof and both could not help but wonder if Hrof was not mixing their brother with another Wulfhere. However, they thought that questioning Hrof's judgement at this time might complicate matters, so they let it pass. Wulfhere and Hrof went to talk to Offa and Wulfhere offered him his life. Offa looked more grumpy than normal and said he was conflicted about what he should do. He thought it might be better for him to die with his comrades rather than be made a slave. Wulfhere said that was not his intention. Offa had helped both him and his brothers when they were in need and near death and they had fought and defeated the Bannucmann together. He thought that he should now return the favour for Offa. Offa asked Hrof if he could have some time to consider his options and decide what he should do. Hrof said that he was agreeable to wait until the rest of the raiders had been killed and then Offa needed to make a choice about whether he wanted to live or die. Offa thought this delay would be sufficient. Dunstan and Uthric took Offa aside and told him that he should chose life and come to Pontes with them unless he had a family he needed to return to. Offa said that he had nothing to return to in Mierce but wondered what his life would be like in Pontes. Uthric said that he would be a free man and they would ensure he was honoured. Offa thought this might be acceptable and when Hrof returned, Offa told him he chose to live. Wulfhere paid Hrof a wergild for Offa. He offered the wergild of a Þegn but Hrof accepted the wergild of a Carl. That night at the Feast, Dunstan told the story of the Bannucmann. Dunstan told the story with many flourishes and emphasised Offa's role in the death of the Bannucmann. Hrof's warriors wanted to see Offa throw an anvil and they all went outside. Offa was still a strong man but he only just managed to lift and throw the anvil. He apologised saying that as he got older his strength was slowly seeping away. However, when others tried to lift the anvil they found out how difficult it was. Offa discovered that his reputation went up and he was even seen by Uthric to be smiling during the rest of the feast. Hrof was delighted with the tale and gave the Hrothgarsons engraved silver capped drinking horns and he gave Offa some new clothes to replace his rather shabby clothing. Offa was pleased and Dunstan said to Uthric that he thought Offa looked less grumpy over the last day. Uthric thought that perhaps being saved from being beheaded might have cheered him up. In the morning they talked again with Hrof. They told him they were searching for their families and needed to go to Contaburgh to seek information. Dunstan said that he did not particularly blame Aelle for their predicament however he still harboured resentment towards Cerdic for not protecting his lands. Hrof thought that Dunstan might find life difficult if he voiced that sentiment in Cerdic's hearing. Wulfhere said that he was tired telling Dunstan that he needed to hold his tongue. Hrof said sometimes a warrior needed to say what was on his mind. He thought that they might like to return to him if they found life difficult under Cerdic. He said that he could not have enough men with good reputations. Hrof offered each brother two hydes of land if they would give him their oaths. Wulfhere said that this was a generous offer but they needed to find their families first and then decide their future. Uthric asked Hrof if he had news of his daughter, Ealhwyn. Hrof said that the last he knew was that she had rode north into Mierce with her household guard and he had not had any news from her since before the Dumnonian war, although he believed she might have visited her cousin on her mother’s side, Sigebeorht, King of Colnacæster. He thought she had had harsh words with the Aethling Wlencing and she was avoiding him. Uthric asked if Hrof had noticed Meire in her company but Hrof said he had not noticed her despite her unusual appearance and could not add anything to their current knowledge. They bade farewell to Hrof and travelled to Contaburgh. Dunstan wanted to why they were going back to Cerdic. He said that Hrof held his own lands and ruled them as he wanted. He thought that could have a good life in Ceint with Hrof if they accepted his offer. Uthric said that they had put a lot of work into the lands south of the Tamyse and he was loathe to give that up. Wulfhere said in his opinion that they needed to stop this conversation as his brothers needed to understand that their reputation depends on their loyalty to their Lord who, until they decide to give their oaths to someone else, remains Cerdic. Uthric said that Wulfhere was of course right and they should all keep their oaths to Cerdic, the Westseaxacyning. The Saxon settlement of Contaburgh was situated beside the old Roman city of Caer Ceint. Caer Ceint was said to have been abandoned since the Romans had left. The old city was now crumbling but there was still an impressive theatre and temple to the Roman War God. The local population avoided the ruins because they feared the ghosts of the city and the Roman god had a fearsome reputation. The Saxon settlement was less impressive and was ruled by an Ealdorman called Ermenred. The Hrothgarsons thought that it would be best to call with the Ealdorman. Wulfhere thought it might also be useful to get help from Ermenred and it was well known that Ermenred's ale was excellent. He thought after the journey they had that it would be good to sample it and give their opinion. Wulfhere introduced himself and his brothers. Ermenred was interested in their business and was amused that they were looking for their families, particularly since they had lost them in Aelle’s rampaging victory in the south. He said that he would be happy to give them lodging and he would give them whatever help they needed. Wulfhere thanked him and returned to one of the benches where his brothers had seated themselves. Uthric and Dunstan were discussing that they had seen Cwen in the hall. She seemed to have been well dressed so Uthric thought she had done well for herself. Dunstan was wondering what had happened to King Marc of Kernow’s bastard. Uthric said he thought that Dunstan may be trying to change the subject because Cwen was another woman Dunstan had rejected. Dunstan said he did not like to be reminded of this as it was a difficult time in his life. When Wulfhere joined them he thought that it would be best to talk to Cwen as she was likely to have some information on Gwenyth and Lucnot. Uthric attracted Cwen's attention and she came to the bench to greet them. Wulfhere said that she seemed to have done well and noted the gold and gems at her throat and gold on her arms. Cwen said that the gold meant nothing to her compared to happiness. Uthric asked her to sit with them but noticed she looked at the high table first before she sat down. Uthric tried to follow her gaze hut could see no reaction from the people gathered around the Ealdorman. Wulfhere asked Cwen for her news and she told them she was married to Ermenred. He said that he was surprised for he knew Cwen had been in Glawmæd when it was sacked and would have thought she had been made a slave. Cwen said that was exactly what happened but she had been freed by her uncle who was one of Aelle's Ealdorman having been given the title when his brother, Cwen's father had died. Wulfhere said that he had not been aware of Cwen's family connections as he had always thought of her as an orphan who had been sent to King Marc by Cerdic. Cwen acknowledged that had been true at the time but she had been nobly born. Uthric asked Cwen what had happened to Cwen's son by Marc. Cwen said he still lived and was a thriving boy of four summers. She had called him Tristan to annoy Marc because Tristan had been nice to her during her brief stay in Kernow. Dunstan said that they had come seeking news of their families. Cwen said that Dunstan will be glad to hear that Gwenyth is one of her servants and she has been kept safe. Dunstan asked after her and Cwen said she was well and had always believed that he would come for her. She said that his son Uthred, was also with her and he was well too. Dunstan was once again stuck for words and Uthric wondered aloud if there would be another night of heavy drinking complete with a troupe of dwarven smiths. Cwen brought Gwenyth to see Dunstan and she was overjoyed to see him. She told him she had prayed to all the gods for him to be safe and rescue her. Dunstan was overcome and could only mumble replies. Cwen sensed that something was not quite right and told Gwenyth to go back to her rooms and prepare to travel. She asked why Dunstan had such a poor reaction to his wife and when Dunstan did not reply Uthric spoke for him. Uthric told Cwen Dunstan had not expected to find her and had become betrothed to an Ealdorman's daughter. Cwen said that things were never simple and she suggested that all three join her in the Woman's Hall for the evening meal. Wulfhere asked if Ermenred would not mind but Cwen dismissed his concern and said that she might pay for it later but it would not matter in the end. Uthric said he did not understand what she meant but she did not answer and got up and joined her husband at the High Table. Dunstan said he was in shock. He now had a wife and was betrothed to Æthlind. Uthric said that Dunstan's problem was he always tried to do the right thing and ended up annoying everyone. Wulfhere asked Dunstan what he proposed to do. Dunstan said that he was married and that was where he should stay. He would just go home and not go back to Anderida. Uthric said that that would be unfair to Æthlind. Wulfhere reminded them that they had to go back to Anderida to get his children. He thought that Ælfrith would probably hear they had come back. Dunstan agreed and said he would have to visit Ælfrith and Æthlind and tell them he had made a mistake. He said that he needed to face this situation. He reminded himself that he had stood in many Shieldwalls and fought individual combats but was shaking because he had to tell a woman that he no longer wished to be betrothed. Uthric said that Dunstan should think carefully about his decision. Æthlind was rich, had status and would increase his renown whereas Gwenyth was a British woman with no family. Dunstan said that he felt it was his duty to stay with Gwenyth. Uthric wondered if Cwen had good ale because he felt it might be needed. When they arrived at the Woman's Hall they were surprised to find themselves dining alone with Cwen. Cwen said that she had a favour to ask them and Wulfhere said that if it was in their power they would try and do as she asked. Cwen told them that her marriage was unhappy and the wished to divorce Ermenred. She described him as a monster in the same vein as Marc of Kernow. Wulfhere said that he was sure that if he was as awful as she said, then she could divorce Ermenred according to the law. Cwen said that she was very aware what the law was but the difficulty was that she needed a witness to her proclamation of divorce and all the people who could uphold the proclamation were her husband’s men. They all feared Ermenred and would not agree to be a witness. Dunstan said that he would like to help but that as far as he was concerned, Cwen was married and she had made that choice. He felt she should make the best of it. Uthric said that they were strangers in Contaburgh and Cerdic's oath sworn warriors and had up until recently been at war with Aelle. He thought that there was no way to do this. Wulfhere said that they could not witness the divorce and that had to be the end of it. Cwen said that she could trade their help for information on where Lucnot was to be found. Uthric said that he had an obligation to help Lucnot who was his childhood friend. Wulfhere said this might make a difference but they would prefer to discuss it on their own. They bid farewell to Cwen and went back to a tavern where they could agree what to do in private. When they were alone Dunstan said that he could not see how they could help Cwen. Wulfhere said that they owed Ermenred no favours either and if he was a monstrous as Cwen said or worse than Marc of Kernow then it might be good to help. Uthric said that if he remembered correctly it had been Wulfhere that had let her on the boat when they were leaving Kernow. He thought that if Wulfhere had not done as he had advised him to do at the time, then they would not be in this mess. Uthric said he thought it was up to Wulfhere as the eldest brother and senior Þegn to make the decision. Dunstan still felt that there was no reason for them to be involved but agreed that he would abide by Wulfhere's decision. Wulfhere thought about it for a while in silence and then said to his brothers that he felt they would put their mission to find their families at risk if they helped Cwen. They all felt relieved by Wulfhere's decision and ordered some more ale. Uthric said that despite their decision he needed to find out if Lucnot was still alive and if so he was under obligation to help him. He reminded Wulfhere that Lucnot was also Wulfhere's former wife’s brother. Uthric said that he would go and see Cwen in the morning to convey their decision and to see if she would give him information on Lucnot. Uthric went to Ermenred's Hall where he asked where he might find Cwen. He was told she was in the Threshing Rooms supervising the separation of grain from the stalks and husks. Uthric waited until Cwen was available to talk with him. She suggested that they should walk and talk. Uthric told Cwen that he and his brothers had decided that they could not help her with her proclamation. Cwen was silent for a while and Uthric did not say anything either. Cwen turned to him and asked him directly to help her. She said she could no longer stay with Ermenred as he was a monster. Uthric groaned inwardly while remaining calm to outward appearances for he had a geas given to him by the dragon Níðhǫgg in that he could never refuse a request directly asked of him. He told Cwen that he was willing to help her and give his oath that he would do so or die trying. He said he would need to talk to his brothers about the details. He asked about Lucnot. Cwen told him that Lucnot was hiding in the old City having killed his Master. Cwen had been supporting him with food and clothing. Uthric asked if she could get a message to Lucnot so that when they left Contaburgh they could take Lucnot too. Cwen brought Uthric to meet a man, Mearcread, who she trusted to meet with Lucnot. Uthric gave him a message for Lucnot to arrange a meeting. Uthric then went back to his brothers and told them of the change of plan. Uthric said he thought he should tell Ermenred about what was going to happen. Wulfhere said that in his opinion Ermenred would not need to know and Wulfhere was not keen to tell him. He said that Ermenred could act in many different ways, but he feared that agreeing to the divorce peacefully would not be his chosen option. Dunstan said that sneaking around was not the Hrothgarson way of doing things and he agreed with Uthric that Ermenred should be told. Wulfhere said that his brothers had misunderstood him. He said that according to the Law the proclamation of Divorce has to be done publicly and therefore it has to be done in the open and to be above board. However, he thought that whatever they chose to do, it did not have to be a challenge to Ermenred and thus provoke a response that none of them would want. Wulfhere said that if they completed the proclamation according to the law then that would protect them and presumably Cwen also. Therefore, the plan should be brazen without being a challenge. Uthric wondered that if Cwen was comparing Ermenred to Marc, how would he react when his wife divorced him and how that would go for the Hrothgarsons since they were aiding Cwen’s actions. Dunstan said that he did not want to think of that. He said that he still had nightmares about their time in Kernow. They went to see Cwen again and asked her how she thought Ermenred would react. Cwen said that however he reacted it would probably not go well for them if they were still within striking range. Wulfhere said that in that case Offa would take Gwenyth and Uthred and leave early. Uthric said that he wanted his brothers to leave at the same time. He thought that he would prefer knowing that they were safe with only Cwen and himself taking the risk. Wulfhere said he was in favour of this and Uthric thought that fast horses might be useful in the situation. Wulfhere bought horses for himself, Uthric, Dunstan, Gwenyth and Offa. Uthred was still very young and they thought he could ride in front of Gwenyth. Cwen wanted to bring her son Tristan too and it was agreed he could also travel in front of an adult. Cwen had her own horse and was the only one of the group who was reasonably competent on a horse. Uthric went to meet with Lucnot in the Old City. He was concerned about the change in Lucnot. He thought he might have been driven half mad because of his experiences and Uthric thought he detected a mad gleam in his eye and his talk was about killing as many Sais as he could. His plans were reckless and unlikely to get anyone killed apart from himself. Uthric calmed him down and Lucnot agreed to abide by the plan for his rescue. Uthric later told Wulfhere that they needed to be careful of Lucnot as he might challenge any Saxon he saw. Wulfhere agreed that this may be so but they would still need to give Lucnot weapons and horses in case it came to a fight and so it would be up to Uthric to keep him calm. Cwen had discovered that Ermenred was going to a nearby village in two days time to gather his rents. She thought that this might be the time to make the proclamation. Uthric said that as soon as Ermenred left they should act but Cwen thought it better to allow him to get to the village that was a quarter of a morning’s ride away. She thought that one of the HusÞegns would ride to let him know that she had made the Proclamation of Divorce and that way they would have half a morning start on Ermenred. Later that day, Cwen publicly declared that she was releasing Gwenyth’s oath of servitude and she was free to travel wherever she wished. The Hrothgarsons formally thanked Ermenred for his hospitality and now told him that now Dunstan had found his wife they would be travelling home. Ermenred said that he was glad their task was successful and wished them a good journey. Early on the next day, Wulfhere led his party out of Contaburgh. They set off early and collected Lucnot from the Old City and they gave him new clothing so that he would not look like an escaped slave. Uthric waited in Ermenred's Hall until he thought the sun was at the right height. He went to Ermenred's private chamber where Cwen opened the door. She had gathered some belongings in a cloak and then stood by the bedside and proclaimed her divorce from Ermenred. Uthric then proclaimed that as a Þegn he witnessed her divorce. Cwen went to the entrance of the private bed chamber and made the same proclamation which Uthric again witnessed. Finally, she completed the proclamation at the door to the Hall and Uthric repeated this witness confirmation almost as a challenge. One of the HusÞegns came over to bar their exit but Uthric said that he did not want to spill blood and that he should stand aside. The HusÞegn looked at Uthric and then at Cwen and thought better of his actions before he stood aside to let them pass. Cwen and Uthric went to get their horses and left as soon as possible. As they left Contaburgh Cwen pointed to a horsemen hurrying north in the direction where Ermenred was. She told Uthric they needed to hurry in case Ermenred chose to follow them. Wulfhere was having difficulty controlling his horse. It appeared to want to spend its time eating the grass at the side of the road and showed no interest in what Wulfhere said. The result was they made slow progress. Offa was rather gloomy and said that he would have thought Wulfhere might have bought a less strong willed horse if he did not really understand them. Wulfhere did not comment but got off his horse and led it forward. Dunstan said that at least they were moving even if it was at walking pace but thought if Wulfhere wanted to walk home it might have been cheaper just to buy new shoes rather than an expensive horse. Just after midday, Uthric and Cwen caught up with the rest of the group. Uthric was frustrated as he thought Ermenred could be coming after them and their pace was not enough to get out of his lands. His frustration increased when just before the time for the evening meal Dunstan saw dust on the road behind them that was likely caused by fast moving horses. They tried to get their horses to trot faster but it was clear that the dust cloud was getting closer. After a while, Offa said he thought he could see horsemen in the distance. Wulfhere said that they needed to get as far as possible in the hope that they could get into Hrof's lands. He thought Ermenred might not pursue them if they could cross the border. However it became clear that they would be overtaken. Wulfhere told Cwen to leave them and ride fast. He thought that Ermenred would not be interested in them and Cwen had a greater skill in horse riding. Dunstan and Uthric decided that they would stay behind and delay the pursuit. They put Tristan on Offa’s horse and they went to a farmhouse and dismounted and put on their war gear. The first horsemen to reach Dunstan and Uthric did not attack but remained on their horses, surrounded them and lowered their spears. Uthric said to Dunstan they may have made a mistake as they were now hemmed in by horsemen. Dunstan said that if this was the day of their death at least he had found Gwenyth whereas Uthric still did not know what happened to Meire. Uthric said that Dunstan should be more optimistic because they were only facing ten men on horseback and that they had faced much greater odds. Dunstan said that may have been so but generally they had also been backed by an army. However the men were content to just watch them and no-one said anything. The group that had gone past Dunstan and Uthric overtook Wulfhere and only slowed to check Cwen was not with him. Wulfhere still thought it likely that Cwen was skilled enough at horse riding to stay ahead of the pursuit and escape. He stopped his horse and tried to see or hear what was happening with his brothers but gave up when neither he nor the others could hear anything. Uthric spoke with the leader of the horsemen who named himself Alerid Swintheson. Uthric asked what Alerid intended to do as if nothing was going to happen Uthric thought he might like to continue his journey. Alerid said that this was a matter for Uthric and he allowed both Uthric and Dunstan to get their horses. Alerid signalled to his men and they rode off. Dunstan said he was a bit bewildered but Uthric said that it was likely they had wanted to delay them from being present at whatever was happening ahead. Wulfhere continued after Ermenred and found him ahead. It appeared Cwen's mare had gone lame and when he arrived Cwen was on the ground, knocked down by Ermenred from a blow to her face. There was already bruising around her eyes. Ermenred was standing over her and shouting that he would rather see her dead than divorce him. Wulfhere came over to Ermenred and asked him if he shouldn't like to fight an armed warrior rather than punch women. Ermenred said that he thought it better that Wulfhere stay out of this argument. When Wulfhere replied that he might have to stop Ermenred with his spear point the Ealdorman turned to meet him. His men moved forward to surround Wulfhere but Ermenred waved them back and said that he would deal with Wulfhere on his own. When Dunstan and Uthric rode up they found Wulfhere facing Ermenred and both men were readying their weapons. Uthric asked Offa what had happened and Offa said that Wulfhere had challenged Ermenred because he had hit Cwen. Uthric did not like the look of what was happening but Dunstan said he had full confidence in his older brother. Both men fought with spears and shields. Ermenred had better armour and looked the more experienced warrior. After a few attacks, Ermenred thrust so hard it would have pierced Wulfhere's shield and drove into his chest if Wulfhere had not moved suddenly the other way. As it was his shield was split but was still usable. Wulfhere had trouble getting close enough to Ermenred to get in a good strike. Ermenred was able to easily parry Wulfhere's spear. It seemed to Dunstan Ermenred was playing with Wulfhere and he expected a lethal thrust that would end his brother’s life. Ermenred again lunged suddenly and Wulfhere only just managed to get his shield in the way. The fight was going badly for Wulfhere and everyone watching thought that it would end swiftly. When the Ealdorman struck again it looked as if it would catch Wulfhere in the throat but he twisted to the right and brought his shield up to hit Ermenred’s outstretched hand causing him to drop his spear. Wulfhere moved forward and Ermenred retreated slightly, drawing his seax. Wulfhere now had the advantage with his longer spear. They both stood and watched the other for both were breathing heavily from the exertion. Ermenred moved suddenly inside Wulfhere's spear but Wulfhere again used his shield to stop the blow. The collision knocked both men backward and both fell. Wulfhere had a cut on his arm that bled heavily but Ermenred had lost his seax in the collision and fall. Ermenred attempted to get up but he someone had placed a foot on his chest and he found that he was too exhausted to get out from underneath the force holding him down. When his sight cleared he could see the Ealdorman Hrof standing with his foot on his chest and his feared Great Axe, Widuwanwyrcend poised to strike. Hrof said to no-one in particular that before anyone decided to fight on his land he always insisted that they ask his permission. He said this was particularly relevant whenever someone invaded his lands and attacked his friends to whom he had extended guest nights and he looked hard at Ermenred. Ermenred said that he had not meant to offend Hrof and had only been seeking to get his property and wife back. He asked if Hrof would mind letting him get up as he felt it was undignified to remain lying on the ground. Hrof ignored him and asked Wulfhere what had happened. Wulfhere said that they had been escorting Cwen after she had divorced Ermenred when they had been attacked by the Ealdorman. Hrof asked if the divorce had been proclaimed according to the law and Uthric said it had and that he had been the witness. Cwen came forward and said that it had all been carried out properly and she confirmed that she still had the view that the wanted to divorce Ermenred. Hrof noticed the bruises on her face and asked how she had come by them as he thought they looked recent. He wondered perhaps if Ermenred had caused them. When Cwen confirmed it has been caused by Ermenred, Hrof grew more angry. He pulled Ermenred up by putting his fingers in the Ealdorman's nostrils. He asked Ermenred why he should not hang him from a tree for the crime of armed invasion. Ermenred was in pain but managed to say that if he had offended Hrof then he was more than happy to leave. However, he thought that he should insist that Cwen forfeit all of her possessions as they were in fact his and she had not brought anything as a dowry. Hrof said that in his opinion the disputed possessions were compensation for Cwen's bruises. Hrof said he also thought that Ermenred needed to pay wergild to Wulfhere for the wound to his arm. Hrof thought that Ermenred’s black stallion might be a reasonable wergild. He asked Ermenred if he had a different opinion but the Ealdorman could only say that he thought it was fair. Hrof released Ermenred and told him that it would be best for him to leave his land immediately. When he had gone Hrof greeted the Hrothgarsons and asked them if he could accompany them on their journey as far as his Hall. Wulfhere thanked him for the intervention and said he thought that things had not been going well for him and he was glad Hrof had come. Hrof said that they had both made an enemy of Ermenred that day but he was of the opinion that Ermenred was unlikely to bother him whereas the Hrothgarsons should think carefully before going back to Contaburgh. He thought it best to tell that Ermenred was known to be vindictive and took great pleasure in making life awkward to people he considered weaker than him. Hrof guested them for two days and when they were strong enough after their recent exertions, they left to return to Anderida. They parted on good terms with Hrof saying that he would be glad to have them as guests whenever they came this way again. Dunstan was having a difficult time deciding how to tell the Ealdorman Ælfrith and Æthlind that he was going to break the marriage contact. He sought advice from his brothers. Uthric was amused that there was any doubt about it and said his opinion was to divorce Gwenyth and marry Æthlind. Wulfhere said this was a more difficult decision. He thought they had already made enemies of one Ealdorman in Aelle’s kingdom and making an enemy of one so close to Aelle might not be all that good for their future prospects. Uthric said they should also remember they were responsible for humiliating Cœlfrith and for exposing him as a traitor. He thought that at this rate Aelle might be running out of Ealdormen. Wulfhere said that it might be that Aelle thought they were targeting his Ealdormen if he was suspicious about their motives. Dunstan did not like Uthric’s advice and thought maybe Wulfhere was over-complicating matters but he agreed to be tactful and sympathetic and not cause an incident that left hard feelings. When he told Gwenyth what had happened she was tearful and went to Wulfhere to tell him that he must not let Dunstan supplant her with Æthlind. Wulfhere said that while he had no say in Dunstan’s decision, he was sure that he would make the right choice. While Wulfhere went to get his children, Dunstan went alone to meet with Æthlind and her father. When he arrived Æthlind greeted him warmly and explained all the plans she had made. It was quite a while before Dunstan could interject and tell her that he had found Gwenyth. Æthlind talked to him for most of the morning and the end result was that Dunstan agreed that as he had contracted marriage with her, they would get married and he would set Gwenyth aside. Dunstan then left Æthlind and went to tell Gwenyth. She was upset at the decision and Dunstan was unsure how to console her. Uthric thought he should help and talked to Gwenyth and reassured her that Dunstan would make sure she was provided for and she would not be disgraced. On the way back to Pontes, Æthlind spoke at length with Gwenyth and it seemed to Dunstan that Æthlind was able to win her over with kind words and friendship. He was grateful for his new wife’s diplomacy skills.
  9. The Disappointing Meeting The Hrothgarsons returned to Hambladensted and set the lands in order. Dunstan’s steward, Aldfrid, had done a good job in collecting the rents and administering justice but he had been unable to convince the farmers to work on the fortifications. Dunstan said that he was concerned that the building of the stockade at Pontes was not going as quickly as he would have liked. He discussed it further with his farmers who said they would do what they could. Dunstan thought that he might have convinced them but said to Wulfhere that it might take an extended period when they were both present to get full co-operation. Wulfhere said that they needed to leave soon before winter to find their families. He did agree to speak to the farmers himself. Uthric showed the Iscans the land and asked them to choose where they wanted to live as a reward for their part in the Battle of Dunum. As a Dumnonian, Idwal was not keen to live near the Artrebates as they had a long history of conflict and despite Uthric’s encouragement to do so, Idwal and his men chose to settle near the southern bank ruins at Pontes. They started to build their farms and Uthric thought they would be content. There was disagreement among the Hrothgarsons about the best way to travel to Anderida. Uthric thought the quickest way was to go to Lundenwic and then south. Wulfhere thought while that would definitely be quicker, they should really go to Cissa Cæster and see Hildegard and Beorthric. He thought that Beorthric might have found more information, which would be useful in their search for their families. On the trip south, they stopped overnight in Glawmæd and were guested by the Þegn Wictred. Dunstan said he felt a bit depressed as he thought of the many good memories associated with Cædering and Glawmæd. When he discussed it with his brothers, they advised him to think of the future rather than the past. Uthric told him to remember that nothing lasts forever. On the journey to Hamafunta, Dunstan again became angry saying, and not for the first time, that he still believed Cerdic was partly responsible for the destruction of the three villages and capture of their families. Uthric and Wulfhere said that Dunstan must remember that Cerdic was their King and holder of their oaths but they let Dunstan continue to complain. They decided to skirt Hamafunta and took the forest road from Cælctun. Wulfhere thought it was best not to look for trouble and he thought the people of Hamafunta would not particularly be happy about their presence due to their very active part they had taken in the downfall of the Ealdorman Cœlfrith. At Cissa Cæster they met with Hildegard and Beorthric. Uthric and Wulfhere said that they needed to resolve the conflict with Beorthric and put the blood feud behind them. They acknowledged what he had done for their mother and the gifts he had given them. Wulfhere thought a small symbolic gesture would close the issue. Uthric said that he had looked forward to this day when they could work together. Hildegard hugged her sons and said that she thought at last they could be a family again. Beorthric presented each of the brothers with a new set of clothes. Wulfhere thanked him and Uthric was delighted with the quality of the clothes. He said they would look very splendid when they went to Anderida. Wulfhere said that he thought it was best if they did not go to Anderida looking prosperous. If they had to buy back their wives then they would be better not to look too wealthy. Beorthric was pleased that they liked his gifts. Hildegard said that they were made from their own weaving rooms. She said that she would be keen to re-unite the family and had wondered what their sons thought if she and Beorthric came north to live. Wulfhere and Uthric said they would both be welcome. Dunstan had not said anything throughout the exchange as he still did not trust Beorthric but both for his brothers’ and mother's sake he said nothing. Beorthric gave them information and told them to contact Wayard the Merchant in Anderida. He told them he had a lot of dealings with Wayard in the past and he would be helpful. They left Cissa Cæster and travelled on to Anderida. On the way to Anderida Uthric and Dunstan nearly came to blows. Dunstan had been telling Uthric that Gwenyth was the most beautiful woman he had met. Uthric said that Dunstan had been hit on the head too many times and in reality Gwenyth was rather plain if you compared her to Meire or even Bronwyn. Dunstan was not amused by Uthric’s point of view and had to be restrained by Wulfhere. When the Hrothgarsons arrived in Anderida they went to visit the Ealdorman Ælfrith. Ælfrith had been indebted to the Hrothgarsons for bringing his daughter back to him after Þegn Garm’s death. Ælfrith had also been helpful and had supported them at the Cyningmoot when they had accused Cœlfrith of acting illegally against Osberht. Ælfrith bade them welcome and listened intently to their tale of searching for their families. Ælfrith said that he would help them whatever way he could. He offered them rooms in his house but Wulfhere said he was unsure how Aelle would view their stay if he came to hear of it. He thought it best to stay in one of the taverns by the quayside. He asked Ælfrith if he knew Wayard the Merchant but Ælfrith said that he could add nothing to what they already knew of him. While they were talking, his daughter Æthlind came in to the room. She welcomed them and asked for their news. She paid particular attention to Dunstan but he tried not to encourage her. He said afterwards to Uthric that he needed to find Gwyneth before he dallied with other women. Uthric thought his younger brother might regret not returning Æthlind’s advances. Uthric reminded Dunstan that he had already ignored her obvious interest when they had previously travelled to Anderida. Dunstan said that he would rather get drunk than try to think of the intricacies of another relationship. Uthric reminded Dunstan that she was also the only child of a rich and powerful Ealdorman and that it would improve his standing. They stayed overnight in a tavern and agreed that in the morning they would meet with Wayard the Merchant to see if he had any news. Dunstan said that he found himself in a reflective mood and that the best ale in Anderida helped him recall all the bad things that had happened. He still blamed Cerdic for most of the events and neither Wulfhere nor Uthric tried to stop him from talking too loudly. Dunstan wondered if had been a mistake to put trust in anyone other than his brothers. He grew so melancholy that he almost got into a fight with a man called Osbryght. It was fortunate that Wulfhere was not as drunk as either Dunstan or Uthric and he managed to calm everyone down before getting Dunstan to bed. In the morning Wulfhere woke Dunstan and told him that they had previously agreed not to draw attention to themselves but Dunstan had nearly started a fight which would not have ended well. Dunstan could only mumble apologies. He told them that there was a high possibility that a whole gang of dwarven smiths were using the inside of his head as a smithy. Uthric by comparison was feeling good about the world and when he told Dunstan he needed to eat, his brother could only vomit in the empty hearth. Wulfhere told them he had found where he could find Wayard the Merchant from the Taverner. Wayard owned a shop near the Saehinwearf where he also had his storehouse. They went through the streets of Anderida and were amazed by the old Roman buildings that still stood. Some of the houses were three or four stories high and most were still occupied by families or businesses. Uthric tried to get Dunstan interested but Dunstan was still suffering from hammering dwarves inside his skull and had little capacity to listen and barely opened his eyes beyond a squint. Wayard welcomed the Hrothgar sons and told them that their father had told him that they would be looking for information from him. Wulfhere wondered how Hrothgar had been communicating as he had been dead for ten summers but managed to refrain from asking what might have been difficult questions when he realised Wayard was talking about Beorthric, their step-father. Uthric removed Dunstan before he said anything about Beorthric by making an excuse that Dunstan had the need for air. Wayard said that he had spoken with his friend Deorling Siredson who was married to Rhedyn. Rhedyn had originally come from Glawmæd and had been aware that Cenbeorht Earnwulfson had originally bought Bronwyn. Cenbeorht had given Bronwyn to his tenant Æwulf the Tanner and Æwulf had made Bronwyn his wife. Wulfhere thanked Wayard and offered him a gift but Wayard declined. He said he was happy to help since their father, Beorthric, had always been helpful to him. Wulfhere got directions from Wayard to Leðerwyrhtan Lanen and he said they should then ask for Æwulf by name when they got there. Wulfhere joined his brothers who were in the middle of a heated argument. Dunstan's dwarf smiths had calmed down for him to be able to raise his voice above a whisper. He was furious that Wayard had referred to Beorthric as their father. He reminded his brothers that Hrothgar was their father and that no-one else could take his place. Wulfhere said that they needed to be more pragmatic and sometimes being known as the Beorthricsons might be useful. Dunstan would have responded but the Dwarves started hammering again inside his head and he started retching. Wulfhere took them in the direction of Leðerwyrhtan Lanen where the tanners worked. They smelt the stink before they got there and reckoned that they would not have to ask for directions. The smell was overpowering and Dunstan thought that it would be impossible for him to live somewhere like this. Dunstan said that he disliked the fact that he could taste it in the air. Uthric said he thought that if Bronwyn lived here she would be only too glad to come back with Wulfhere. Wulfhere said that that remained to be seen and asked someone where he could find Æwulf. The man pointed to a yard that had one gate off its hinges. The courtyard was built of Roman walls but the house was a typical Saxon building. They could see a boy of about ten summers stir a pool of murky water with a pole twice his size. They stood watching at the gateway unsure what to do. Uthric said he thought that the smell would not get any better the longer they waited. Wulfhere went in through the gates and saw a man shovelling manure into another pool. He had been hidden by the walls of the yard. The man asked if he could be of help and Wulfhere introduced himself but stopped in mid-sentence when a heavily pregnant woman came out of the house. She was scolding some of the children who ran around her but stopped when she saw Wulfhere. She screamed and crumpled to the ground and both Wulfhere and the man ran toward her. The man reacted slightly before Wulfhere and he cradled the woman's head. Wulfhere was unsure what to do so he patted her hand. The two men stared at each other while the woman opened her eyes and said that as usual Wulfhere had come back too late before clutching her side in pain. The man cradling her head asked if the baby was coming early but the woman shook her head. The man and Wulfhere both helped her to her feet and the boy who had been stirring the tanning pit brought out a bench for her to sit on. Uthric was trying not to notice the awkward scene and when he had examined the tanning pits for some minutes, he went over to a crowd of grubby children that were clustered around the door of the house. He thought two of them might be young Wulfhere and Offa. He spoke in Brythonic and introduced himself as their father's brother, Uncle Uthric. The boys looked at him curiously but showed no sign of understanding him. The smaller child asked in Saxon if Uthric really was a warrior and that if so he might have been a bit bigger. Uthric said he thought size did not matter if you could use a spear properly and showed his skill by skewering the thatch. The boys did not seem very impressed. Dunstan noisily vomited in the corner of the yard drawing the attention of two dogs. Uthric said afterwards that Dunstan had obviously been sick because of the open affection Wulfhere was trying to convey to Bronwyn. Dunstan denied Uthric's assertion and said it was a combination of skull-hammering dwarves, the smell of the tannery and too much of Wiglac's best ale. Wulfhere was trying to talk to Bronwyn but she was not prepared to listen. She told him that as ever he was late in returning. She should have listened to Hildegard in this matter. Wulfhere told her that he had spent almost a year searching for her and had only just learnt where she was. He had come straight away and would like to have her back. Bronwyn said that while she would think over the matter he should not hold out too much hope. She told him that she was tired having to stay at home while he went off to wars. She was never sure if he would come home at all, whether she would be a destitute widow and never knowing what had happened to him. Bronwyn said that dealing with that uncertainty was not easy. She reminded him that he had told her when they married that he would be there with her. She said that they were lucky to spend more than one moon together throughout all of their marriage. Wulfhere said that he had now put things in order and they now had rich lands where she would be a KingsÞegn's wife. Bronwyn said that she was not interested in status but would rather have stability and someone that would be there for her. Æwulf might not have high status but he was a good man and didn't run off to wars every time his Lord said so. Æwulf was a little awestruck by three Lords and warriors in his yard. The mightiest seemed to know his wife well and he wondered what was going to happen. He thought it might not end well for him. One of the warriors was scaring the children and the other was amusing the dogs by vomiting on the wall. He asked the Lord if they wanted some ale and some of the stew his wife had prepared however no-one paid him any attention. Bronwyn was deep in conversation with one of the Lords. He was going to tell her to be less shrill but the man looked forlorn rather than angry, so he held his tongue. Wulfhere was pleading with Bronwyn to come with him but she put her hands over her ears and said that it might be best if he left as she did not want to hear his arguments anymore. Wulfhere said that he was heartbroken and had hoped that together they might have made a dynasty. Bronwyn said that this talk was now in the past and she thought it better that he should talk of dynasties with someone else as she had no interest in going to the north and she would remain with Æwulf. Wulfhere said that he was disappointed in her response and would have preferred a different outcome. He did think if that was her final decision that they should then discuss their sons’ future. He said he would prefer if his sons came with him. Bronwyn said that this would not be her choice but agreed that they might have better prospects as the sons of a KingsÞegn rather than the sons of a tanner. Uthric came to stand beside Wulfhere as he thought Wulfhere had run out of words and he wanted to know if Bronwyn had any other information on either Meire or Gwenyth. Bronwyn said that both Lucnot and Gwenyth had been taken to Contaburgh but she had no message from them since they were separated. Uthric thanked her for the news and wished her well. Wulfhere said that he would come back in the morning for the boys and he left. Uthric thought he should help Dunstan who seemed to be resting with his eyes closed in the shade of the yard wall. One of the two dogs was playing with his cloak and the other was chewing his shoe but Dunstan did not seem to notice. Uthric took Wulfhere to a tavern as he seemed unable to make decisions himself. He forbade Dunstan to order ale and made him drink beer instead. Dunstan tried to cheer Wulfhere by telling him that if any woman chose urine pits and a tanner to a KingsÞegn then perhaps he had not chosen so well in the first place and she lacked ambition. It might be better to think of a different future. The conversation became rather morose even though Dunstan felt better after they ate some food. He thought that perhaps it was a mistake looking for their families and that they should move on with their lives. Uthric said that he needed to know about Meire before moving on. Dunstan thought that it wasn't worth it. He thought that he might go and talk to Æthlind as he really had no hope that Gwenyth had still any interest in him. Wulfhere said very little and the brothers hoped that he would get back to his usual self soon. They talked to him about horses but Wulfhere's demeanour did not improve. Uthric and Dunstan thought that maybe they should go back to the Ealdorman Ælfrith's house as it would be safer and they worried that Wulfhere would pick a fight in the tavern. When they arrived at Ælfrith 's house they were told by the servants that he was out at the Wittan but Æthlind was in the house and she welcomed them. She arranged food and made them feel welcome. When Æthlind sat close to Dunstan he responded to her overtures. After they had finished eating and it grew dark she took him to her chamber. In the morning Wulfhere told Uthric that he had made a decision. They would travel to Contaburgh and seek out Gwenyth and Lucnot. If they travelled to Lundenwic they could take the east road through Hrofnacæster and ask Hrof if he had news of Ealhwyn and Meire. They would leave Wulfhere's children with Bronwyn for the time while they tried to find out what happened to the others. Dunstan was late to arrive for the morning food and he looked as if he had not slept. He said that while Wulfhere arranged things with Bronwyn he would be asking Ælfrith for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Uthric laughed and said it looked like dwarves hammering in the skull had at last made Dunstan see some sense. Wulfhere was surprised but offered his congratulations. Dunstan said that he had come to the point where he could take no more. This had not been his plan but he thought it was now time to face reality and that it was highly unlikely that Gwenyth would want him back. Too much time had now passed and he felt it better to make new arrangements. He said that he had had time to think about his situation and that he should have married Æthlind when they first came to Anderida. After the arrangements were made with Ælfrith and Bronwyn the Hrothgarsons left to go to Hrofnacæster.
  10. Fish wars and the Battle of Dunum. It was the second year since Cerdic declared himself Westseaxacyning. Aelle had been the Cantacyning for seventeen years and it was seventh year since he had named himself Brytenwealda. Guercha One-eye the Angelcyning still disputed Aelle's claim to be Brytenwealda for the past two years. Aelle had taken advantage of plague in Gwent to capture Spinae and Brige when they were under-garrisoned. Aelle considered both towns strategically important for war against the Dumnonians in that they gave easy passage of the River Kennet. Aelle then made peace with the King of Gwent but would not give back the captured towns. It was rumoured that he even paid tribute to Gwent but Aelle had denied that and had told Cerdic it had been a bribe not to support Dumnonians in the coming war. Reports from the British kingdoms told of struggles for power between the different kingdoms. Powys and Dumnonia both claimed that they should be the British Brytenwealda. The king of Powys declared himself Brytenwealda but other kingdoms objected to him and there had been rumours of Battles in the western lands. There had also been religious wars in the British kingdoms. The British leæces of the different gods had been killing each other with both sides claiming that their god is the strongest. Cerdic's leæces have said that the portents for a successful war are good. Guercha One-eye continued his fight with Aelle. He had reinforced his garrison in Lundenwic and sent raiding parties over the Tamyse. Cerdic and Aelle had agreed that they will jointly attack Dumnonia. Aelle planned to attack along the Tamyse Valley and over the Kennet while Cerdic would strike south over the Terstan and towards the Afon. Cerdic had sent bribes to Cadwy of Isca to rebel against Dumnonia. Cerdic hoped that Dumnonia would face three enemies simultaneously, Powys in the north, Isca in the west and the West Saxons coming from the east. Cerdic enjoyed the Yule festival. He had received the renewed oaths from his Ealdorman and Þegns and accepted and gave gifts. He talked to some individually in his private chambers either giving them specific tasks, words of encouragement or in one case to ask why they had neglected their duties. He asked the Hrothgarsons if they would come and see him in his private Hall away from the feast. Cerdic congratulated them for their actions in stopping Aelle's advance south of the Tamyse. He told them that Stuf had thought highly of them. Cerdic asked them if they had been able to find their families. Wulfhere said that they had no further word but he hoped that they might be able to look again soon. Cerdic said that it was unfortunate and if they required any help from him he would try and do his best to offer what he could. He asked Wulfhere how well he spoke Brythonic. Wulfhere said that he could understand what was said if it was spoken slowly however Uthric was fluent in the language and if Cerdic required a translator then Uthric could do it with ease. Cerdic said that he needed people who could pass as Dumnonians. Uthric said that despite being fluent, he did not speak the Dumnonian dialect and any Dumnonian listening would know that he was not a local. Cerdic nodded but was still interested Uthric spoke Brythonic. He explained that the army would need to cross the Terstan but the scouts had said that the only option south of Old Sarum would be to take the bridge at a place called Dunum which was fortified on the west bank. He explained the geography of the area and told them he had a plan to take Dunum by infiltrating it and holding the gate until the reinforcements arrived. Cerdic said that he believed the Hrothgarsons had used a similar tactic at Taddenlæge. Cerdic used items on the table to show how the fortifications lay. There were two settlements at the bridge over the Terstan. On the east bank was Onna. There was a way station for merchants enclosed by a palisade. There were twenty or so homes scattered either side of the road where a population of Dumnonians lived. On the west bank was Dunum. It was a heavily fortified settlement with a ditch and palisade that was right against the river. The bridge was guarded on the west bank by two towers at the gate and several more towers along the palisade. Cerdic said he had thought about landing Warbands by sea but the land south of Dunum was relatively open and there were Dumnonian cavalry stationed in the South to prevent the raids. He did not want to have to try and march a Warband from the Coast to Dunum while being harried by cavalry. He and Cyrnic had thought that the best thing to do was to send warriors disguised as Britons to join the garrison. If Uthric could not convince the Britons he was Dumnonian then he could say he came from the northern British tribes to help fight the Saxons. Cerdic said that they should take at least twenty warriors. He could give them horses and anyone going would be well rewarded. Wulfhere said that he thought it might be possible to do. He thought it might be useful to ask Orin or Issa if they would join him for a chance to fight the Dumnonians. Cerdic said that he would leave the plan to them but if they needed to know any information he should talk to Stuf. They should be ready to go a moon before Eostre. The Dumnonians had a high regard for their gods on Eostre and held religious rites. Cerdic intended to use that time to attack. Wulfhere agreed to return at least a moon before Eostre. They met with Stuf and he told them all he knew from the scouts. They thought the garrison was about forty warriors which was more than enough to hold the fort and bridge against an army. On the last day of the Yule feast their mother, Hildegard, came to see them. Hildegard said that they had left Cissa Cæster very abruptly last time they had met and she had not had time to say goodbye. She said she would not at this time comment on their competence as sons but would leave it to another time but it was enough for her to say that she was disappointed in them. However, she said that she would put that behind her for now. She had brought Beorthric with her as she thought they should hear what he had to say. They had left so quick last time she wondered if they were actually interested in getting their families back. Beorthric said that he was aware that they did not have a good opinion of him. He told them that he has had to live with running away in fear when Hrothgar needed him and he said that knowledge has not been easy to cope with. He said that he had been trying to make things better since that time. He was only too aware that he could not change what had happened but he wanted to make amends. A merchant friend who sold his cloth and wool in Anderida called Wayard has a friend called Deorling Siredson. Deorling has married a woman called Rhedyn who had come from Glawmæd. Rhedyn had told Wayard that she knew where Bronwyn was in Anderida. Wulfhere said that he would ask the merchant to get Bronwyn back. Dunstan said that Wulfhere should really go himself. He thought it too important a task to leave to a merchant. Wulfhere asked Beorthric if he had knowledge of how much a slave would cost. Beorthric said that a heathy adult would generally cost 1500 Silver but if they had others skills it could be much more. Beorthric said that if he could be of help just to ask them and he gave them each two small gold bars. They thanked him for his generosity. After he had left, Wulfhere said that he was slowly going off the idea of killing Beorthric. Dunstan said that he was not sure and was still of the opinion that there could be treachery. He said, in his view, their mother was a nasty old harridan but at least she had her families interests at heart. He said he still did not trust Beorthric and he was now trying to buy them off with gold. He wondered where Beorthric got all his money from. Uthric said that if Dunstan was unhappy about taking Beorthric's gold then he could give it to his brothers who really had no compunction about taking Beorthric’s money. Dunstan said his scruples did not go so far as to handing over gold. He said he was going to see Egfryd to check how many honey cakes he had eaten recently. Wulfhere thought that they should go to Anderida soon as he was unsure how long the peace between Aelle and Cerdic would last. However, Cerdic had given him another 183 men, women and children to take north. He needed to allocate land to the families and make sure they were settled. He needed to talk to Issa, Taran and Orin about volunteers for Cerdic's mission. He said to Uthric that they would have to go back north before going to Anderida. Uthric agreed and said it would be unlikely they would get time to go to Anderida before Eostre. Wulfhere said that if this was their way of thinking it would likely be after the war, if they survived, that they would have time to go looking for lost families. When Dunstan returned from seeing Egfryd he reported that their younger brother was doing well. His apprenticeship with the blacksmith appeared to be going well. Uthric asked about the eating of honey cakes. Dunstan said he was not sure. Egfryd had told him that was just a childish whim and that now he was almost a man he had put over-eating behind him. Uthric said that Dunstan's constant shaming had borne fruit. He thought a better way to deal with it would have been to get a lot of honey cakes and make Egfryd eat them all in one go until he was sick. Dunstan said that as ever Uthric was good at giving advice after the event and never at the time it was needed. They called to see Tadda on the way north. He had been made an Ealdorman due to the importance that Cerdic placed on the north. Dunstan and Uthric also took the opportunity to renew their acquaintance with Rowena. They told Rowena that they had still not been able to find their families. Rowena said that they should remember that nothing lasts forever and the longer they were separated the more likely that there would not be a good outcome. She reminded them that she had a widowed daughter who she would be keen to marry to either of them as they were both in her opinion a good match. Uthric thanked her but said both of them needed to at least try and find their families before they agreed to any other arrangements. They took the new immigrants north but could not agree where they should be settled. Wulfhere wanted to settle them near the bridge at Pontes and get them to build a fort that would guard the bridge. Uthric thought that the important thing was to get them to build farms and fill the lands between Hambladensted and Farnhamble on either side of the road. Wulfhere said that ensuring the southern side of the bridge was fortified must be a priority as there would always be a risk of new hostilities between Aelle and Cerdic. He thought that while there was peace now it would be unlikely to last. Uthric said that while he agreed with Wulfhere that he should remember that for now there was peace. At this time, they needed to build enough farms to supply a permanent fortification and there was no way it could be supported. The argument was resolved when some of the settlers voiced their opinions. They wanted a hyde of land to support their families and to build their steads on. If this was not done soon then they would not be able to plant crops this season. As it was they thought that already they could be too late. Some also voiced the opinion that if Wulfhere insisted that they build his fortification they would travel further north into Mierce and find their own land. Wulfhere said that Aelle was not likely to let that happen but the men said they would go further north. They knew that the Waeclingas or the Chilternsaete were independent lands. Some of their kin had settled there and they said if Wulfhere denied them what was promised by Cerdic they would take their chances in the north. Wulfhere knew that he had to agree to the request or risk losing people on what he considered a futile journey north. Aelle would not let independent lands develop and Wulfhere hoped that he had time to build a fortification before Aelle turned his attention south of the Tamyse again. Wulfhere still had to think about building his own Hall. There was no centre of administration in his lands where people could petition him for either favours or justice. He knew that now the population was increasing and that it would be necessary to have somewhere soon. He appointed Dunstan as Þegn over the new territories and told him that the fortification needed built sooner rather than later. Dunstan was pleased that he was now a Þegn and on equal footing with his brothers. Wulfhere said that they would rest for a few days and then go and see Issa, Taran and Orin about Cedric's proposal. He had decided against taking horses from Cerdic as he feared that it would make them a target for every stronger Warband. Uthric said that they could a still take the horses from Cerdic but not take them to Dumnonia. They could use them to breed more horses. Wulfhere said he was not sure how Cerdic would respond if he heard what Uthric had proposed. Dunstan was kept busy marking our boundary stones for the hydes for each family and Uthric inspected the almost finished palisade at Hambladensted. Wulfhere's rest was interrupted by a clamour of loud and complaining voices. He went outside to find Uthric trying to calm down a crowd of twenty or so fishermen who were surrounding him. When the men calmed Uthric asked one of them to tell him what they were annoyed about. Tathere was elected as the spokesperson. He told Uthric that one of their fishing boats had been sunk by the men of Ceswican. Tathere was told that traditionally the men of Hambladensted laid their fish traps on the north side of the river opposite Hambladensted. The fishermen of Ceswican had begun wrecking the fish traps and the situation escalated to the point where there had been a scuffle between opposing fishing boats and one of the boats had been rammed and subsequently sank. The fishermen were demanding reparations and a restoration of their fishing rights. Wulfhere joined in the discussion. He asked who traditionally fished at the spot opposite Hambladensted which the fishermen said that it had always been their fishing grounds as it had the best fish there. Ceswican had always fished around their own village. Wulfhere said that he was concerned that the recent new boundary had confirmed the north bank of the Tamyse as Aelle's land but there was the matter of the sunk boat which they could ill afford to lose. Uthric asked how much compensation would be acceptable for the boat to which Tathere said that 1000 silver would be a fair compensation. Wulfhere said that he would leave Dunstan in charge of the situation. Dunstan said that they would have to stand up to Cescwican and they could not give an inch on it. He said that he would detail two boats with five spearmen in them to be on standby to attack and sink one of the Cescwican boats and also to protect the fishermen. They should also retaliate by destroying the fish traps of the Cescwican fishermen. He said he would also patrol the banks of the river up to Cescwican on the south bank. Wulfhere said that on no account was anyone to set foot on the north bank and break the treaty. Dunstan said he understood that and that he was happy to engage in border skirmishes but not keen for another war. Wulfhere asked Dunstan afterwards if he was going to withdraw over fifteen warriors from their farming duties and building projects. It was a lot of lost production. Dunstan said this might be so but they could or should not show weakness or they would come off second best in every border dispute. Dunstan said he planned to escalate the situation, get even and then see if they could reach a treaty with the Þegn of Cescwican. He asked Wulfhere if things escalated if he could Issa to support them with his boats. Wulfhere and Uthric went to discuss Cerdic's plan with Issa and Taran and hopefully get some troops. They then planned to see Orin for advice and to ask him for warriors if they did not get enough from Issa and Taran. They thought Orin might know something about the layout of the land they would need to travel through. The meeting with Issa went well. He was only too keen to let men go to humiliate the Dumnonians. There was a long history of conflict between the Artrebates and Dumnonians. Dumnonia had always been stronger but memory of long ago fought battles and humiliations was always kept alive in the songs and tales of the Artrebates. Issa said that he would be able to send six men. Uthric asked him about the fishermen of Cescwican and if they had any troubles. Issa said that since they tended to fish the Kennet and the marshes for eels, he generally had no contact with Cescwican with each village keeping to its historical fishing grounds. He said that this did not mean he would be unhappy to join in a general guerrilla war against the Ceswican fishermen if they needed help. He suggested that they contemplate a raid on the Cescwican boats at night. Wulfhere said he hoped it would not come to that and just wanted to be in a strong portion for the inevitable negotiations. He thanked Issa for his help and left him planning how a night raid could be carried out. Taran said he would be equally keen to fight the Dumnonians. However, it was planting season and he could only offer four men. He was keen to create a surplus crop for the markets in Wincen Cæster. Wulfhere said that he did not need a large Warband but would see if Orin could offer more warriors. They thanked Taran and left to visit Orin. Orin was pleased to see Wulfhere and Uthric. They shared some food and ale while Wulfhere explained what they had in mind. Orin said that in his opinion it sounded like an extremely dangerous plan. He advised against saying that they were Dumnonians and it would be a better idea to say that they were warriors from Elmet or Rheged. He thought most Dumnonians would not know where those kingdoms were or have ever met anyone from them. Their chances of being discovered were lessened and they might actually succeed. He asked them what route they would take and Wulfhere said they had two options. They could come from the north as Orin had suggested and down the Roman roads and then follow the Terstan to Dunam. The other option would to be landed on the south coast by ship. Orin said that the coastlines were always well watched because of the danger of raids and it was likely that either the landing or their march north would be marked by scouts. It might be difficult to explain why they had come from that direction unless they said they were from Kernow. However, Orin pointed out that they had none of the tribal tattoos of Kernow and they would be easily discovered as not telling the truth. They thanked Orin for his advice and he promised them ten more warriors to make their force up to twenty. They promised Orin to be back a moon before Eostre. In Hambladensted, Dunstan had led a series of reprisals against the Cescwican fishermen. He set up a patrol of five spearmen in one of the bigger boats to patrol and dissuade any Cescwin boats from the area around Hambladensted. In one engagement his warriors encountered two fishing boats and they tried to sink one of the boats with their axes. A Cescwin fisherman threw his fishing spear at one of the warriors and wounded his shoulder. Another of the warriors stabbed a defending fisherman in the stomach with his spear and he fell into the Tamyse. Dunstan told his men to get the man out of the water but he did not surface after he fell overboard. The other boat escaped. They then destroyed the fish traps along the north side of the river almost to Cescwican. Following the death of the fisherman, Dunstan thought it would be appropriate to visit Eadweald, Þegn of Cescwican and give him an ultimatum. Dunstan took his boat and spearmen to Cescwican and met with a clearly furious Eadweald. Dunstan told a clearly incredulous Eadweald that there had been an unfortunate accident as his boat had turned a corner in the river and they had accidently collided with a Cescwican fishing boat. In the ensuing confusion it seems that one of the Cescwin fishermen got knocked overboard and did not resurface. Eadweald said that that was not what he had heard and he had witnesses to say that Dunstan and his men had clearly murdered the fisherman and had destroyed many fish traps. Dunstan said that he also had witnesses to say that it was an accident. He said he was keen to avoid further incidents but would also use all necessary force to protect his fishermen. Eadweald said that if that was Dunstan’s attitude then he could see no future for either him or his fishermen. They left each other without resolving the dispute and neither was satisfied with the other. Uthric and Wulfhere met with Dunstan on their return from Orin and asked him the news. Uthric asked if the fisherman had died. Dunstan said that they had done their best to kill him and after his meeting with Eadweald he thought that the only way to resolve the conflict was by reducing Cescwican to ashes. Uthric said they should do whatever was necessary. It was not their fault that this situation had arisen but they should not back down because that would only show weakness. Dunstan ordered that there would be one warrior in each fishing boat and five warriors patrolling the South banks of the river to dissuade any aggression from Cescwican. Rodderic three-spear came to see Uthric. He said that Uthric needed to know that it was not the fishermen of Cescwican that had started the conflict. The Hambladensted fishermen had destroyed the Cescwican fish traps first and then attacked the Cescwican fishing boats when they were setting more traps. Uthric said that he felt hoodwinked but decided to check out the situation with other villagers. They confirmed that their own fishermen had started the conflict. Uthric discussed the new information with his brothers. He said that he had been prepared to risk war for the village but they had been made a fool of. Wulfhere said that this changed the situation completely. Cescwican would need to be offered compensation to resolve this situation. They could not risk an escalation that started a war between Cerdic and Aelle. He said that their side was not spotless but equally they could not back away from it. Uthric thought that the fishermen needed to learn a hard lesson. Wulfhere said this was an awkward situation. He reminded his bothers that the fishermen were still their people and they needed to support them. Dunstan was not so sure. He thought they had acted on their own agenda. They twisted the facts that got him to act against Cescwican and that had clearly that acerbated the situation. He felt it was clear that the fishermen had not shown any due respect. Uthric agreed he said that the fishermen need to learn a lesson from this as he had been about to start a war. Wulfhere thought that while all this was true and he could find no fault in their arguments they needed to still be on the side of their people when dealing with Cescwican. Uthric said he was too angry about being made a fool of to consider any actions at present. They really only needed the Carls on their side if it came to a vote. They agreed to call Tathere who had been elected the fishermen's spokesperson, and put the allegations that Hambladensted had started hostilities. Tathere did not deny the facts. He said that it may have been otherwise than they first had said, but the north bank was their traditional fishing grounds. The fishermen from Hambladensted had fished these waters long before anyone had heard of Aelle or Cerdic. He thought this might not be important to the Hrothgarsons as they were newcomers to the area. Wulfhere said he would think about what Tathere had said and he would call a Hambladensted Moot tonight to discuss options and hopefully resolve the issue. Tathere said that Wulfhere was the Þegn and while he had the right to impose his will, he should be aware that all the fishermen felt wronged. After Tathere left, Dunstan said that he had shown no respect to them. He thought they should keep an eye on him or he would cause more trouble. Wulfhere said they should take it to the Moot. He said that he would acknowledge Cescwican encroached and that he thought there was justification in allowing people to take actions to protect their property and interests. However, he intended to point out that the developing situation could provoke a war. He thought it was important to calm things down but not alienate the people who pay taxes. He reminded his brothers that they only held office with the agreement of the Carls. Dunstan still felt aggrieved by Tathere’s attitude and actions and that they had already caused trouble. Uthric told Dunstan he should calm down. It was absolutely clear that they had been lied to but they now had to sort the situation out. At the Moot, most of the people of Hambladensted attended. Uthric spoke first. He said that the fishermen had been wrong in lying about what had happened. He said that their actions could have started a war and that would benefit no one. The recent experience of the wars had been calamitous and had almost destroyed Hambladensted and no-one wanted that to happen again. Dunstan said the past is now past. He told them that Cerdic was a King that promised stability and they were lucky to have such a great King. Wulfhere told the people that he could understand that they felt aggrieved. A man had died and for that compensation would need to be paid. He said he intended to speak with Eadweald of Cescwican and agree demarcation lines. Tathere said that all the fishermen were angry and they were only exercising their own traditional rights. The principles of free men protecting their families was strong in Saxon culture and despite what had been said by their Þegns, they should be aware that as fishermen, they were still aggrieved. He said that he noticed that political settlements were always made by Þegns who did not know how their decisions would affect hardworking people. The fishermen cheered Tathere's speech. Wulfhere said that he would be mindful of their views and would represent them but it was important to find a way forward and that meant a degree of compromise. The next day Wulfhere took his brothers and some of the Carls to Cescwican. He was received by the Þegn, Eadweard and they agreed that they needed to find a resolution to the recent fishing conflict to stop it becoming more serious. Eadweald agreed but said that the situation had not been helped by Dunstan’s attitude and actions. However, he felt the damage was hurting both sides and they needed to find a solution but warned there had been the death of a fisherman that would need to be considered and compensation given. Discussions happened over three days. It was agreed the loss of the boats cancelled out. Compensation for the death of the fishermen was partly offset by the wounding of a Carl. It was discovered that the Hambladensted fishermen had destroyed thirty-five Cescwican fish traps. They had had only three of their own fish traps destroyed. The issue that took a long time was where the fishing rights lay. Wulfhere wanted a demarcation on the area around both villages whereas Eadweald wanted a north and south bank demarcation. Wulfhere knew that the best fishing grounds lay on the north bank opposite Hambladensted and held out for the river length demarcation. He eventually wore Eadweald down and sweetened the deal by offering to pay the 1500 silver compensation immediately. Eadweald acknowledged that Wulfhere drove a hard bargain. Uther and Dunstan suggested that they should continue to set up a resolution meeting each season to ensure the agreement was kept and to resolve any disagreements peacefully. Eadweard thought this was an excellent idea. Wulfhere said that would raise a marker on the bank to denote the demarcation line. They then clasped hands on the deal. The Hrothgarsons called another Moot when they arrived home. Wulfhere said that a deal had been struck and that he had paid the compensation himself rather than taxing the people for it. However, he told them that lessons from this situation needed to be learnt. Wulfhere said that they needed to know he would always support their interests but he was still angry that he had not been told the truth. If this situation had escalated to war they again faced ruin and death. He let them know he was aware that it had been a hard year and he had decided that for this year he would only collect half the taxes due. However, because the fishermen had caused the conflict and more importantly had not been truthful which had caused more hardship, they would then not be exempt from the tax reduction. The general consensus was that Wulfhere had been fair in his judgment. The fishermen did not agree and grumbled to themselves. The Hrothgarsons then took thought about how they would achieve their mission for Cerdic. They realised that the mission might lead to many deaths and in particular they might meet their own Wyrd. After much discussion they agreed that their story would be that they had been sent south on the words of a Vølva or wise woman who prophesised that they would be critical to the defence of a river town in the south. They agreed that they would need at least half a moon to get to Dunum. They talked at length with Orin and Issa who had fought in those places long ago. They thought they should take the Calleva road to a place called Old Sarum and from there go south. No-one knew if there was a road to Dunum from Old Sarum but they knew they could follow the River Terstan to Dunum, if they could not ask for directions. Uthric was confident that they could pass for northern Britons. He warned Dunstan and Wulfhere that they must not speak when near any Dumnonians. Their Brythonic was not good so they needed to be careful what they said. They met with Stuf and Cerdic before they left and agreed that Stuf would attack and destroy Onna. Stuf reckoned that Onna was poorly protected and could be destroyed beforehand and then they could withdraw again until Wulfhere and his Warband were in place. They agreed that the attack on Dunum would happen on the Dumnonian Holy Day at Eostre. Wulfhere wanted to leave a moon before Eostre. They were unsure how long it would take to get to Dunum but were concerned that the more time they spent travelling in Dumnonia the more likely they would be discovered. Cerdic eventually said they should leave when the moon was half full which he thought should be more than enough time. He emphasized that without taking the bridge their plans would be harder and they might not defeat the Dumnonians. They arrived after three days at Old Sarum. Dunstan was impressed by the fortifications. There were two huge outer ditches and then a palisade enclosing the area where people lived. At the centre was another ditch with Roman walls. He said that he thought no-one would take this fortress if it was defended by competent warriors. Its only weakness might be that there would not be enough warriors to defend the walls of the outer defences. At the gate they were told to see Merfyn ap Bradwr, the Captain of the guard. He would allocate them sleeping places and where to get food. Merfyn was distracted by trying to sort out so many warriors. He had an army of people who followed him around and made marks on waxed tablets. Uthric said that they had come from the north to fight the Sais on the advice of their wise woman. Merfyn was not particularly interested in their story and told them to seek out Siawn ap Afarn who was in charge of the west wall sector. Dunstan said to Uthric that he wondered what the people marked on the wax tablets and thought that they may be writing runes. Uthric said that if those men were leæces then he was not too keen in getting close to them. Dunstan’s conversation with Uthric was spoken in Saxon and even although Dunstan spoke quietly he was overheard by Merfyn who looked round and asked Uthric if Dunstan had spoken Sais. Dunstan was able to say in Brythonic that he had used a northern dialect and he had not spoken Sais. Merfyn looked dubious but after staring at Dunstan, he nodded and told them to go to Siawn. Siawn turned out to be an affable man more like a well-fed merchant than a soldier. He told Uthric to settle his men down and see to their food and then come and see him. Uthric thanked Siawn. He told Dunstan that he was to keep his mouth shut and not to speak under any circumstances. Dunstan started to say something but Uthric said he could not be trusted and not speaking started from this point. Dunstan looked annoyed but nodded in agreement. Siawn gave Uthric some excellent wine from some place called Armorica. Uthric thanked him and asked about his prospects in Old Sarum. Siawn said that unless Uthric accepted baptism and believed in the one true God, Uthric's prospects were very limited. Siawn said his God was coming back to Earth and that those who had not been baptised would be cast into a pit of fire. He invited Uthric to come with him to hear a new priest who had come from Kernow because he thought it might be a revelation to him. Uthric tried to decline and said he had once been to Kernow and in his opinion nothing good came out of it. Siawn laughed and said he was probably correct in his thinking and no doubt that was why the priest had left Kernow. Uthric found it hard to resist and found himself standing in a large hall being harangued by a priest. He discovered that his soul was sinful and needed washed in blood which would cleanse it. There were groups of people who chanted and sang at points when the priest stopped talking. They seemed to have chewed on magical herbs because they frequently screamed and yelled and often seemed to respond to conversations that no one else seemed to hear. Uthric found some of the concepts difficult. He wasn't sure he liked this religion and thought that he preferred wary acknowledgement of the gods. He found it amusing that the Romans didn't like this God either because they had killed him but they had not done it properly because he managed to come back to life again. The God was due to return this year and the priest wanted everyone to be baptised. Uthric thought that if it was a matter of washing then he should be all right as he frequently washed himself. Siawn was disappointed that Uthric did not repent of his sins and be baptised. Uthric said he had trouble with this. He was mostly happy with the things he had done and those actions that he was not happy with, he generally gave compensation to those that he had wronged. He told Siawn about the fish war in his village and how he had solved the problem. Uthric thanked Siawn for his company and left to return to his men although in truth he thought that the Dumnonians were all mad. He did not think religious fervour was good for anyone. In the morning they left and continued along the Roman road. Uthric noticed that many of the houses in Old Sarum had fishes painted on the doors. Dunstan wondered if the people in Old Sarum had also had a fish war but Uthric said it was a sign of the nailed god who had given fish to his followers to eat. They also noticed that the few homes that did not have fish had broken doors or had been damaged in some way. They continued along the road and came to a part of the road that split into three different ways. One way went northwest, another went west and the third went southwest, which was the route they decided to take. There were rune markings on stones of the kind that the Dumnonians used, but no-one knew what they meant, so they thought it best to ignore them. Wulfhere thought the runes might be magical and he touched them cautiously but nothing happened. There were more refugees on the road. Uthric asked them where they were going and all of them said they were fleeing the Sais who were going to attack. Uthric discovered that the road went to a place called Vindoclodia but no-one could tell him if Dunum was also in that direction. They thought if they continued to Vindoclodia that someone would be able to tell them which direction to go. They moved faster than most of the refugees on the road who were often encumbered by small children, farm animals and hand carts full of their possessions. At the end of the day they reached Vindoclodia. It was a large city although the defensive walls were in a bad state of repair. The city was swollen by refugees from the east but it seemed that there was no urgency about war. They noticed that there had been considerable violence in the city. There were quite a lot of bodies on the banks of the river. It looked like people had been killed violently and then dumped in the river only to wash up on the banks. Some of the homes had suffered fire damage or had been broken into. They again noticed pictures of a fish on the doors. Uthric asked the gate guard where they could stay for the night. The guard said it would probably be best for them to go to the barracks. He said since they did not have a fish on their shields it could be dangerous in the city for them. Uthric was puzzled but thanked the guard. Dunstan said if this is how the Dumnonians acted then Cerdic should have no problem about conquering the whole country. When they arrived at the barracks, which had a walled enclosure, a troupe of cavalry were leaving. None of them had ever seen the Dumnonian cavalry before and they were surprised at the size of the horses which were much bigger than any of the horses they had seen at home. Wulfhere said that if they had several Warbands of horse soldiers it would be unlikely Cerdic's victory would come that easy. Uthric talked to the guard commander, Ofydd ap Adda, and asked him for directions to Dunum. Ofydd said that they had gone too far west from Old Sarum. They should have followed the river south from Old Sarum and they would have got there. There were no Roman roads going southeast from Vindoclodia but if they followed the packhorse trail along the River Afon they would come to Bellunum. From Bellunum they could travel directly along the road to Dunum. Ofydd asked them if they would not rather stay in Vindoclodia. It was more civilised here and they could do with more experienced warriors. The City Magistrates had only lately thought they might need warriors and they could good get good rewards. Ofydd complained the Magistrates had also ignored the walls and they were in a bad state of repair. Uthric said he did not think the Sais would get this far and it was unlikely there would be in any danger. He said he and his men were travelling from the north to fulfil a prophecy by their village wise woman. Uthric said he thought it would be pleasant to stay but they had to go to Dunum first. Ofydd said in that case they should be careful. This city was full of Christians and they had purged the city of any pagans who would not convert. Ofydd said that it was obvious that they were pagans and being armed warriors would not help them against the mob mentality of the Christians. Uthric nodded and said he had noticed the bodies and the destroyed buildings as he was coming in. Ofydd confirmed Uthric's thoughts and said he had lost a file of ten warriors days ago to the mob. He now confined everyone to barracks when the mobs were active. Ofydd said that if they wanted to destroy the city it was up to them but he did not want to lose any more men. Uthric thanked Ofydd for his advice and went back to his men. Later they got into conversation with some men from Isca, a city near Kernow. They swopped stories of fighting Kernow warriors and about how awful Mark the king was. The leader of the men was Idwal, a huge tattooed man. He had lost some of his men to the Christian violence and was not happy. He said that Cadwy, the king of Isca had not tolerated Christian nonsense and had put down any religious hatred with spears. Idwal said that’s what the Magistrates should have done but they were too afraid of the mob. One of Idwal's men, a man called Cadog, had lost his brother and cousin to the mob. He said they had come to fight the Sais and had been killed by the people they had come here to defend. Cadog said that he would quite like to martyr one of the priests in revenge. Idwal said that he was thinking of taking his men out of Vindoclodia but they were too few to protect themselves if they were beset by the mobs. He asked Uthric if he could come with him as the city was not somewhere that was safe for followers of the old gods. Uthric said that he would discuss it with his men but he thought it might be a good idea. Uthric told his brothers about Idwal's suggestion and they agreed that it would be extra cover for their disguise but meant that Wulfhere and Dunstan needed to be extra careful. Idwal was happy with the decision and they made preparations to leave that day. However, they were frustrated when Ofydd confined everyone to barracks when the mob went on the rampage. More fires were set in the city and more people were killed. The mobs raged for the whole day and night. After that there was a lull when it seemed the mob had exhausted itself. Uthric took advantage of the peace to take his men south along the River Afon. He thanked Ofydd for his hospitality and wished him well in the war. On the ninth day since leaving Cerdic they arrived at Bellunum. They had taken the path along the banks of the Afon and had enjoyed the walk through the country. Wulfhere noted that it was a rich country. There were small farms in the eaves of the forest. Thirty warriors are always treated with suspicion but when they did not loot or kill, they were treated well by the country folk. Dunstan noticed that most of these folks were followers of the old gods. Uthric asked a Chieftain about it and he said that they still followed the old ways. The Christian God come from the east and was brought to Britain by the Romans. He thought that if Britain deserted their gods it would be destroyed and overrun by the Sais. At Bellunum the Chief Magistrate had stopped the Christian mobs. Although he was a Christian himself he had executed some of the Christian agitators. He was clear that Bellunum would not be destroyed like other cities in Dumnonia. Dunstan thought that Bellunum was well worth preserving. It was the most Romanised city they had seen. Many of the buildings had been repaired and although the repairs were inferior to the original buildings they kept the idea of what it might have been like to live under the Romans. The Guard commander was a grizzled veteran called Grufydd. He had so many scars on his body, Dunstan wondered how he had survived. He wore a curious garment called a toga which seemed to Dunstan as not very practical for the climate. The Chief Magistrate Aeoron also wore a toga but the effect was not so impressive as he wore woollen undergarments which showed at the parts of exposed flesh. They enquired of Grufydd how far they had to travel to get to Dunum. Grufydd said that it was only a day's march. He said that if they wanted to fight the Sais then they were going in the right direction. Three days ago, the Sais had attacked Onna and destroyed it. They had withdrawn after and no-one was sure where they were. Scouts had been sent out and there was a detachment of Cavalry that had been brought up from the south coast to find and destroy the Sais. Wulfhere hoped that Stuf would avoid the cavalry. If he got forced back or delayed, then he and his men would be in trouble. There were lots of refugees on the road to Dunum. At first Uthric asked what had happened but all told the same tale of a Sais advance along the Itchen. There was no consensus on numbers of Sais but Wulfhere reflected that fleeing people rarely stopped do count the numbers of the enemy. They reached Dunum at sundown and were inspected by Goronwy the Captain of the Guards. He welcomed another thirty warriors but dismissed Uthric's tale of the wise woman. He said he was a Christian and they should not be cavorting with witches. Uthric said that he and his men had been travelling for three weeks and he just wanted to fight the Sais. Idwal could be seen rolling his eyes. They had six days until the Christian Eostre festival and they tried to keep themselves separate. It wasn't that difficult. As soon as the people and warriors knew they were northern pagans or worse as in Idwal's case, from Isca which was currently declaring independence and in rebellion from Dumnonia. Idwal rolled his eyes again when he heard about the rebellion and declared Cadwy a fool. He said that Cadwy’s head would end up on a spear when Arthur caught up with him. Cadog thought it might be difficult for Cadwy to run away as he was monstrously fat. Over the next five days they suffered taunts from people and soldiers of Dunum. Idwal had to restrain Cadog after he was goaded too many times. Idwal said he thought the situation was becoming serious and perhaps they should leave before a fight broke out. Uthric said that he could not leave yet as he had a duty to carry out the request of the wise woman of their village. He tried to encourage Idwal to leave as he did not want to have to kill Idwal and his men when Stuf came. He did not think that Idwal would be pleased at the deception. Idwal said he would stay. He reflected that he was not only a pagan, but he was also from Isca and his tribal tattoos showed that plainly. He thought that if he left it would be a death sentence. Idwal thought a Warband of thirty would have more chance to survive. Uthric nodded but thought it a shame that a good man like Idwal would have to die. Wulfhere said that they could try to protect Idwal and his men when Stuf came. Dunstan thought it would be unlikely they would succeed but felt they owed it to Idwal to try. The five days passed without major incident apart from some bruises and blackened eyes. Tension remained high however and it was clear it would only take a spark to set off a major incident. Uthric spoke with Goronwy and asked him if he wanted his men to do guard duty on the morning of their worship ceremonies. Goronwy said that he thought that would be suitable unless Uthric wanted to attend the service with his men and receive baptism. Uthric said that he would think on it but he thought someone should guard the walls in care the Sais came. Dunum was built around a Roman fort, custom house and way station. The palisade went down to the banks of the river Terstan and the bridge ended at the eastern gates. There were watchtowers on either side of the gate and two further towers on each corner of the wall facing the river. There were two further towers at the west gate. The defences all faced the river to protect against Saxon pirates and Wulfhere thought it was a formidable defence. The width of the bridge was a little over that of a cart so that any attackers would have little opportunity to defend themselves. A barricade had been built across the width of the bridge near the gate to stop an assault. Wulfhere thought it was no wonder Cerdic wanted Durum taken. The only other bridge was at Old Sarum and that could not be taken without a long siege. Uthric placed two men in each of the four towers at the river and a further one in each tower. The rest of the man he put on the palisade facing the river. He kept all of Idwal's men on the South part of the palisade. He concentrated most of his men around the gate. He expected that he would have to form a Shield wall when Stuf appeared and he opened the gates. He hoped that if Stuf arrived quickly the fight would be over before the defenders realised what had happened. The Christians held their ceremony from daybreak in the big hall they used for their meetings. The night guards were still asleep in the barracks. Dunstan expected that they would no doubt join the ceremonies when they had some sleep. Uthric went to talk to Idwal. He asked Idwal if he trusted him. Idwal said he found this a strange question but thought maybe Uthric wanted to tell him something. Uthric said that he had a bad feeling about the day and wanted Idwal's assurance that no matter what strange things happened that if he and his men stayed by Uthric then they would be safe. Idwal said he was concerned about such talk but he confirmed that he trusted Uthric and would follow his lead. Uthric thanked him and asked him to tell his men. Uthric was getting more anxious as the morning wore on. There was no sign of Stuf. Dunstan said that he would go and look for him and went over the bridge to Onna. He could see no sign of a Saxon army. He went along the road keeping to the eaves of the forest but still found nothing of any note. Dunstan wondered if something had happened. He was sure that the Warband should be here by now. He thought there was no point in going further and decided to return. Uthric and Wulfhere were unsure how they should proceed. If Stuf did not come soon then their plans might have to be delayed. They could hear singing and shouting from the Hall where the Christians were having their rites. They saw that Dunstan returned just before midday. Wulfhere thought that the Christians would be finished soon and the next watch would take over from Uthric's men. He wondered if they would have to keep the gates by force and refuse to give way. Shortly after midday one of the men posted on the Westgate tower came running over. He reported a procession of people coming from the Christian’s Hall towards the gate. Uthric told the man to go back to the tower but be prepared to join the main force. He climbed up onto the Eastgate towers and looked east and west. He could not see any movement to the east but could watch the approaching procession. He and Wulfhere briefly considered closing the Westgate and holding Dunum but they would then let the enemy know their intent when they were unsure when they would be reinforced by Stuf. They were also aware that there were at least thirty sleeping warriors in the barracks that would be inside the palisade. If they made an aggressive move then they would need to be dealt with quickly. Dunstan joined them in the tower and told them that there was no sign of Stuf or a Warband. Uthric sighed and said he would go down to the troops. He signalled for the men to get ready to form a Shieldwall. The procession came through the Westgate. It was proceeded by sounds of singing but more concerning there were shouts of threats against pagans. Wulfhere reflected that people were too often concerned about things that really shouldn’t concern them. Uthric told his men to form a Shieldwall in front of the east gates. Idwal joined him and said that he thought this would get very ugly. Uthric agreed. Idwal called his men to join the Shieldwall and they waited for the procession to approach. Uthric told the men to lock their shields together but not to make any aggressive movements. He said he did not want a bloodbath yet. Someone within Shieldwall said that it seemed that the Christians were keen to meet their God and he felt it would be good if they could help them with their task. There was general laughter in the Shieldwall but Uthric said they must not provoke the crowd. While he was waiting for the procession to arrive Uthric said to Wulfhere and Dunstan that they might need to make a fighting retreat and it might be better to clear the barricade on the bridge. He said he did not fancy the idea of fighting and being trapped against it. Dunstan said that he would start clearing it if fighting broke out. The procession approached the Shieldwall and stopped about two spear lengths away. The crowd was hostile and shouting insults at his men. A group of women stood off to the left and sang songs. Wulfhere had left the Shieldwall and was watching from a tower. He thought the sound of the singing sounded sweet in comparison to the screaming of the crowd. Uthric stood forward and asked to speak with Goronwy, the Captain of the Guard but he could not see him. He was answered by the priest who said that his congregation had come because they wanted to offer baptism to all the pagans. Uthric said that he had nothing against being washed but now was not the time to offer it as they were presently protecting Dunum from the Sais. The priest said he was not happy with Uthric's response and told him that he would burn in hell. Uthric ignored him and addressed the crowd. He told them to go home before someone got hurt. He was still trying to see if Goronwy was present to help restore some order but still he could not see him. He could see some of the warriors from the barracks come out to investigate the noise. Some went back inside and returned carrying weapons. Uthric thought this was not a good sign but he hoped that they would support him rather than the mob. Uthric turned his attention on the small priest in front of him who was still haranguing him for being a demon worshipper. Uthric was almost prepared to tell the priest he had seen real demons and would be happy to introduce him but thought better of it. Someone in the crowd threw a rock which hit one of the spearmen. There were more taunts and demands that the Spearmen lay down their weapons. Uthric thought the situation was getting out of control and he thought he should take the initiative. He said that he was willing to get baptised. The crowd cheered his response but they had interrupted Uthric and he had not finished what he wanted to say. He repeated that he was willing to get baptised but he added that it would not be until he finished his guard duty. He was not able to say anymore for the crowd shouted and screamed at him. More rocks were thrown and a spearman fell when he was hit by a particularly large rock. Uthric called for his men to lock shields and move forward. He was hoping the crowd would disperse if he moved forward. Uthric shouted that no one was to be hurt but either his men did not hear or they chose to ignore him. Two men were killed by the spearmen and the crowd moved back momentarily unsure what to do. The priest came forward and checked the fallen men and shouted that they had been martyred by the pagans. More rocks ever thrown, Uthric tried to see if Wulfhere, who was in the tower, had seen any sign of a Saxon Warband. Wulfhere was watching the scene below and did not make any signal. Uthric was tempted to charge the crowd and disperse it but he did not want to leave the gate undefended. He shouted at his men to fall back and form up again in front of the gate. The withdrawal emboldened the mob and Uthric could see armed warriors joining the mob. Wulfhere came down from the tower and Dunstan also joined the Shieldwall. They agreed that they might need to retreat and Wulfhere and Dunstan would start clearing the barricade. Uthric watched the priest who had begun to rile the mob. More spearmen were joining the mob and still Uthric could not see Goronwy. He made another attempt to get the crowd to disperse telling them they were putting everyone’s lives at risk. From behind him someone shouted that they should make a martyr of the priest. There was laughter from his Shieldwall and another voice said he had a hammer and nails and would happily use them on the priest. Uthric turned to tell his men to be quiet as they were not helping things. A rock struck him on the helmet and he felt slightly dizzy. Someone pulled him back into the Shieldwall and the warriors used their shields to protect him. The priest was screaming at the Dumnonian Spearmen to kill the pagans who were defiling God’s Holy day and had murdered innocent Christians. Uthric told his men to stand firm. He expected to be attacked soon and thought that this was likely to be a hard fight and long if Stuf did not come soon. Both sides began to taunt each other no matter what Uthric said. One of Idwal’s men was brandishing a hammer and some nails. Uthric tried to get him to stop as he could see the mob was getting wilder and incensed by the priest. Uthric looked at the sun and realised that it was midday. It would have been time for the guard to change but he did not dare let his men stand down. It seemed that most of the Christian Spearman had formed up against them and there were villagers adding to their number. If they managed to break their Shieldwall, Uthric believed they would all die. Some of his men were complaining that they needed water. Uthric told two of his men to go into the guard towers and get water from the barrel to share with the men. This seemed to spur the Dumnonians into action and they began to move forward. The priest stood with his arms apart and was calling down curses on Uthric's men. Uthric wished he had a javelin to throw at him and stop him casting the spell. From behind the enemy Shieldwall, they could hear people singing. Uthric made the sign against evil and many of the Artrebates spat to avert whatever curse the singers were casting on them. The Shieldwalls clashed and shoved, pushed and hacked and stabbed at each other. Men who were injured stayed upright in the crush. At the barricade Wulfhere and Dunstan were joined by two of Idwal’s men who started to help them clear the barricade to allow for a fighting retreat if the weight of numbers told on Uthric's Shieldwall. The barricade was well made and difficult to dismantle. Uthric felt the pressure of the enemy and they were pushed back against the palisade. He shouted at the men to heave forward and felt the resistance lessen as his men killed and moved into the spaces. Uthric knew he couldn't move forward too far because his men would be overlapped by superior numbers. The fighting continued as each side tried to gain an advantage. The man helping Dunstan suddenly stopped and shouted ‘Sais’ and pointed at Saxons running across the bridge. He picked up his shield and spear and shouted that the Sais were coming. Wulfhere's companion did the same. Dunstan used his shield to hit the man nearest him in the hope that he would save his life. The man was surprised and fell backwards, the strength of the unexpected blow knocking him over the parapet of the bridge and into the river. Wulfhere tried to do the same with his man as he was preparing to defend the barricade but he only succeeded in knocking the man to the ground and against the parapet. The lead Saxons had reached the barricade and had begun to climb over it. The man with Wulfhere tried to stab one of the Saxons with his spear despite the fact he was on the ground. The Saxon retaliated with an overhead swing from his bearded are. Wulfhere parried the axe and undoubtedly saved his man’s life. Wulfhere shouted at the Saxons to join the fight at the gate. Wulfhere then hit the prone man on the head with his shield and he slumped unconscious. Dunstan led the leading Saxons to the back of the Shieldwall and tried to push the Shieldwall forward. All the pushing did was to increase the pressure on the front ranks limiting even further their ability to strike at each other. The weight became intolerable but was suddenly released when someone in the second rank managed to injure the man in front of Uthric. The injured man was unable to use his shield which meant the men on either side of the wounded man were vulnerable to attack. The British warriors were experienced enough to re-align their shields and the enemy Shieldwall shifted to accommodate the loss of men. The shift allowed some of the arriving Saxons to join the Shieldwall and increase the numbers. Uthric's men were better equipped and as the Shieldwalls expanded here and there villagers who had been initially at the back of the enemy Shield wall found themselves in the second rank. Uthric’s men targeted the villagers who were easier to incapacitate and used the advantage to lengthen their shield wall. The Dumnonians were being pushed backwards but they still stood firm and their Wall did not break. Dunstan had joined the advancing Saxons and was wondering how he was going to get to the front of the Shieldwall to join the fight. Wulfhere had wanted to join the battle too but the bridge was packed with men and he also felt the necessity to protect the unconscious man at his feet. Wulfhere could see Stuf coming towards him, balancing on the parapet. Stuf smiled at Wulfhere as he drew level and asked him for the news. Wulfhere said that he believed they still held the gate but he thought it unlikely anyone would get through at this time. Stuf said he thought he might try even if it seemed impossible. He ran the last few steps and jumped and just about caught the top of the palisade. He then hauled himself over. Wulfhere considered following Stuf but thought it was unlikely he could emulate Stuf's agility. A few moments later Stuf appeared on the top of the guard tower. Uthric had found the fight in the Shieldwall grim. He could see his men falling and their places were being taken by Saxons. He was fighting alongside Idwal who looked increasingly concerned that there were now Saxons in their Shieldwall. Uthric kept talking to Idwal to trust him and keep fighting. Uthric thought later if the fighting had been less fierce then he may have had trouble getting the Dumnonians to continue fighting for him whereas they had been concentrating on staying alive. More men were joining each Shieldwall and neither could make progress against the other. The Saxons on the bridge could not join the fight until the front rank moved forward. It seemed that the Dumnonians were going to hold the Saxons or even push them back to the gateway. Dunstan led some men off the bridge and into the water at the base of the palisade. The river came up to his waist and was flowing fast where the water flow was restricted by the stone piers of the bridge. One man lost his footing and was swept away. Dunstan could not see if he resurfaced. His men helped each other climb over the palisade and onto the fighting platform. More men saw what he was doing and joined the men climbing over the palisade. When Dunstan judged he had enough men he led a charge into the flank of the Dumnonian Shieldwall. Uthric could feel the pressure of the enemy slowly begin to ease and they were slowly giving ground. He heard yelling and screams to his left but could not look because he was being attacked by several of the enemy at once. Idwal was on one side and an Artrebate called Iolo was on his other side. Both were defending Uthric. Suddenly the pressure ceased and there was open space in front of them. Dunstan’s flank attack had broken the Dumnonian Shieldwall and men started chasing the retreating enemy. Uthric shouted for Idwal to keep his men together and to stay with him. Idwal was bewildered by events as were most of his man. Only one of his men, a man called Cadog, seemed to still be interested in fighting. He had used the butt of his spear to bloody the face of the priest and had dragged the man over. The priest whimpered and tried to plead to be released. Cadog showed him his hammer and nails and suggested the priest might want to join his God. The event was a distraction from the horror going on around them. Cadog was telling the priest that he held him responsible for the deaths of his brother, his cousin and their families and for the fall of Dunum. The priest was responding put someone hit him across the mouth and he fell silent. Idwal’s men seemed in shock and they stared around at the Saxon Warriors pursuing the routed Dumnonians. Idwal asked Uthric if he was a Saxon too. Uthric said he was sorry for misleading Idwal but he had not had any other choice. Idwal was either too exhausted or resigned to his fate to argue and he sank to the ground to join his men. He asked what would happen to him and his men. Uthric said that it would be up to Stuf but in his view they would be rewarded for their part in the fight. Uthric said it might be better to view this fight as of the Old gods against the Christian God rather than anything else. They had won a great victory for the old gods. Uthric was joined by Wulfhere and Dunstan and the three brothers sat down with Idwal and his men to rest. Someone brought a barrel of water and Wulfhere made sure everyone got some. Wulfhere checked with his Warband. Four of the Artrebates had been killed or were not expected to survive. Five had been seriously wounded and would need rest. Idwal's Iscans had fared better. Two had been killed and three had been wounded. All the wounded men needed rest and would not be able to move from Dunum for several weeks. Stuf joined Wulfhere and clasped him by the arm in friendship. He congratulated Wulfhere for holding the bridge. He wanted to know all of the Artrebates names and thanked them though Uthric for their support. He honoured the dead saying that he would pay wergild for all those that had died. Uthric introduced Idwal and told Stuf that he had unwittingly joined his small Warband but had fought well and without them Uthric believed they would not have held the gate. Stuf thanked Idwal and gave him a heavy gold arm ring set with jewels. He said that he intended to reward all his men when they were able to count the gold and silver they had won. Idwal thanked him. When the priest whimpered again, Stuf asked who he was and why he was whimpering. Uthric said that the man was a Christian leæce and he had been responsible for provoking the attack on his men because they would not accept baptism. Stuf said that he was unaware of the word and asked what it signified. Uthric said he thought it might be a sacred rite to transform people into Christians by dipping them in the river. Stuf said he was amazed about what people think and he wondered what Cadog intended to do with the leæce. Wulfhere said he was not sure but he did not believe it would end well for him. Stuf said that they should ensure that it did not bring bad luck if he was killed. He had no concern about fighting Dumnonians but he did not see the sense in purposefully upsetting the Christian God. Dunstan said that he did not believe it would upset anyone. They would give the leæce a good death and he would be transported to the Christian Neorxanwang and have a glorious time. Stuf said in that case they should make the death quick, the man was continually whimpering and it would be better for everyone if he went immediately to Neorxanwang. Uthric told Cadog to end it and do what he had to do. Cadog took the priest to the wall of the barracks and nailed him to some crosspieces of wood. Groups of warriors watched and laid bets how long he would take to die. Wulfhere told Stuf that the Christian religion was intolerant of others. They had seen people who followed the old gods driven out and even killed all through the lands through which they had travelled. Stuf was interested in Wulfhere's account and wondered if they could use the information for their gain. Uthric said the Christians had been killing their own people. Uthric thought there was a Holy war going on and he told Stuf how the crucified priest had riled up the mob and they had tried to stone his men. Uthric and Wulfhere talked to Idwal about what he wanted to do. They told him he could bring his men north and they could get land to farm and either join with the Artrebates, the Saxons or set up their own dwellings. Idwal said that he would need to talk to his men and he would give an answer in the morning. During the night someone slit the priests throat to stop the constant noises that was keeping everyone awake. In the morning Stuf sent out small raiding parties to gather loot and destroy buildings. Wulfhere and Dunstan would have liked to lead some of the Warbands but felt constrained to wait for Idwal's answer. They also felt the need to make sure neither their Artrebates nor Idwal's men came to any harm from some of the overzealous Saxons who might consider them to be enemies. Many of the men had been injured in the fierce battle at the gate and needed to rest to recuperate from wounds. Idwal said that he had spoken with his men. They had been shocked that they had been fighting on the side of the Sais and many were still angry. However, they also recognised that their fellow countrymen who were Christians had attacked them and they would likely have been killed. Idwal said he had looked at his options. They could not return to Isca in the far west as Cadwy had rebelled and they would be viewed as rebels by other Dumnonians and therefore not likely to be able to make it home alive. The Christians in the rest of Dumnonia were also killing anyone who wanted to worship the old gods and Idwal and his men’s tattoos proclaimed their allegiance to Bel. Idwal said that the men had voted on the decision and had decided that going with Uthric would at least give them a chance of living. Idwal said that he needed to be clear that they had decided that they would not fight Dumnonians. They were happy to fight anyone else but would not fight their own tribes. Uthric said he was pleased Idwal would come north because he had liked both him and his men. The Hrothgarsons did get a chance to lead a Warband several days later but they were unable to find anything valuable. All the Steadings or villages were already looted and they spent a frustrating day or two trying to discover something they could take. The villagers had all fled and they had taken anything of value with them. Wulfhere had decided to return to Dunum. They had not been able to find anything worthwhile in the broad sweeps that he had taken with the warband and they had only two large cooking cauldrons to show for it. On the way back, they encountered a messenger from Stuf who asked them to return anyway. Wulfhere was aware that the men were grumbling. They had been promised silver and glory and they had got neither. When they armed back Stuf told the warriors that Cerdic and Aelle had agreed a peace treaty in which the king of the Dumnonians would pay tribute. The men grew excited and wanted to know how much they would get but Stuf said that they would not get the silver until a moon after Midsummer festival. As Wulfhere was waiting for his men’s wounds to heal a group of Dumnonians came to meet Stuf. By their dress they looked like priests and they prostrated themselves in front of Stuf. Stuf seemed embarrassed and asked Uthric to tell them to stand on their feet. Uthric asked them why they had come. He was impressed that they had walked into Dunum when they were likely to suffer a hard death. The men said that they would like to recover the body of their fellow priest who had been killed by the Sais and give him a proper burial. Stuf said that he was not averse to the idea and asked them what they proposed in return. The priests said they were confused and pretended they did not know what Uthric had said. Stuf told them that he was willing to accept payment for the dead priest because as he understood it, the priest had been killed as a blood price for a brother and a cousin of one of his men. Stuf said by his reckoning that the priests still owed his man the wergild for a cousin. The priests conferred together and said that they were willing to offer prayers for the dead man’s soul which they said was worth his weight in silver. Stuf said he disagreed but unless they had any better ideas then he would pick a priest at random and he would suffer the same fate as their friend who they had come to collect. The priests again conferred with each other and said they were willing to donate the gold cross that was their only treasure and was very ancient. Stuf examined the cross and agreed it was just about enough. He allowed the men to retrieve the body of the dead priest and they carefully wrapped it in a white shroud before carrying it off. Stuf asked for an axe and called Idwal to him. He cut the cross in half and gave half of it to Idwal as wergild for Cadog’s cousin. Wulfhere said that he was keen to go and look for his family. Stuf was happy to let the Hrothgarsons leave as they had more than fulfilled their task. He wished them good luck. Uthric said that they would need to take their men back north first. Neither the Artrebates nor Idwal’s Iscans would be safe travelling alone in Saxon lands. Wulfhere calculated that he would not have time to go north and arrange his lands and then go to Anderida to see if he could find his family before they had to travel in Cerdic's army to the Giants Stones to collect the tribute. The journey north was without incident. Idwal chose land near the ruins of Pontes for his men. They had found women on the way up and when Dunstan asked how they had manged to do so Idwal told him that there had been so much death recently that there were too many women compared to men so it had been very easy to get married, particularly men with the gold and silver that they had been given by Stuf. Dunstan appointed Aldfrid, a man who he thought would motivate and organise the farmers, as his steward. Dunstan wanted a stockade built at the south side of the Pontes bridge. He asked the farmers to spend half a day every three days to build the stockade. The farmers were not happy with Dunstan's idea. Dunstan called them together and told them they needed to be mindful of recent history. He reminded them that Aelle had swept through the area only two years ago and destroyed everything in his path both here and in the south. He thought it important for the farmers to build homes and farm the land, they also needed to protect their families from war. The farmers agreed and said that they would do their best. The Hrothgarsons then took thirty men to Wincen Cæster to meet with Cerdic's army. They all travelled to the Giants Stones. They were impressed by the stones. Some said that the stones were built by Giants. Others said that they were giants that had turned into stones. The Dumnonians arrived the next day with twelve cartloads of tribute. The Saxon warriors were jubilant and thought they would be rich. The peace treaty agreed two years of peace between the Dumnonians and the Saxons. Uthric took an opportunity to talk to the Atheling Wlencing about his wife Ealhwyn. Wlencing said that he was presently unaware where his wife was. Uthric thought it was strange but did not question the Atheling. He did ask if Wlencig had seen a slave called Meire with his wife. Wlencing said that he did not usually notice slaves so he could not help Uthric. Uthric did not press the issue as it was clear that Wlencing was not willing to say more. Wulfhere said that they should leave soon and go to Anderida.
  11. The Starting Cast James, a strapping lad hailing from Imber. His father fought on the March of Aurelius Ambrosius. Cedric, from Woodborough, he has always had an interest in all things fae. Esmee, a thick set young woman from Allington, her father had no sons but Esmee has proved as able and stands to inherit when she is knighted, a goal she keenly looks forward to. Luc, a hot tempered young man. His family came over from Acquitaine with Aurelius Ambrosius and was rewarded with the manor at Seend by the new High King. Willem, a proud young man from Grafton, his father was a close compatriot of Earl Roderick until being killed fighting against Saxon raiders. Reynard, a famously honest young man from Ford, he is well schooled in courtly skills. Spring 485 Spring of 485 finds our young squires at Vagon Castle, for their annual fortnight of training with Sir Elad. After a week of training, the squires got their one day off, coinciding with the evening of the local spring fair. Numerous events and competitions were scheduled to take place over the day. James and Cedric both signed up for the evening poetry competition, Cedric also entering the dance competition. Esmee, James and Cedric all signed up for the Dressage competition. First up was Dressage – an integral part of the squires training with horsemanship. Esmee, while very knowledgeable about the event, did not perform well on the day – perhaps because she was doing too much coaching of the other squires during the event. James and Cedric both did well, with James coming out on top and winning the admiration of the many observers (mostly children and the occasional tradesman). That evening, the competition during the poetry event was fierce – it came down to James against a couple of locals in a 2nd round of composition, something the locals referred to as ‘slam’ style. James took out one of the locals before being left speechless by some quick quips, coming up just short in 2nd place. Cedric was in over his head in the dance competition, but at least did not embarrass himself. Later, while out celebrating, the squires were approached by Sir Aaron, a vassal knight of Sir Elad. He explained that a wandering minstrel had been seen approaching his daughter – an occurrence he wished to discourage, but for reasons, could not do so himself. The squires took on the task, finding the minstrel, a slovenly looking fellow named Martyn in the informal tavern that had been set up for the fair. Despite his appearance, Martyn did indeed possess a fine voice so it was seen how he might succeed in charming Sir Aaron's daughter. Esmee took the non-subtle route of grabbing Martyn by the scruff of the neck to explain the situation to him – playing bad sheriff to James’ good sheriff. Martyn, more of a singer than a fighter, was intimidated by the gruff young woman and promised to be gone by morning. The squires were roused from their sleep early the next day by they sound of Sir Elad's voice summoning them to the courtyard. Once there, Cedric, James and Esmee were joined by Luc, a squire freshly arrived at Vagon, who’s family originally hailed from Acquitaine. Sir Elad greeted Luc warmly, as it seemed he knew of the young man's father, a knight of renowned valor. The first hour of training was with the Quintain, a nasty piece of business which more often than not had given the squires many a bruise. This time however, all of the squires save Luc succeeded at hitting the target and avoiding the swing of the lead ball. Luc did not take his failure lightly and exhibited a quick temper grumbling none to quietly about why he should be subjected to training so soon after his arrival. With the quintain done with, the morning was rounded out with a horse race between the squires. The course - through the village to the woods and back. All of the squires road well, save James – who fell twice from his horse, and ended up quite bruised. Cedric ended up winning the final sprint back to Vagon's courtyard by 3 lengths to much congratulations from the other squires, save James. At this point, Sir Elad called the squires over he had a task for them. They were being sent to investigate reports of a man-eating bear near the village of Imber, which was preventing the local peasants from working the fields. James, who hailed from Imber, had not been back to his home since he was 17, and he looked forward to the chance to do so. He offered to lead the squires, and after a leisurely ride there, the group overnighted with the local priest, a grumbly old man named Garr. In the morning, the squires set off in two groups to hunt down the bear. One group led by Willem, with Reynard, Esmee and James immediately started tracking the quarry. The second group consisting of Luc and Cedric raced off in a different direction, confident in having found a set of tracks that matched the bear (oh how I love fumbled rolls). The first group quickly located signs of a large animal in the woods and Esmee's hunting skills led them to a clearing where they found the bear. While Esmee and Willem distracted it by throwing their weapons into the forest (more fumbled rolls), Reynard and James hacked the beast down. Meanwhile, lost in the woods, attacked by wolves, cold and wet, Cedric and Luc were forced to spend a sleepless night before early the next day they stumbled upon what looked like an old shrine some local druids might have erected. Stopping there, they started to loudly blame each other for their predicament. The other squires, after enjoying a feast and the company of a few of the young men and women of the village of Imber the night before, set off to find their lost companions the next monring. Esmee's hunting skills again did not let her down and they finally tracked down their bickering companions and led them safely out of the forest. Reporting back to Vagon castle, the squires related their tales to Sir Elad, much to his amusement. He ordered the squires to make ready to head for Sarum. The squires accompanied Sir Elad to Sarum, to meet Earl Roderick at court. All, save Luc, had been to Sarum before, but never had they been asked to speak to the Earl. The Earl was impressed with how the squires dealt with ‘that Imber situation’ and invited all to a feast that evening. Most of the squires spent the interim day-drinking at ‘the best pub in town!’, which was so busy, that most of their attempts at flirting with the serving wenches failed. It did not stop Cedric, however, from recounting some fanciful tales of his and Luc’s time in the forest to any who would listen. At the feast, the squires were treated to a fine meal (Loach and capons). As they ate, an unexpected guest turned up - Sir Madoc, bastard son of King Uther. He was immediately given a place of honour next to the Earl. Esmee and Willem surreptitiously positioned themselves near the head table during the last course and overheard talk of a new Saxon army landing in the east in the Duchy of Caercolum, and also of Uther’s intention to attack the Saxon King Aelle in the south this summer. Willem, feeling outgoing after enjoying the ale all evening thought about interjecting at that point, but erred on the side of courtesy and kept his mouth shut. Because of the impending battle with the Saxons, Earl Roderick called for all squires deemed ready for knighthood be brought forward. Sir Elad stood and proudly called for Esmee, Willem, Reynard and Cedric, notably leaving out James (who’s horsemanship he deemed needing work) and Luc (who’s persistent French cursing seemed to grate on Sir Elad’s nerves). Amidst much pomp and circumstance, the squires were knighted, swearing homage to Earl Roderick and Fealty to Uther. After the ceremony, the new knights were girded in their gear and expected to ‘leap’ on to their horses. This proved to be more problematic for the day drinkers than Reynard, who had spent the afternoon in quiet spiritual contemplation. The new knights then joined the rest of Earl Roderick’s forces in heading to the muster at Silchester City. The young knights were given new squires, with Luc being appointed to squire for Cedric, and James squiring for Esmee. At Silchester, they joined the army of a thousand knights and several thousand footmen. Reynard circulated amidst the army, taking in the martial power that Uther could command. He also heard rumours swirling amidst the camp that several of King Uther’s vassals had not reported to the muster – most notably Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. As the army set out, Uther ordered Duke Lucius to return to his duchy of Caercolum to meet the new Saxon threat there. Reynard, after doing a little more digging, heard that the saxons had landed a force of at least a thousand, fresh from the continent led by a warlord named Aethelswith. Despite splitting his forces in this manner, Uther remained resolute in pressing the attack into Sussex to meet King Aelle, and so the army set off and shortly across the border engaged a slightly larger Saxon force in what became known as the battle of Mearcred Creek. The Salisbury knights were dispatched to the left flank – where the weakest troops are usually deployed, under the command of Sir Elad. Battle raged for 5 hours, and resulted in some mixed success. Many Saxons were killed, and despite taking a few wounds, none of the knights were greatly hurt . Sir Reynard seemed to grow melancholic during the course of the battle, despairing over never seeing his family again and quit the field. Sir Esmee grew melancholic right as Uther had the horns sounded to signal the army to fall back, perhaps perceiving herself failing in some way to live up to her knightly honor. The two armies withdrew, seemingly in an inconclusive result, which left a somewhat bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. Of note, Sir Luc seemed to approach his continued squiring with gusto, distinguishing himself with the amount of loot he was able to pillage from the Saxons during the battle.
  12. After being cheered on by the people in the Discord, I finally took the leap and decided to write something about my current game. Without further ado: The Pendragon Chronicle A Chronicle detailing an Attempt to Play the Great Pendragon Campaign. Welcome to my little attempt at the great white whale of Roleplaying Games. I’ve always had a thing for the tales of King Arthur, and this spoke to me in a lot of ways. A few years back, I had the pleasure of playing Merlin on a Danish RPG Convention, where we retold the mythos in our own version and it was a blast, which made me consider how one could tinker with the legends that we all know and love. I recently got enthralled by someone’s review of Pendragon, and I think what really pushed me into doing this, was reading John Wick’s eulogy for Greg. I sat down, and began to read Pendragon which soon made it clear that I at least had to make an attempt to play this sublime game. So, I bought a *lot* of Books, and within days, I had four players lined up to give it a go. I began the game before knowing that 480 was an option, and I’ll probably deviated a *lot* from the established form and story. But, that’s the beauty of the GPC and Arthurian mythos. There is no wrong way of doing it. A few months ago, I picked up Book of the Sire, and began rolling a test character. Then, my players got their shot, and this is what we came up with. (The completed Lineages can be found attached. I've tried to dramatize them as much as possible, but it's not always as rivetting reading as it could be.) Reccared de Toulouse a Squire born to a true and noble Knight of a proud Aquitanian tradition, Sir Perrin de Toulouse, who fought as a mercenary under Aurelius Ambrosius and later with Count Roderick and King Uther. Sir Leander, disgusted with the state of his Aquitanian King, rode with his uncles and brothers to heed Aurelius' call and gained land in Salisbury through his deeds, which included the defeated of two Saxon champions, first at Exeter and later at Maisbeli. At the beginning of the campaign, word of his father's demise at Eburacum has just reached him, making him the character who has known his father for the longest time. Reccared is well-schooled in the blade as well as the Venery of his people, and has inherited the family blade, Aljan, a spatha claimed in combat with the Romans. Graid ap Owain A young Cornishman of Ascalon, son of Sir Owain Y Marchog, who was Gorlois' friend and a Knight famed enough to lead an Eschille, yet ended his otherwise glorious days a few years back, when his horse tripped in a molehill. Truth be told, Graid might be the oldest of his siblings, but he has a plethora of younger brothers and bastard brothers, as his father might have not been the chastest of Knights. (and some claim when he had that accident, it was to escape a furious husband following one indiscreet tryst too many) Graid is a proper Cornishman, raised on the stories and legacy of his people and have an especially a healthy hatred of Irish, but have squired in Salisbury after his father's death, as the only granted part of his estate was near Sarum. His family still aspires to reclaim their ancestral lands, but the new system of feudalism has caused it to shift hands to another family. The Marshal, Sir Elad praises the lad for his Just nature and skills with the spear and lance, it is widely known that his skills in falconry makes him quite the hunter. He is by far one of the most light-footed people in the land (Dex 17). And, like his ancestors, he's a very good rider. (Ironies of Ironies...) Aldwyn ap Morien Descendant of a Cumbrian family with roots in Roestoc, who were first dispossessed by Vortigern, fought diligently with Aurelius to reclaim their lands, and then dispossessed once more when the Great Wyrm ravaged Roestoc. Here, Aldwyn's father, Sir Morien the Piper, died in a glorious last stand in their family manor. But, his sacrifice meant that Aldwyn is alive and has been bethroated at the game's start to the heiress to the Salisburian knight Sir Daffyd of Newton, who used to be Roderick's Butler. He is the only surviving trueborn son of his father's name, but have five strange sisters, two of which are wed. Like his father before him, he is tall as a tree with a Size of 19, but is not all that strong. Aldwyn is also a Pagan, and a gifted player of the bagpipes. He is also a Just man, with far too much Pride for any Christian, but enough for a Pagan. Aurelius Sertorius Aurelius is the youngest male scion of the Sertorius family, a lauded lineage from Dorsette. His great-grandfather was a commander of Mascen Wledig, his grandfather was a fierce defender of Roman values, even after having lost the Empire, who ended his days as due to the politics surrounding the lost sons of King Constantine, shanked in a dark Dorsette street. His father, Gessius, was a loyal follower of Prince Aurelius, and fought alongside the Prince for years, and Gessius even named his son after the man he idolized. Unfortunately, Gessius lived for his true king, and died to Saxon spears at Exeter protecting said King. The children were raised by Gessius' brother-in-law, the Bishop of Salisbury, who was appointed caretaker of the lands that Gessius had been awarded posthumously. That was wordy. I'll be back tomorrow with the stuff from the first session. The Lineage of Sir Graith ap Owain.pdf The Lineage of Sir Reccared de Toulouse.pdf The Lineage of Aurelius Sertorius.pdf The Lineage of Sir Aldwyn ap Morien.pdf
  13. A Parting of Body and Soul and the Search for the Lost. Dunstan did not feel well after the night’s sleep. Hereweard had told him his soul had been stolen but Dunstan said he could not accept this was true. He had interpreted the constant growling noises he was making as anger at all the people who had annoyed his family and the injustices that had been visited upon them. His list of people that he intended to make pay was increasing and now included the Bretwalda Aelle, the Atheling Cissa, Guthmaer Sleddeson and Griswold Frithowulfson, both of whom ran the slave market in Cissa Cæster, the Atheling Wlencing and his wife Ealhwyn Hrofsdotter. When Uthric asked him if Beorthric and Winfrith were on the list Dunstan said that they were already dead and they did not matter. Uthric was puzzled because he knew Beorthric was alive and well and living in Cissa Cæster but he let it pass. He did ask Dunstan why he was so dishevelled and Dunstan told him of the strange dream. Uthric thought it might be best if Dunstan went to talk with Hereweard. He thought that maybe the leæce might be able to help with whatever was wrong. Dunstan reluctantly talked to Hereweard who he found mixing some herbs. Dunstan said that he had never believed the story about losing his soul and thought that it was due to the stress of being in too many Shieldwalls and then the disappointment of losing his wife and children. He thought if he could talk to Hereweard about all his troubles he might feel less concerned within himself. Hereweard said he doubted this would change anything for Dunstan, because it was clear to him that the reason Dunstan did not feel well within himself was because he had no soul. Dunstan said he was tired of hearing about his soul and thought it best if he left or he might fly into another rage and do something he might regret. Dunstan said that he would come back to see Hereweard in another moon to prove to him that the discussion about losing his soul was nonsense. Hereweard said that he thought it likely that by then Dunstan’s body would have consumed itself because he was soulless and even the potions that Hereweard gave him could not protect him from death. Uthric went to see Dunstan when he heard that he had not told the leæce about the dream. Dunstan said that he found it hard to believe that he could have lost his soul but Uthric pointed out he had awoken with a Rune on his forehead and there might be some truth in Hereweard’s words. He prevailed on Dunstan to return to Hereweard and tell him about the dream. Hereweard was not surprised to see Dunstan return. He asked Dunstan if he was having difficulty containing his emotions as that was a clear sign of losing his soul. Dunstan still maintained that his anger was only a reaction to difficult times and he thought it would pass however he consented to tell Hereweard about his dream. Dunstan told him that he dreamt he had been asleep in his booth. People he did not know came in and held him down. They took out sharp knives and began to cut his body into pieces. Each part was put in a different sack and they then left. Dunstan said that although he could see what they were doing with his body it had been like he was watching as if he was an observer. When the people left he went too and followed them to a grove in a dark forest. The grove had an outer circle of nine Ash trees and an inner circle of nine elm trees. In the centre of the grove were three oak trees. The middle oak had been struck by lightning and still smouldered. Dunstan watched the people put his body back together and then they painted a Rune on his forehead. He noticed that a bit of his body escaped from the bag in the shape of a black cat and squeezed into a hole between two rocks at the foot of the lightning struck oak. Hereweard sighed when he heard the dream. He said that he had never been particularly good at interpreting dreams but he thought it might be a sign that Dunstan's body could no longer exist without his soul and the bind to Miðgarðr was becoming weaker. The rune was easy to interpret it meant Travel, Rhythm, Spontaneity or Evolution. It was likely that the rune was connected to Dunstan but how he would need to find out for himself. Hereweard said that he knew where the grove was in Dunstan's dream. He had visited it once with Stithwolf when they were talking to the spirits in the area. It was likely that Dunstan would need to travel to Nastrønd or Hel to get his soul back. Dunstan asked if Hereweard would come with him but Hereweard said that he would not expose himself to the dangers of such a journey. He agreed to help Dunstan and would show him the way to go but he thought he would not have the strength or courage to face Nastrønd. Hereweard said that Dunstan should return in five days and bring people he trusted that would go with him on his journey. Hereweard said he should also bring ten men, digging tools and a goat. Dunstan tried to ask Hereweard what would happen but the leæce told him to go and prepare. Wulfhere was trying to decide how many men he should send to Ealdorman Stuf to join the raid into Dumnonia. He was unsure about the benefits of losing more men but, following a debate with Uthric, agreed that if they did not get enough food for the winter many of the people would die anyway. He agreed that he would lead thirty men and join Stuf as soon as they were ready. His plans were upset when Dunstan came back with the news that he needed to go to Nastrønd to get his soul back. Wulfhere was unsure that they all needed to go. The idea of going to Nastrønd did not fill him with joy. He decided that he would delegate the raid on Dumnonia to his younger brother Halig as he thought he would need to help Dunstan regain his soul. The situation became more complicated when a stranger arrived at Hambladensted. He told Wulfhere he had a message from Beorthric and had been asked to deliver it. The man named himself as Ernbald Ormarson and said he was going to Lundenwic to seek employment with a Þegn. He hoped to make money to buy land for a farm and have lots of children. Beorthric had found out that Wulfhere's wife had been taken to Anderida and there was also hope that Dunstan's wife was also there. Wulfhere quizzed Ernbald about Beorthric but Ernbald said that he could not say much other than he had already said. He did not really know Beorthric and thought he was therefore unlikely to be able to shed any light on Beorthric or his motives. Wulfhere thanked him for his message and spoke privately with his brothers. Dunstan was scathing of Ernbald and Beorthric. He said that it was clear that they could not trust either man and he was sure that this was a trick. Wulfhere said that he did not yet see the purpose of the information and if it was a trick why would Beorthric pay a man to come so far just to give a message. Dunstan said he could not trust Ernbald and felt that he was dubious and the information was to disrupt what they needed to do in the villages. He went through all the ills that people had caused him and his family and was keen to extact revenge. Uthric listened to his younger brother’s list of the people with whom he would like to discuss perceived wrongs with by using his spear and said that he must remember to always stay on the right side of Dunstan. Wulfhere said that he was of a mind to ask Ernbald to stay. He thought that if Dunstan was right about Ernbald' they would keep him close and then could exact revenge if he proved to be false. On the other hand, if he was honest then they had added another experienced warrior to the settlement. Wulfhere said that the priority was to find Dunstan's soul. Dunstan was worried that he might not find his soul or possibly get the wrong one. Wulfhere said that might be an outcome but when he got one back he should really look after it this time. Hereweard came to meet the brothers and advised them that they must fast for three days before the ritual. On the third day they would travel to the forest north of Calleva and go to the sacred grove. Dunstan confirmed he had ten loyal men and had bought a black goat from one the farmers. Hereward told him to make a wooden platform that they could erect when they got there. It had to be big enough for three men to lie on. He asked Dunstan to also make a ladder with nine rungs. Dunstan asked if there was any significance in this and Hereward said they would not have too long to wait to understand it more. On the appointed day Hereweard, the Hrothgarsons and ten trusted men made their way to the Sacred Grove. There was a distinct lack of bird song around the grove and the air was heavy and still. The grove was just as Dunstan had seen it in his dream. The outer circle of trees were nine ashes and the inner nine elms. The three oak trees in the centre of the grove were the only vegetation in the circle and the middle oak tree had been hit by lightning at some point in the past but it still smoked as if it had happened recently. Hereweard asked everyone to erect the platform and the ladder. After they had constructed the platform, Hereweard brought the goat into the grove. He got the men to dig a shallow pit at the bottom of the platform and he rested the ladder in it. The goat began to get nervous but Hereweard soothed it by whispering in its ear. He ordered the men to light a fire and when it was hot enough he bought the goat to the pit and expertly slit its throat. He let the goats blood flow into the pit and Uthric thought he could see shadowy figures lapping the blood up with long tongues. He pointed it out to Wulfhere and Dunstan but neither saw anything. Hereweard cut the legs off the goat and removed the flesh. He gave a thigh bone to each brother and instructed them how to write runes on the bones. It took several attempts from each of the brothers to satisfy Hereweard but finally he was happy. He explained that the brothers need to keep these runebones on them or the they would not be able to return to Miðgarðr. He then took some of the pooled blood in the pit and wrote further runes on their foreheads. Hereweard had told them that he would not be travelling with them but he would come the first part to make sure they got past the Horned Man and started on the road between the worlds. Hereweard explained his spirit animal was the wolf and when in that shape he could not speak with words and they would not understand spirit speech so that he would not be able to give them further instructions. Wulfhere asked how they would know where to go but Hereweard said that they needed to follow the road wherever it took them. Hereweard said that they might meet many people and many obstacles on their journey. They must bargain, use trickery and only resort to fighting if there was no other option. He asked the Hrothgarsons to lie on top of the platform and gave them a bitter potion to drink. He sat calmly on the platform and began to beat a small hide drum and shake a rattle. Hereweard asked them to put a cloak over their bodies and to concentrate. In the next few hours they would feel that they separated from their bodies. He told them when that happened then they must climb down the rungs of the ladder. How many rungs they climbed down would depend on their ability to concentrate. Hereweard spoke to them as they lay under the cloaks and told them to empty their minds of their daily tasks and listen to the drumbeat. He told them he had instructed their men to cover them with earth when Hereweard gave the signal. This was the ritual of Death that would take them to one of the other worlds. Someone then began to chant to the rhythm of the drum but they did not understand the words. Wulfhere was the last to leave his body behind because he had had difficulty emptying his mind of the temporal affairs of organising the settlements, but at last he made his way down the ladder. Wulfhere estimated that he only went down three or four rungs before he hit solid ground and joined his brothers in the darkness. Bits of earth showered them as they stood waiting to see what would happen next. A large wolf sat beside them and they assumed that it must be the fylgja of Hereweard. Wherever they were it was dark and there was no light but they could still see. The darkness had a living quality to it and they felt that as they breathed it in they became more attuned to it. Gradually shapes could be seen and they noticed that a large man was standing in front of them. He had horns like a deer growing from his head or perhaps he was wearing an intricate headdress. The wolf lay down and they thought perhaps they should kneel too. When they had done so the Horned Man said he would like to ask Dunstan some questions in order that they could continue. Dunstan said he would try and answer any questions honestly. He asked Dunstan if he thought family or king were more important. Dunstan said that in his view family were more important and that he owed a lot to his family that were close to him. He said that he always tried to serve his family as well as he could. The Horned Man said that he saw a lot of hate in Dunstan's heart and asked why he hated so much. Dunstan said that he always tried to live honourably but often he came against people who lived by different rules and they had been hurtful to those who could not defend themselves, killing and despoiling innocents. Dunstan said that he had always shown pity and mercy to the deserving. He spoke about rescuing villagers from despoilers and that he was aware he judged people but it was always on their actions. The Horned Man nodded but said he was not sure that Dunstan always lived up to his views on pity and mercy. Dunstan said he tried to observe the general good but the Horned Man laughed and said it might be that hate that had made him stronger. However, he was aware that Dunstan gives pity and mercy to his friends but not to anyone else and often suspects their motives. He thought Dunstan might want to think on that. The Horned Man then pushed the wall and a way opened into a dark land. It seemed nearly featureless apart from a road that stretched into the distance. The wolf joined them outside and pointed the way along the road. The brothers looked at each other and started along the empty road. The Hrothgarsons walked along the road for what seemed like days. The land was flat and empty and there was no sun to shed light or mark the passing of time, but they were able to see despite the darkness. The road ran up to a small hillock out of which the sound of hammers banged as if on a smithy. The door stood open and was lit by the reddish glow of fire. Coloured smoke escaped through the open door that made them cough and the smell was of hot metal and charcoal. The road went into the mound and the Hrothgarsons thought that they should not bypass this situation. They carefully went down the short tunnel that led to the smithy. Three Duergar were working with their hammers, bent around the fire that burnt white hot. Discarded weapons and armour lay around the floor of the workshop. One of the Duergar approached the brothers and introduced himself as Brúni and pointed out his brothers Gustr and Mótsognir. Brúni asked the Hrothgarsons how he could help them and wondered if they had come to buy weapons or armour. Wulfhere, Uthric and Dunstan introduced themselves and Wulfhere said that he would be interested in buying a Byrnie. Brúni said that he would be pleased to sell anything they wished to have, but the bargain would have to be fair. Wulfhere asked what payment would be made as none of their shadow bodies had any valuable metals and he did not know what Brúni might desire. Brúni said that he would be happy to take skills or attributes. For instance, one of the Jötunn traded his height for a magical shield or a Troll had given her Hide ability to buy an axe that would cleave through stone. Brúni said that they would be willing to trade their Rune sticks but Wulfhere did not think that that would be a good idea. Wulfhere tried on a metal Byrnie but found it overly heavy if he needed to march for any length of time. The Duergar thought that if Wulfhere wanted a less heavy option he might like a Byrnie made of Doeskin but forged with the endurance of a troll. Wulfhere thought that the Doeskin tunic might suit him well and offered his ability to dance. The Duergar conferred and agreed that this would be a suitable bargain. Brúni said that Wulfhere would never be able to dance again and if he was content with that then the deal was complete. Mótsognir said that they had been asked to make them a rope and he had just finished making it. Uthric said that he was unsure why he needed a rope and did not know if he could afford the price. Mótsognir said that the price had already been paid and the rope was a gift. He warned them that the rope was made from the hair of drowned maidens and that it was both thin and strong however they would be unable to take it back to Miðgarðr. Mótsognir said he believed it might come in useful in their travels. Dunstan thanked the Duergar and they bid them farewell. Wulfhere was pleased with his Doeskin tunic. It was light and flexible. He tried dancing some steps but tripped over his own feet and fell on the road cutting both knees. He tried dancing again and the same thing happened. He said he thought he still might have had the better of the bargain despite his inability to dance. The Hrothgarsons continued along the stone road and after a number of days saw that they were approaching a forest that stretched as far as they could see in either direction. The trees grew tall but were bent and gnarled. Uthric thought this was an old forest from the beginning of days. Dunstan tried to cut one of the branches but it blunted his seax and did not seem to make any impression on the tree. The path led through the middle of the forest and Uthric said that he did not see any point in putting off the journey. Wulfhere agreed and warned that they should not leave the path. They walked along the path but it was difficult to see under the trees. They could not tell if the darkness stopped them seeing or there was some spell that created a mist. They were aware of the noises, grunts, snuffling and crashes as of large creatures making their way through the undergrowth. Periodically eyes would stare at their foliage reflecting amber, green or vivid blue in some unseen light. The brothers were unnerved by the unseen creatures that watched from the shadows and they moved cautiously forward expecting an attack. Dunstan became very concerned about the creatures and started at any sudden noise. He impetuously ran after a sudden appearance of amber coloured eyes. His brothers tried to stop him but having failed to prevent him they felt they had no option but to follow him. The eyes flickered and disappeared but Dunstan continued to pursue where he thought they had gone. When Wulfhere and Uthric caught up with Dunstan, they were unsure where the path lay. Uthric suggested that they use the Duergar rope to try and methodically find their way back to the path. Wulfhere said he was reluctant to use the rope as he did not think that this was what it was given to them for and cutting it up could diminish its purpose. They made a guess at where the road lay and fortunately reached it after a short time. Wulfhere told Dunstan that he really needed to control his fears but he acknowledged that it might be because Dunstan still lacked a soul. They walked for several more days through the blackened forest and Dunstan resisted the urge to chase unknown beasts through the darkness. After another day, they became aware that something was following them. The pursuit seemed to be more than the infrequent watchers from the forest edges and the footfalls often mirrored their own, starting and stopping when they did. Eventually the pressure of their unseen foe became too much and they turned around to await their pursuer, locking their shields together. After waiting several hundred heartbeats they could see a tall shape that began to look less human as it came closer. Suddenly the creature began to run at them and Wulfhere shouted at his brothers to brace their spears to use the creatures speed against itself. However, the impact never happened. The creature jumped just before it reached them and cleared them, swivelling easily to block the road ahead. All three turned around and had just about set themselves as the creature attacked. Now that it was up close they saw that it was a gigantic wolf. The Wolf reared up on its hind legs and took on a more human posture. It moved swiftly and before any of the three men could advance it attacked Wulfhere who blocked its bite with his shield but almost fell with the force of the impact. Uthric stabbed it in the foreleg with his spear and Dunstan hit its forequarters. Wulfhere recovered from his stumble and hit the creature in the same leg as Uthric. The Wolf again attacked Wulfhere and although he blocked the hit, the force slammed his shield into his chest. The others hit it again and appeared to incapacitate its forearm and caused deep wounds in the chest and hindquarters. The creature attacked Wulfhere again for the third time and injured his abdomen but all three cut it badly with their spears and the creature collapsed. They were all exhausted after the fight and Wulfhere had several cuts from claws and fangs. They looked at the creature, wondering if it was a man in wolf shape or a wolf that could walk like a man. Dunstan noticed that its wounds seemed to be healing on their own and the creature seemed to be stirring. Wulfhere said he thought that if they had to fight this creature again that they might not survive the next encounter as they did not have the same ability to heal their wounds. They agreed the best thing was to try and outrun the wolf. They run as fast as they could but Wulfhere's injuries were hampering him and he tripped and fell. Dunstan and Uthric stopped and helped him to his feet. They could hear the sound of pursuit and ran again. It was possible that the creature was still wounded because they managed to keep well ahead, however they were becoming exhausted. Wulfhere said he was glad now he had not bargained for the Chainmail Byrnie became he could not have kept ahead of the wolf when he was wearing it. They could see the edge of the forest and tried to run faster. The Wolf was close but they kept ahead until they left the forest. The Wolf stopped at the forest edge and the brothers stopped too. Uthric said it was just as well the wolf did not pursue them as he did not think he could have run much further. Dunstan threw a piece of wood at the wolf but did not hit it. Uthric said he did not think the Wolf would be interested in fetching the piece of wood. Dunstan said that while he had not thought of distracting the Wolf like that it might have been a good strategy while they were fighting it. They bound Wulfhere's wounds and all recovered their breath. They could hear the wolf howling and its howls were answered by other howls. Uthric wondered why wolves did not bark but Dunstan said that he had heard wolves both bark and howl. He thought that the difference was like humans speaking and shouting. Wulfhere said that this was all very interesting but they should really get as far away from the forest as possible in case the wolf and his friends decided to come after them. They continued walking for several days until they arrived at a wide, black, turbid river. The river smelt of bitumen and sulphur. Every so often bubbles came to the surface and the foul stench was released. The road ended at an ancient jetty but there was no boat. They tried to see how wide the river was but the darkness and mist defeated their efforts. Wulfhere thought they should shout to attract the attention of a ferryman. They discussed if this might attract something dangerous but decided they needed to take the risk. Wulfhere shouted and they sat down to await whatever would appear. After several hours they saw a large fin approach. Wulfhere thought the fish must be the length of five grown men. The fish surfaced and hailed them. It said that its name was Torhtsige and thought it might be helpful to them if they wanted to cross the river. Dunstan said that he wasn't sure if he could trust such a large fish with sharp teeth. Dunstan wondered if there was alternative such as more conventional transport like a ferry. Torhtsige said that if only they had arrived earlier then there would have been more transport options. Sadly, the ferryman had recently been eaten and therefore those that needed to cross the river would have to rely on Torhtsige. Dunstan asked what had happened to the ferryman. Torhtsige said that he was embarrassed to admit that he had been ravenously hungry and unfortunately had eaten the ferryman and then because he had still been hungry he had eaten the ferry too. Uthric said that this did not forebode well if Torhtsige was to carry them across and get hungry again. Torhtsige said that he could vouch that, for now, he had eaten enough for the next few days and they would be safe, Dunstan said that Torhtsige did not really fill him with optimism. He asked the fish what he would get out of the transaction. Torhtsige said that despite his fearsome appearance, he actually liked helping people and that he would get joy and pleasure from taking them to the other side. Wulfhere thought that maybe the joy and pleasure might not be mutual and shared by all parties in the arrangement. Torhtsige admitted that he had originally been happy to take them over safely, but all the talk about eating things had made him hungry again. However, he could see that they were keen to get to the other side and he wanted to know how they would feel if he only ate one of them as payment for the journey. Dunstan said he did not feel that this was an acceptable bargain and that he could speak for his brothers in saying that, if it was alright with Torhtsige, they would wait to see if there were other methods of transport. Torhtsige said that he could understand their concern and he would leave them to it but would come back tomorrow to see if they had changed their minds. Uthric suggested they walk along the sides of the bank to see if there was another way across. They spent several hours searching to no avail. They returned to the jetty to see if they had missed any way of summoning the ferry. Dunstan thought there might have been something at the end of the pier which had been broken off recently. They tried using their spears to search in the river but it was too deep. As they were standing on the jetty they saw Torhtsige return. The fish was approaching rapidly and it was only too late that they saw it was his intent was to ram the jetty that they were standing on. They held onto the rail and braced themselves for the impact and watched in horror as Torhtsige began eating parts of the jetty. They all managed to get off the jetty without injury or falling into the water. Uthric threw his javelin at Torhtsige and it stuck upright near the fish’s tail. Torhtsige seemed a bit warier of coming closer to the shore after his encounter with Uthric’s javelin and circled out of throwing range. After a while Torhtsige appeared to grow bored or perhaps as Dunstan said that the old jetty did not taste as good as the fish had thought and he went off to get other food that did not use javelins. They waited several hours to make sure the fish had gone. Wulfhere said that he thought that there had been something at the end of the jetty that had fallen into the river and that he might be able to get it. He divested himself of armour and clothes and got into the dark water. It felt like creatures were swirling around him, touching his skin and he shuddered but despite his fear he dived beneath the surface. He followed the broken piles of the jetty down until he reached the bottom. The black water prevented him from seeing anything and also appeared to sap his strength and his ability to think. Wulfhere was beginning to forget why he was even in the water when his hand felt an object that must have been made by people. He grabbed it and kicked hard against the bottom of the river. He was so disorientated by the darkness that he was not sure that he was going the right way to the surface. Dunstan and Uthric were standing on the remains of the jetty anxiously looking at the dark water flow slowly by. Wulfhere's head appeared close to the jetty but before either could react he sank below the surface again. Dunstan reached down and managed to grab his brother and with the help of Uthric lifted him onto the jetty. Wulfhere did not move or say anything and they carried him back to the bank and wrapped him in a cloak. In Wulfhere's hand he held a brass bell but when they tried to get it off him, they could not release his grip. They sat and watched Wulfhere. They could see no injuries on his body and Dunstan concluded it must be the effect of the dark water. Hours passed and Wulfhere gradually recovered his senses. He was still unsure where he was and had some difficulty in accepting Dunstan and Uthric's story. He had no recollection of going into the water. Uthric said if that was the effect of the water then swimming across it was not the best idea anyone could have. As Wulfhere relaxed he was able to release his hold on the brass bell and Dunstan thought that they should ring it. Uthric said in his opinion it was unlikely that they could meet anything worse than they already had so that he might as well try it. Dunstan said he was not sure and thought there might be much worse things in this world and personally he had no desire to meet them. However, they agreed that there were no other options to get across the river. Dunstan rang it twice and they sat down beside Wulfhere to await whatever the bell summoned. Several more hours passed and Wulfhere seemed to be recovering. He still had no memory after their meeting with the Duergar. A voice hailed them from the river and they could dimly make out a man in a small boat three lengths off the jetty. Dunstan said that they were keen to get to the other side of the river, and requested if the man would be kind enough to help. The man said that they were in luck because he had come to ask them if they needed help but there was the small matter of payment. None of the brothers appeared to have any silver or ornaments and Uthric asked what price the man would like to charge. He said that it was usual to be charged a penny for the trip. Uthric said that if the man was willing they could give him items as none of them had silver. Dunstan offered his seax and Wulfhere offered his javelin. The man accepted both as payment. Uthric said that sadly he had lost his javelin only recently but the man said as Wulfhere had already given him a javelin he did not think he needed another one. Uthric said that he had a fine helmet taken as a spoil of war and he would be willing to trade it for passage across the river. The man agreed and said he was pleased with such an unusual helmet but when he tried it on, it was a tight fit. The man arranged the Hrothgarsons in his boat and advised them not to move too much in case they capsized. He began to scull across the river using a single oar at the rear of the craft. Uthric said he was curious about a fish called Torhtsige and asked the man if he knew the creature. The man said that he had run into Torhtsige from time to time and he had usually found him to be an irritating creature who often interfered with the job of running a ferry service. Uthric said that Torhtsige had mentioned that it had eaten the ferryman and the boat and he wondered what the man's opinion of the story was. The ferryman said that indeed Torhtsige's story was correct. He told them that periodically the huge fish would get hungry and eat both him and the boat. He could not say for sure what happened after that, but he always found himself afterwards on this boat by the jetty. When they got to the other side they thanked the old man for helping them. Uthric asked the old man if he often wore helmets because he did not think the helmet suited him. The old man was puzzled by Uthric's remarks and said while he acknowledged the helmet was too small and the nasal guard caught on his nose, it was nothing he could not get a friendly Duergar to fix for him. Uthric polished the blade of his seax and showed the old man his reflection. The old man said that he could see Uthric's point of view and that perhaps he should not wear it. Uthric said that he had no real interest in the discussion but was just trying to be helpful. The old man thought for a moment and said that in that case he would return the helmet to Uthric. He made Uthric try it on and then turn around. The old man said he was satisfied that he had done the right thing as he thought Uthric looked particularly splendid in the helmet. As they walked along the road Uthric asked Dunstan if he would have really got on the back of the fish. Dunstan said he did not think he would have because he could not trust such a large fish that had so many sharp teeth. Wulfhere wondered if things with sharp teeth were to be avoided in these worlds if they were to live a long life. The road continued for several days until they saw they were approaching a vast hall. As they got closer they could see that it perched on the side of a massive cliff. The cliff stretched away on either side of the Hall and they thought they had come to another test in their journey. They climbed the three steps to the platform before the main doors. Standing before the doors was an armoured Duergar. Around the eaves of the Hall were severed heads in various states of decay. Some were freshly severed and some were already skulls. Wulfhere introduced himself to the Duergar who called himself Skønnar. Skønnar welcomed them to Bölþorn's Hall. Uthric asked who Bölþorn might be and was Skønnar aware how they could get to the valley below. Skønnar said nothing but opened the double doors. They walked into the wide hall and saw a Jötunn drinking at the High Table. Bölþorn welcomed them and asked them to join him for a drink. He said he was pleased that they had come as he was becoming rather bored. Wulfhere said that they were keen to get to the valley below and if Bölþorn would show them how to get there, he would be grateful and also happy to help alleviate his boredom for a while. Bölþorn said that they could indeed help to alleviate his boredom by challenging him to a game. He had long ago decided that anyone entering his hall had to engage in a contest of knowledge. If Wulfhere won then he would find out how to reach the valley below. The loser whether it was Bölþorn or Wulfhere would have to submit to having his head chopped off. Bölþorn indicated a chopping block and a heavy bearded axe that was in the corner of the hall. The Hrothgarsons conferred together. Wulfhere was happy to attempt to win the contest but Dunstan said that they were here because he had lost his soul and he felt it was only right that it should be him that lost his head if the Jötunn won. Dunstan asked Bölþorn that if he lost the contest would Bölþorn then tell his brothers the way to the valley. Bölþorn said by rights that he should make each person challenge him for information but he had been in an excellent mood since Angrboða had recently given him good news and he accepted that no matter the outcome he would let the surviving bothers know how to get to the valley. Dunstan said he was satisfied with that and asked Bölþorn what the rules of the contest were. Bölþorn said that it was simple. Each person asked the other a question on any subject and if the other could not answer it then they had lost. The price of failure was to lose your head. Uthric asked Bölþorn if there might not be another forfeit as it all seemed very severe. Bölþorn said that the loser needed to lose their head in order that Bölþorn could gain their knowledge by eating the brain of the beheaded individual. He said he was not known as Etere Sundorcýþþe, the Eater of Knowledge, for no reason. Dunstan said that he had prepared a question for the Jötunn and he was sure that he would not know the answer and his brothers should not worry. The Jötunn sat down and took a long draught of his horn of ale. Dunstan asked Bölþorn if he knew what a clampit was. The Jötunn screwed up his face and thought. Dunstan smiled as he watched Bölþorn torture himself to try and remember what the word meant. Bölþorn finished his ale and called for Skønnar to refill the horn. It took him three horns before he decided that he would give an answer. Dunstan tried not to show impatience as he watched the Jötunn but he hoped this ordeal would be over soon. Bölþorn said eventually that the word was obviously local slang and strictly it therefore should be discounted. Dunstan said that although it was true that the word was slang, if Bölþorn had intended to object to it he should have said so at the beginning and not after hours of ruminating. Bölþorn agreed this was correct and conceded that he had been in error and was now trapped into making a guess. Wulfhere said that in his opinion Bölþorn had more than enough time to decide on an answer and he should hurry up about it. Bölþorn guessed that is meant something do with holding on but Dunstan said that the answer was incorrect. He told Bölþorn that it was an obscure word that he had first heard from an Irish king, called Diarmuid, who had used it to describe King Mark. Bölþorn was confused. He said it would have been impossible for him to know who these people were and the question was unfair. Dunstan said again that he should have objected at the start and now that the Jötunn had got it wrong he should tell them how to get the valley below. Bölþorn said that Skønnar would tell them but Dunstan would now have to visit the forfeit on him by chopping his head off. Dunstan said he was reluctant to do so to his host but Bölþorn said that if he didn't do it then his own head and those of his brothers would forfeit instead. Dunstan could barely lift the great axe that Bölþorn gave him and it took him a while to grow accustomed to the weight while Bölþorn waited patiently kneeling at the block. Dunstan said he was prepared to show the Jötunn mercy but Bölþorn stopped him and said that it was important to keep to the rules of the game. Dunstan struck with force and chopped the Jötunn's head off. Immediately the doors to the hall opened and Skønnar came in. He motioned to the Hrothgarsons and took them through a door hidden in the shadows at the back of the Hall. He opened another door and advised them that the steps leading downwards would take them on their journey. Uthric was last to leave the main Hall and when he looked back, he thought he could see the Jötunn’s body looking for its head which appeared to have rolled into a corner. Uthric drew Skønnar's attention to his master's plight and the Duergar excused himself and went to the aid of Bölþorn. Wulfhere said that they should hurry. He was not at all convinced that they would be so lucky with a return match if they were challenged to another contest. He asked Dunstan what a clampit was and Dunstan told him it was an Irish word for feckless. The steps came out in the valley at the bottom of the cliff. They stood in a dreary country and could hear the sound of waves crashing on a shore which as they walked never seemed far away. They could not see the sea and did not dare leave the road to find out what was at the shore. As they walked along they could see in the distance a massive Hall that was curiously built. As they got closer they could hear screams of people in agony. Wulfhere said they needed to be careful and they approached cautiously. The door was open and the air was acidic and hurt their lungs to breath in. They could see hundreds of people writhing in agony inside. The Hall was bigger than they first thought. The screams died down for a moment and there was an eerie quietness as the occupants stared at the roof. Dunstan tried to see what they were looking at when the inside of the thatched roof began moving. The people inside started moving as large snake like creatures started to drip poison on those below. The screams started again as the poison hit the people on the ground and a fierce fire tore up from the floor to engulf everyone. Dunstan was forced back from the door by the heat. It is not a good idea to enter the building said a voice. All three Hrothgarsons looked to see who had spoken and a man stepped from the shadows. Uthric asked what kind of place this was, who owned the Hall and who the people were who were inside. The man said they were leæce- killers, murderers and oath-breakers, rapists and those that had committed adultery. The Hall was called Nastrønd's Hall and the people would be tortured forever became of their crimes. Wulfhere asked if the man knew if they had to go into the Hall to continue on their way but the man said that no-one voluntarily went into that Hall. If they wished to continue along the road he suggested that they might want to go around the back of the building and pick up the road at that point. The man asked why living men had come to Nastrønd. Dunstan explained that a leæce called Hereweard had sent them here to get his soul back after he had had it stolen. The man nodded and said that he thought that was unfortunate. Wulfhere was interested if the man could give any advice to which the man replied he would only be too pleased to help but that they might not like his answer. Dunstan said that he thought at this stage there were no answers that were pleasant. The man said this was probably true and in that case they needed to continue and must complete their journey to regain Dunstan’s soul. He told them to travel for ten days until they came to Yggdrasil, the One Tree. At the roots of Yggdrasil lives the dragon, Níðhǫgg, who they must battle for Dunstan's soul. They should be careful of Níðhǫgg as he is very devious and likes nothing better than to trick people into making wrong choices. Níðhǫgg spends his time sucking the blood from the living dead and gnawing the roots of Yggdrasil. Wulfhere agreed with the man and said he had been correct, it had not been pleasant to hear his words. Wulfhere thanked him for his advice and they set off. Inside the Hall it was again quiet and they were thankful because the screams were unnerving. As they drew level with the door a man from inside hailed them and asked them to save him. Dunstan stared in horror when he recognised Garm the former Þegn of Cælctun. The man from the shadows warned them that they should not interfere with those who suffer in the Nastrønd. Uthric took Dunstan by the arm and they continued around the side of the Hall. They seemed to walk for days before they reached the back of the Hall and found the road coming out of another door. Wulfhere wondered if they had got lost and were at the same point they had been days ago, but Dunstan thought the landscape looked different and so they continued along the road. After five days walking they could see a massive tree in the distance that rose to such a height that its crown was lost in the clouds. As they got closer the size of the One Tree became apparent. They could also smell death and it became so strong that it felt that the air also tasted of death. At the base of the tree was an enormous dragon coiled several times around the roots. The rest of the body of the dragon stretched away into the mist. Níðhǫgg was sucking blood noisily from a pile of bodies and afterwards he had finished with the body he tossed it aside to two waiting wolves who then ripped the bodies apart before eating them. The Hrothgarsons were not sure what to do or how to approach the Dragon. Wulfhere said that it might be good to start with introductions and then ask Níðhǫgg about Dunstan's soul. Dunstan waited until the dragon had finished eating and introduced himself. Níðhǫgg watched him closely as he spoke and Dunstan had to look away as he found his thoughts had become confused. Níðhǫgg said he had many souls in his keeping but he was sure that after they each had fought a contest of willpower with him he could sort out which soul was the right one. Dunstan said that it did not sound like an equal contest. Níðhǫgg said that Dunstan was correct in his thinking and if he did not want to accept the contest he was free to leave. Dunstan talked it over with his brothers. Wulfhere said that this is what they had come to do and they should not back down now. Uthric agreed and said he would happily face the dragon if Dunstan was afraid. Dunstan said that he would go first as it was his fault they were about to have a contest with Níðhǫgg. He looked into Níðhǫgg’s eyes and felt himself being dragged into blackness. He looked away and felt his sight clear again. Níðhǫgg laughed and told Dunstan that he would suffer serious consequences if he ever took a prisoner. Dunstan asked what sort of consequences he would be likely to suffer. Níðhǫgg reminded him of Nastrønd’s Hall and said that those that broke a geas would be brought alive to Nastrønd for judgement. He told Dunstan that he would have to try better or suffer further consequences. Dunstan steeled himself and looked again into Níðhǫgg's eyes. This time Dunstan managed to keep his mind focused against the Dragon. Eventually Dunston broke eye contact and staggered backwards. Níðhǫgg said to Dunstan that he was impressed that he was able to hold out so long, and rewarded him with knowledge of how to fight with a spear. Uthric said that he had best go next. He stood in front of the Níðhǫgg and forced himself to look into the dragon's eyes. He immediately lost all sense of himself and had to look away. The dragon laughed again and told him that he would never again be able to refuse anyone who asks something of him directly. The dragon waited while Uthric prepared himself for another attempt by casually gnawing on one of the writhing bodies at the foot of Yggdrasil. When Uthric had composed himself, he signalled to Níðhǫgg that he was ready. He looked again into the dragon’s eyes but this time he focused on Meire and that helped him to survive the pull of the darkness. The Dragon released Uthric and said that he thought that Uthric had been clever to keep a focus on his wife. Níðhǫgg rewarded him with knowledge of how to lead men in battle. Wulfhere was reluctant and said that he would prefer not to face the dragon. Uthric told him to concentrate on something important to him like Bronwyn. He stood in front of the Dragon and signalled he was ready. Wulfhere felt that he was getting sucked into darkness. He tried to focus on anything but his mind was blank and he had to break contact. Níðhǫgg laughed and told him to try again. Wulfhere again felt himself getting lost in darkness so he broke contact. Níðhǫgg said that Wulfhere would now have two taboos. If he wanted to gain something Níðhǫgg offered Wulfhere a chance for another attempt to keep control of himself but Wulfhere thought that it was unlikely he would succeed. Wulfhere asked Níðhǫgg what the consequences of his failures were and the dragon told him that he would always have to obey Leæces and never use a javelin against a woman. Níðhǫgg warned the Hrothgarsons that if they broke their taboos he would come looking for them and they would offer the same fate as the bodies he sucked dry. Dunstan said they had challenged the dragon and that if Níðhǫgg didn't mind he would like to be reunited with his soul as he had suffered from its loss. Níðhǫgg pointed to two black cats and said that reuniting with his soul might be another challenge. He said Dunstan would have to make a choice of either black cat or he could ask the wolves for help if he preferred. The dragon told him that one wolf would always lie and the other would always tell the truth. Moreover, if Dunstan chose to ask the wolves he could only could ask one wolf a single question. Dunstan said that he would like to confer with his brothers if Níðhǫgg did not mind. Uthric said that the answer was simple and he had heard a similar riddle at last year’s Yule festival. Dunstan just had to ask one wolf which soul the other wolf would choose in order for Dunstan to get the right soul back. Uthric said no matter which soul they pointed to, all Dunstan had to do was choose the other one. Neither Dunstan nor Wulfhere could follow the logic but Uthric said that he was certain he was right. Dunstan said he trusted his brother and did as Uthric told him, choosing the soul that was not indicated by the wolf. Níðhǫgg asked Dunstan if he was sure he wanted that soul and since he was in a kind mood he would allow him to change his mind. Dunstan said that he had made his choice and the black cat jumped into his stomach. While Dunstan made his choice and was re-united with his soul, Uthric watched a large red squirrel that was perched on a branch of Yggdrasil and seemed interested in the proceedings. Uthric went over to the squirrel and introduced himself and asked if perhaps he might ask it some questions. The squirrel seemed pleased to be noticed and said he would be happy to help after he had delivered a message to Níðhǫgg. As soon as Dunstan had decided what soul he wanted the squirrel hopped down from the branch that he was perched on and whispered in Níðhǫgg’s ear. The dragon responded by biting chunks out of the roots of Yggdrasil and lashed his tail which caused mild tremors in the ground. The wolves gave up eating one of the still writhing corpses discarded by Níðhǫgg and moved further away for safety. The large squirrel hopped over to the Hrothgarsons. It introduced itself as Ratatoskr. Ratatoskr said that his job was to convey messages between the eagle and stag and Níðhǫgg but he was very interested why living humans were in Nastrønd. Uthric said that his brother, Dunstan, had come to get his soul and now that they had found it they needed to get home. Ratatoskr was interested in that story but wondered if he might be of any help to get them home. He said that Níðhǫgg seemed to be preoccupied in gnawing roots and was unlikely to help and no-one in their right mind would ever trust the wolves became they were impossible to tell apart and one always lied and one always told the truth. Uthric said that he would be grateful if Ratatoskr could help tell the brothers how to get back to Hambladensted. Ratatoskr said that he didn't think Hambladensted was one of the nine worlds and that it might be better to be a little less specific about where they wanted to go. For instance, he suggested they might want to say to Aelfheim or Niflheim or perhaps Muspelheim. Wulfhere said that although all these places might be interesting in their own right they would prefer to return to Miðgarðr. Ratatoskr thought in that case they might have two options. One would be to follow the road back the way they had come and overcome each challenge again. The drawback with this option was that the way had been opened by someone and there was a possibility it might have since closed. Dunstan said that he wasn't sure that it would turn out well if they went back the same way. He thought that if there was another option it might be one that he and his brothers might want to take. Ratatoskr said the other option was that they might want to get to Miðgarðr by climbing Yggdrasil. The Hrothgarsons looked at each other and agreed that although climbing such a height could be dangerous it was likely to be the only option. Ratatoskr nodded and said that the climb was long and arduous but he found it relatively easy because he had four feet all of which could cling to branches whereas he recognised that they only had two and that was likely to make things more difficult. Ratatoskr said of course that he would need payment to help as nothing should ever be for free and he was providing a service. Wulfhere said that they really didn’t have much they could give the squirrel. Ratatoskr smiled and said that what he had in mind they seemed to have plenty of. He said that he dealt in information and would be pleased if they could tell him stories of things that they had encountered on their travels. Dunstan said he was happy with such a bargain. Wulfhere said that they could increase their chance of success by using the rope that the Duergar had made for them. With that it was agreed and they set off climbing with Ratatoskr as a guide. It took them ten days of climbing with many slips and falls but fortunately no lasting injuries as the rope stopped them from falling far. On the way, the brothers took it in turns to tell Ratatoskr tales of their lives that he thought he might be interested in. Ratatoskr was most interested in Offa’s ale and was keen that should they ever return that he would like it very much if they could bring a skin. Uthric promised he would. Eventually they reached a branch that Ratatoskr said would lead to Miðgarðr. They crawled along the branches until they were able to see clouds. Ratatoskr told them to jump and they would end up in their physical bodies. They woke on top of a wooden platform, sore and wet from a recent shower of rain. There was no-one to greet them or give them food. Wulfhere said that from now on Dunstan needed to be careful with his soul. He was not sure he could survive another episode like that.
  14. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). (Another note: we didn’t have another session this last weekend because I was sick and Androgenus’s player’s partner had a death in the family, so I’m posting the rest of our last session now--sorry for the delay!) DRAMATIS PERSONAE Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss. She holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Right now, she’s also finding that staying conscious is just as hard, but more on that later. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. Creator of Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™, and now seriously considering adding his fellow adventurers to the list after being captured by mythic Sun Empire soldiers. In fact, the party got their butts handed to them so badly by the onrushing troopers that he did the previously unthinkable and surrendered! Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They’ve found themselves trapped in Myth with the rest of their companions, and capture by Sun Empire soldiers who sense a strange, unknown (to them) power in the weird little Trickster. They’re utterly convinced that their “best friend Waddlestomp” (their own words) will come save them--despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. And, of course: K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude). A warrior priest of Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, K'dud holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. Though and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it, renaming his core trait Volcano Himbo. And he’s going to make good use of that trait in the second part of this session… ...because we came back to the action (after the first half of the session’s argument over whether or not a Hueymakti warrior would ever surrender) with Iris drowning in a sacred pool beneath an enslaved river-dragon, and K’dud (barely) fighting off fish spirits under the command of, to his astonishment, the same Merfolk hero that the PCs had thought they’d slain in the last session! Stunned by this revelation, K’dud failed in a contest against the hero (using his Fire rune versus the hero’s Water rune) and was trapped in a bubble of crushing, ice-cold water. The Merfolk introduced himself...and I realized with horror that I forgot to name a critical NPC. Immediately, Androgenus’s player suggested “Fssh,” after a fish-man barbarian hero from a Dungeon World livestream performed by the Canadian comedy group LoadingReadyRun. Everyone groaned. They then suggested “Bruce,” after the shark from Finding Nemo, and decided to try a supposedly Australian accent that sounded more vaguely South African than anything else. Everyone groaned louder. Then Iris’s player suggested “Sashimi,” and weirdly enough, everyone agreed. Thus, the Merfolk hero was named S’shiim, holder of the Water, Storm, Death, and Mastery runes, hero of the vile, slimy, fangly-jawed Ysabbau, Breaker of Ships, Drowner of Cities, and current questor for Magasta. Well, to put more of a fine point on it, questor for Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and spouse of Magasta. I gave Iris a Hero Point for coming up with the name, which she promptly used to barely regain consciousness and struggle to shore while S’shiim was distracted with the fire priest. “What do you want from us?! Why harry us like this, fishman?!” exclaimed K’dud. “Me?!” burbled S’shiim, “You worthless dirt-crawlers are hunting me through my people’s most sacred story! Your interference will ruin everything!” “Huh?” asked K’dud, rolling (and getting a decent success with) his Volcano Himbo Trait to convince S’shiim to monologue about what’s going on and give the heroes an exposition dump. Meanwhile, (as I cut back to Androgenus and Waddlestomp and made the other two players groan with anticipation), Waddlestomp and Androgenus were being brought to the island’s governor, Iramat. Androgenus was in fiery chains, Waddlestomp was being warily surrounded by soldiers, but otherwise unmolested. The bickering twosome were dragged before Iramat’s marble throne in the center of a garishly-painted, palatial villa overlooking the waterfall (which, close up, could be seen to be a captured Water Dragon!). I described the throne “room” as an opulent, gold-and-jewel-set pavilion of sorts, with two sides open to the courtyard, one to the cliffside, and one leading deeper into the palace. It was the governor’s meditation garden as well as seat of governance, with a rock garden, reflecting pool (in fact a spring, with a small stream flowing out from it that left the throne room and rushed forth to join the raging cataract beyond), and elegant mural depicting Yelm’s Celestial Court and the birth of a solar deity. “Barbarian filth,” drawled the governor, barely able to look up from the sand painting he was working on, “You stand accused of violating the sanctity of Secret Cradle Island. Before executing you, have you anything to say?” “Secret what nrrfghg--” began Androgenus, before being gagged by the nearest guard. They glared at the guard, struggling against the chains. “We apologize, O mighty lord,” quacked Waddlestomp, to Iramat’s evident amusement, “But we had no idea where we were. Our ship was run aground of the reef during a storm, and we came ashore to gather supplies and repair our vessel before continuing on. We meant no trespass.” I had Waddlestomp roll his Truth rune’s breakout ability Zone of Truth versus Iramat’s Arrogant Sun Empire Bureaucrat ability, and Waddlestomp scored a respectable success. Showing his Truth rune shining forth, Iramat scratched at his beard and considered this. “You speak truly….obviously, but still, I know not why a….mutated Keet? Whatever you are, you and your….” Iramat stared quizically at Androgenus. “Pleasure slave?” Waddlestomp managed to choke back a violent response (with a bare success against his Humakti Geas: Suffer No Insult Without Violence Flaw, as Waddlestomp would see any intimation that he would be intimate with any human, much less this human, as a deadly insult) and Androgenus went from grumbling to laughing uproariously behind their gag. “...or whatever they are, you have no right to come here. By decree from the Sun Himself, any but those without his personal authorization on this island must die. It has ever been thus since the creation of this island. I see no harm in telling you, for you will die anyway, I suppose: in ancient days, Yelm once favored a concubine called Tihs, a minor goddess no people pray to in these times. Yelm’s affection sparked vicious jealousy among his Court, who sought to hurt the object of his affection since they could not hurt Him. When Tihs was with child, she was hidden away—here—and though she died bringing the Forgotten Sun into the world, neither she nor the holy child were ever found by their enemies. To this day, the most important treasures of the Golden Empire have been hidden here. Any outsiders must be slain, by order of the Sun Himself.” Waddlestomp considered this. It certainly explained all the finery around the place, and the heavy guard. ...meanwhile, at the bottom of the cliff… Exasperated (and somewhat entranced by) K’dud’s handsome cluelessness, S’shiim launched into the story of How Magasta Won the Hand of Brastalos. Before the Sea claimed the world, Magasta was alone, and sought companionship. No lord or lady of His domain would join with him as his spouse, or even his mate. Magasta loved many, but few loved him in return. Then he met Brastalos. (“Who?” “Shut up and the merperson will tell us, K’dud.” “Oh.”) Lady of the No-Wind, Queen of the Cyclone, Daughter of the First Storm, Spray-Twinkling, Still-And-Moving, Umath’s paradox daughter. Magasta saw her frolicking in the clouds above his domain and knew he had to have her. Singing a song of roaring beauty that reminded her of her own lusty brothers’ cries, Brastalos came to the edge of Magasta’s waters and sang back. The two loved one another from their first glance. Magasta desired her for his spouse, not merely a mate of convenience. Brastalos desired this, too, but knew that proud Umath would not consent to give his daughter to an upstart Water Lord. “But there is another way,” said fair Brastalos. (“Wait, I thought ‘there is always another way’ is an Earth Goddess thing?” “That’s a lot of gods’ thing, K’dud. Shut up.”) Magasta whistled in confusion. “The Bad Emperor seeks stillness in all things, and punishes my father by stripping his greatest treasures from him. He refuses to allow the Air People to have a place in the way of things. To cow my father and my brothers, he took our peoples’ regalia to a secret place. Find the treasure stolen by the Sky People. With it, my bride price will be paid, and my father shall have no choice but to let us claim one another. Brastalos accepted this, and with a kiss soft as a breeze set off to reclaim his love’s treasure from the Sky People. Foolishly, they set their dirt-loving hovels at the edge of His domain to taunt him. With crashing waves and rushing torrent, he drowned them, swept their huts into the sea, and picked through the remains. He found a few baubles, but not a treasure worthy of the Storm. Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things-- (“Wait, I thought Merfolk’d like boats, ‘cause, well, they’re water things, right? Both of them are water things?” “...Neither of us have time to explain how wrong that is right now. Shut up..” “But--” “Shut Up!” “Thank you, S’shiim.” “Don’t mention it. Now where was I? Ah, yes…”) Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things across Magasta’s realm, furtively sneaking treasure stolen from other peoples they had oppressed for too long. Magasta went in search of the boats, led by the young scouts of the Gull People. He called Six-Mouthed-Deep to devour the boats of Admiral Savatilan and spit the treasure out into Magasta’s grotto, but no Air treasures were to be found. He chased the flagship helmed by Captain Never-Runs-From-Battle into the Dragon Eye Atoll and sucked it down to the seabed, but although the cargo was rich with strange spices and pelts, it had no Air treasures. Finally, Keehar, youngest scout of the Gull People, found a ship hidden by powerful magic. It was found by looking at where a ship should have been, but wasn’t. Magasta called his kinsman Charax, he of the many rows of teeth, and bade him chase the ship to its destination. Charax did so, but the captain was too wily, and sailed in a wide circle around the port they sought until Charax got tired and swam away to seek prey. Magasta howled in frustration--if the Gull People could only barely find the ship, if his fearsome cousin couldn’t track it, and if they wouldn’t stay still to meet him in battle, then how could he find the bride price? He wept, and hearing his sobs, Brastalos stood at the edge of his realm and sang. She sang of lost hope, of a happy life with Magasta that may not be, of her rage at how she was kept from having a place in the cosmos--not only by Yelm the Bad Emperor, but by her father, Umath. The rage in her song became a storm, and the storm trapped the treasure ship on a reef just before it reached its destination. Magasta and his warriors stormed the ship and found one of the treasures, Umath’s favorite arm-ring. The others had already been hidden away, but Magasta learned from the captain where they had gone: Secret Cradle Island, where a forgotten solar god was hidden as he was born. No island was hidden from Magasta. He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon-- (“Wait, this dragon?” “Yes, that dragon, now shut the hell up!”) He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place-- (“I’m sorry, but how in Magasta’s holy name can you stand travelling with this man?” “He’s handsome, and he punched a hole all the way through your chest like it was nothing.” “....Fair point. Where was I?” “The dragon?” “What dragon? Oh, that dragon. The dragon. Yes. A-hem:”) He befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place. Its name was Oraka, and it was the dragon of a secret spring deep under the Earth. A creature of great Darkness and Water, the island’s governor cruelly forced it out into the light to serve as would a hermit crab use an anemone growing on its shell. Magasta took pity on the great beast, and with a mighty pull snapped the chains binding to dragon to the cliff side. In gratitude, Oraka swore a life debt to the lord of the deeps. He let Magasta swim up him to his source, where the governor had reshaped a holy spring to a reflecting pool for his own vanity. The greedy governor, puffed up with his own self-importance, was set to guard Yelm’s most coveted treasures, here on an island that nobody knew of. He saw himself as Yelm’s most trusted servant, and his arrogance knew no bounds. But yet, he was bored. Guarding a treasure hoard that was not sought after led to no challenges save wringing recognition from a distant Emperor, and he always craved distraction. Wily Magasta, hidden in the spring, took on the form of a beautiful water nymph. He sung a song that inflamed the governor’s lust, and, beguilingly, called the governor to tryst with him in the spring. The jaded man leapt into the water, where Magasta drowned him and stepped out from the spring, wearing his shape. Magasta then had the governor’s guards lead him to the vault. There, he found astounding wealth! Treasures robbed or extorted as tribute from all manner of the world’s peoples and gods. There was Lodril’s first Spear, still smoldering with heat. There was the Crown of Mastery, surging with such power that even Emperor Yelm could not wear it without risk. There were Rastalos’s Rings, used by the primeval trickster to amuse the Celestial Court. And, of course, in pride of place, was Umath’s tribal regalia, as cold as the wind, as bright as lightning. Magasta took the treasures he sought and fled the palace, leaping atop Oraka as the palace guards found the drowned corpse of their lord. Magasta’s laughter and Oraka’s roars of rage sunk the island beneath the sea, drowning the Sky People and their stolen treasures forevermore. Magasta rode Oraka across the sky to Umath’s grotto, where he was greeted coldly by his son Storm-Thane and belligerently by his other son Hurt-Everything. “I have come for the hand of Brastalos!” He called, and when the Air gods laughed, he threw Umath’s stolen treasures at their feet. “I offer a bride price: your honor, so long ago taken from you by the Bad Emperor.” Umath scowled, for he was loathe to let his daughter marry such a lowly Water lord, for such was Magasta at this time. “Trinkets cannot buy the heart of my daughter,” he growled, and made to turn his back. Storm-Thane saw his sister’s dismay, and said, “I guess we won’t be getting the Bag of Winds back, father. Oh, or the Widebrew Cauldron, too, we’ll miss that at feasts. And oh, look! You’re rather generously allowing Magasta to keep your favorite arm-ring, the one that duplicates itself every season?” Umath made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and looked at Brastalos, who was beaming at Magasta with loving pride. “They are beneath you,” he rumbled, like a thunderclap. “And they always will be,” whispered Brastalos, taking Magasta’s hand, “But they will ever be my equal. The fates of Sea and Storm will forevermore be joined, for good or ill.” Umath saw that he could not disobey his daughter’s heart-wish, and allowed the match. Magasta took Brastalos to their grotto. Although she could not stand to live beneath the Water, she ever stayed near her spouse, circling around him as currents encircle the whirlpool. And there she remains to this day. “That was...beautiful…” breathed K’dud, after a while. Then he looked confused. “But what does it have to do with—“ Iris groaned and slapped her forehead. “The myth, you, you—rragrh! We’re stuck in the myth! S’Shiim was—is—heroquesting to re-enact the myth, this myth, the story of Brastalos’s Bride Price, yes?” “Yes,” Burbled S’shiim, still staring at K’dud incredulously. “The attack on your ship was when my lord Magasta attacked the hidden ship in a storm, and found the location of Secret Cradle Island. Though you fended us off and wounded me terribly, I still learned of the island. And now, I must navigate the rest of this sacred story with you dirtcrawlers in the flotsam, messing everything up.” “Oh. Oh,” said K’dud, realization dawning. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry! How can we help?” S’shiim and Iris looked at him, dumbfounded. I had K’dud roll for his Volcano Himbo Trait again, opposed by S’shiim’s Haughty Merfolk Hero Trait, and he got a critical success against a critical failure! Despite himself, S’shiim began laughing. He couldn’t help but like the empty-headed firehunk, and said, “I...I don’t know. But any assistance you can grant in freeing the dragon so I may resume the story would be gratefully accepted. I admit, the wounds you dealt me almost threw me from the storypath. And now—“ All of a sudden, there was an almighty roar, and the water dragon thrashed above— —as the governor of the island called Oraka to heel. I moved the action back a few minutes, and gave the PCs a chance to explain themselves. Waddlestomp had decided that blunt honesty was the best way of things. “We were traveling by ship to a distant land,” he said, “And were attacked by merfolk. Water people,” he continued, looking at the governor’s incredulous expression. “They stranded us on the reef out there—“ he pointed a wing to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir!, now surrounded by Golden Empire longboats bearing warriors, “—And we came ashore only to gather supplies before heading on.” “Ah, the cargo ship,” said Iramat, the myth easily slotting the She’s One Of Ours, Sir into the role of the treasure ship. “Bearing the latest addition to the vault. Why didn’t you say?” “Cargo...ship?” Asked Waddlestomp, looking at Androgenus, who wordlessly gestured for the Duck to play along. “Right. Yes. Cargo ship. The ship indeed carries cargo, and we are here,” finished Waddlestomp, lamely. “Yes. If you had but sent word, you would have received aid, not spears. Now...water people, you say? They attacked you?” Waddlestomp nodded. “Ah. In that case, there is a risk, however slight, that they have tracked you here. No matter, however. Let me call the guard—“ and with a wave of his hand, the waterfall started falling upwards, spraying ice-cold water over the palace. Oraka’s chains tightened, the dragon RRROOOOAAARRED, and reared above the palace, circling it in midair, sniffing and snuffling for signs of intruders. “Oraka, the dragon of this place. He serves Yelm now, as do we all. He shall find these water people, and devour them! Have no fear, little Keet. Your diligence does you credit.” Below, S’shiim started screaming in anguish. We ended the session there, on a cliffhanger, and me desperately trying to figure out where to take the game from here.
  15. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They are attempting to explore the mysteries of Illumination without a teacher—without any type of teacher—and are beginning to wonder whether or not existence is worth all the trouble. They’re also being watched very closely by... Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. His quest to avenge his people has hit a small speed bump while he’s been pressganged into helping Iris conquer the Three Step Isles (see below). In the meantime, his patented Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™ has just gained a new member: Androgenus, after the cowardly Trickster abandoned him in the middle of a merfolk fight last session. Currently mourning the loss of his enchanted shield in that same fight, and nursing some serious wounds. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also his sons Gustbran and Kalvan. He holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes, and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it—and renamed his core Trait in the process. More on that later. And last but certainly not least: Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss, who holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Plus, she’s also having to deal with a smuggler captain who blames her and her alone for getting their ship stranded in the middle of someone else’s mythos... That’s right, this session opened in the God Time. I revealed that right at the start by calling for everyone to roll against their strongest Runes, with the possible consequences for failure being that they’d be even more confused by what was about to happen than normal. Everyone passed—except K’dud, which became a running theme. Therefore, everyone except K’dud twigged onto what was going on and where they were immediately. As the red sun dawned over multicolored, shimmering waves, wind spirits and fish spirits visibly dancing about them, everyone (including most of the NPCs present on their ship, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir), except K’dud, realized they were not in the material world, but in the Godplane! Iris got it first: they were probably sucked into the God Time during the storm, which did seem even more violent and magical than usual. Her Spirit Rune glowed brightly, showing that they were closer to the spirits, clueing her into the magic all around her. Then Androgenus understood another nugget of what was going on with his Beggar background Trait, he recognized snippets of a story he’d heard from Triolini dock workers in his youth. He recalled the tale of Magasta, God of the Seas, fighting the Fire Tribe, plundering treasure ships and coastal settlements for the bride-price of Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and Sea Storms. The last session’s fight against the merfolk during the storm, and the island they were marooned in front of, both seemed familiar to them somehow, but they couldn’t recall any more details other than that they were definitely trapped somewhere in a merfolk myth. Then Waddlestomp, with his Death Rune affinity, sensed the presence of another great dealer of Death—the Merfolk Hero from the battle, still somehow alive, despite the grievous wounds that K’dud had inflicted on him! He advised the rest of the party to be wary-that kind of Hero seldom leaves a task unfinished, particularly if they got swept up into a Heroquest. Meanwhile, K’dud stared overboard and gawked at the brilliantly-colored fish flitting around the oyster-covered reef below. He was interrupted by the ship’s captain. The damage to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir had been repaired in such a way that the boat was literally pinned in place by a chunk of oystery coral; more extensive repairs were required to actually move the ship, which would take materials that just weren’t on hand. The mythical tropical island laid out before them, however, looked like it had plenty of wood, fresh water, and perhaps food. Everyone knew the risks inherent in foraging—for supplies in the God World—travel is dangerous even if you knew the story you are traveling through. Going blind through another culture’s myths? That was tantamount to very incompetent suicide. But they needed to do it. The adventurers set out in a longboat for shore with a work party of sailors; they were looking for fresh water, some food, and enough timber to repair the ship. Waddlestomp made sure that he was sitting riiiiiight next to Androgenus, so the Trickster didn’t start any funny business. “I don’t know what’s on that island, but I swear by Hueymakt’s cloaca that when shit goes down, if you so much as twitch wrong, Androgenus,” muttered Waddlestomp out of the corner of his beak, “You die first. Get me?” Androgenus nodded and smiled, apparently happy to hear it. “Glad to know you’re back to normal. How’s the arm?” They responded. Waddlestomp’s arm had been impaled by the merfolk Hero the previous session. “All the better for you to mind your own business, mammal,” grunted the thane, giving Androgenus the world’s biggest stink-eye. (The players cracked up at this: Waddlestomp’s player acted this out through his webcam and everyone started making jokes about The Rock that went on for about thirty minutes.) The boat made landfall with nary a sound on an isolated, picturesque beach. Iris Called Up Local Spirits (swiftly becoming her favorite stunt), secretly opposed by the watchful eyes of the island’s mythic guardians. With a marginal failure, she learned where a good supply of fresh water would be—the base of the waterfall that could be seen from the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, and furthermore that the pool had a decent population of fish for the ship’s larder. Iris led the way, tailed by K’dud (who kept gawping at everything with a slack jawed “Gosh!” Every few minutes). Androgenus and Waddlestomp stayed behind to help out the smugglers and hoplites that were busy chopping down a decent-sized tree that stood a few yards back from the beach’s treeline. Androgenus managed a critical success against their Paranoid flaw, so we ruled that they were jumpy, but justifiably so—they could tell that they were being watched by something, and not just the local spirits. They alerted Waddlestomp, who grudgingly stood on guard as well, contemptuous as he was of the Trickster’s flighty antics. As the crew got to work knocking down the tree, they were proven right! Out of the trees, a band of gold-armored, flame-armed warriors sprang, instantly cutting down a handful of the workmen and putting the others to rout. As the crew fled down the beach and Waddlestomp met burning bronze with killing Truesword, we “cut” to Iris, K’dud, and their crew contingent. Iris led them to an eerily tranquil pool underneath a roaring waterfall. Roaring, as it so happened, because it was actually an enormous Water Dragon, chained to the cliff with ropes of pure dancing sunlight! Immediately, they were set upon by a trio of fish spirits that leapt up from the pool. K’dud’s Bronze Arms Style (tied to his Fire rune) burned away two of the fish, but not before the third savaged Iris with snapping jaws and razor-edged fins. The moss priestess was knocked into the pool, barely conscious and no doubt doomed to drown... ...And we cut back to Waddlestomp and Androgenus. Androgenus got a solid success with their Luck rune's breakout ability Clumsy Curse against the onrushing soldiers, making many of them drop their weapons and shields in their charge down the beach. Waddlestomp used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to great effect, laying many of the soldiers low and holding their attention long enough for the She's One Of Ours, Sir's crew to escape back to the longboats and row hard for the reef. But it wasn't quite enough--Androgenus found themself swiftly found by soldiery searching the trees, surrounded with a flaming spearheads, then wrapped in scintillating chains of fiery light. Waddlestomp merely took a good luck at the wave after wave of fire-clad, weirdly identical warriors that were streaming down the beach towards him, and did the unthinkable for a Hueymakti warrior: He laid down his sword and surrendered. This started a bit of an out-of-character argument, and also was the midpoint of our session. I'll recap the other half of the session soon! We took a mid-session break with Iris struggling for consciousness in a deep, dark pool, K'dud barely fending off fish spirits, Androgenus and Waddlestomp captured, and four players arguing vehemently about whether or not Waddlestomp's god would let him surrender.
  16. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. Being hunted like a beagle puppy in an Orlanthi tula for whatever remnants of that power they might possess. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss (we finally came up with a name for the Moss Goddess! She’s named after a genera of rather unusual mosses first found in the Himalayas). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris, having wanted power and prestige amongst the Esrolians for her entire life, now finds herself being given very little of the first and a lot of the second—she’s Queen of the Three Step Isles now. That and a few pounds of silver’ll buy you a cow, though... Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. His plans of war and conquest are being put on temporary hold by the journey to the Three Step Isles, and boy is he unhappy about it! Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He wields an enchanted shield originally crafted by the Square Circle Temple. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also an initiate into the cults of Gustbran and Kalvan as well. He holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. He is a master of the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul schools of unarmed combat, and seeks to help his people navigate the uncertain future after Belintar's death. To this end, he's following Iris and her band of misfits to the Three Step Isles. We last left our heroes aboard the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, a sardonically named smuggler bireme heading across the sea to the three most Godsforsaken islands in the world outside of God Forgot. The captain (a burly Caladralander who’s always a little pissed off about having been press-ganged into this mission by the Queens on pain of pain) We rejoin them a week into their journey across open sea. In the middle of a storm. The crew had brought in oars and reefed sail, hoping against hope that the sea-gods would be merciful. The phalanx of Esrolian pikemen assigned to Iris’s quest to retake the Three Step Isles were grumbling in their makeshift camp in the cramped hold, losing at a game of liars’ dice with Androgenus (making liberal use of their Luck rune’s breakout ability Supreme Gambler) and Waddlestomp (using his Unexpectedly Terrifying ability to put the soldiers off their game). Meanwhile, K’dud was busy being heartily sick out on the rain-swept deck (“I’m a Fire priest! Being surrounded by this much water is...unnatural!” He cried, in between bouts of pouring chum into the churning waves). Iris was in her cabin, conversing with the captain. Apparently, the plan was that the She’s One Of Ours, Sir would drop her and her soldiers off on the Three Steps, then leave. Immediately. Eventually, Esrolia was supposed to send reinforcements and supplies with another expedition in a few seasons. If they were successful, of course. In the meantime, Iris just had to reconquer three of the most pirate-haunted, sheep-infested islands in the Sea. Three islands crawling with weird spirits and strange, forgotten gods. A place where ruins from the God Time still stood, beckoning foolhardy adventurers to plumb their secret depths. A place where, hopefully, the first ever grand temple to Takakia would stand, and she would be hailed as Queen. Not much of a place to build a grand saga of glorious renown, to be true, but it was a start. First, though, they had to survive the storm. It seemed like Orlanth Himself was throwing everything he had at the little galley, tossing the poor craft around like a bit of soap in a toddler’s bath. Suddenly, there was an almighty thump, a horrid scraping noise, and the sound like a fist of an angry Godling punching through the bottom of the ship! It had struck a rock, running into an uncharted oyster bed. ”I’ve made this run a hundred times!” Bellowed the Captain over the howling winds, “This reef shouldn’t exist!” The PCs immediately got to work trying to save the She’s One Of Ours, Sir. Iris Called Up Local Spirits to bargain with spirits of wind, wave, and oyster, trying to calm the waters. She got a minor success, making K’dud’s effort to Fix Anything (a breakout ability from his Volcano Cultist Trait) a tad easier—K’dud moved in a blazing blur, the heat of his body turning storm-spray into steam around him. He patched the ragged hole knocked in the hull and set to work bailing. Meanwhile, Androgenus and Waddlestomp were left to deal with the boarders. While the other two PCs were distracted trying to keep the boat from falling apart and sinking after running aground, most of the other passengers had been fending off an attack from marauding Merfolk! Crawling up out of the waves, a school of sharklike merfolk had clambered aboard the deck with the crashing waves and were busy cutting down the crew who had rushed to meet them in battle. Waddlestomp put his Enchanted Shield to use immediately; with an expert throw, he knocked three merfolk off the deck railing, skulls crushed by good Esrolian bronze. Androgenus used their Luck rune’s breakout ability Curse of Misfortune to make some of the marauding merfolk get knocked off the ship by the very waves being ridden by more of their own boarding parties. Between the two of them, they kept the actual number of merfolk being fought by the ship’s crew down to a handful at a time...but more kept on coming. The next round of combat, the merfolk leader—a big, shark-finned brute with all sorts of nasty runic ritual scars flopped on deck; he wielded a trident (shaped like a Mastery Rune) and a barbed whip of kelp (signifying an Air/Storm Rune); as soon as the merfolk leader came on deck, the storm got so much worse. Waddlestomp leapt into the fray, matching magically-hardened coral with his Truesword, and barely holding his own (the player just started cursing up a storm with a pair of bare successes against the merfolk leader). Androgenus critically fumbled against their Trickster flaw and decided it would be a great time to just go hide (“You got this, Waddlestomp! I’m rootin’ for ya!”) in the hold. Iris and K’dud rushed on deck to assist. K’dud used his Bronze Arms Style to parry punishing blows from the merman storm priest’s trident, but soon became entangled in the biting whip. Waddlestomp, taking the opportunity to retreat, used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to push through the terrible wounds inflicted by the merfolk (“If I die before I get to kill that godsdamned trickster, I’ll take every one of you useless mammals with me!”) and assist the crew in repelling additional boarders. Then Iris got a critical success on her Call Up Spirits ability to awaken the ship’s own Spirit! Incarnating as a wild-haired woman made of wood and sailcloth, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir caused the ship’s deck to roil and buck like the sea itself, knocking the attackers to their feet while lifting the spirits (so to speak) of her defenders. The merfolk leader—doubtless a Hero in his own right, at this point!—threw his trident at the spirit, hoping to capture or kill her. Waddlestomp (again, barely; the dice were definitely against the PCs tonight!) deflected the hurled weapon with his thrown shield, but both trident and enchanted shield bounced away from each other, falling into the churning water below. Thus distracted, K’dud used that opportunity to use his Sharp Soul Style to deliver a punch through the merfolk leader’s chest, splattering the deck with blood, saltwater, and a pile of fishy viscera. The rest of the merfolk retreated, carrying the still-twitching, vengeance-swearing body of their leader back with them beneath the waves. The heroes had won! The storm passed quickly thereafter. The relative silence was almost deafening. A red sun dawned over the waves, revealing a tropical island that the Captain (much like before) swore up and down hadn’t been there the last time he sailed in these waters. An island that shouldn’t have been there. The She’s One Of Ours, Sir was stranded on a reef in the middle of the sea, unable to move without more serious repairs, many of her crew wounded or dead. Despite the victory, the PCs weren’t going anywhere. Except, perhaps, ashore.....
  17. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. Now missing the Rune, and grappling with the fact that his role as a Trickster may be just as meaningless as the society he rebelled against. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, and now finds herself with an opportunity for it. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He wields an enchanted shield originally crafted by the Square Circle Temple, and is making grim plans. and finally K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also an initiate into the cults of Gustbran and Kalvan as well. He holds the Fire, Law, and Mastery runes. He is a master of the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul schools of unarmed combat, and seeks to help his people navigate the uncertain future after Belintar's death. To this end, he's attached himself to Iris and her gang of misfits, but more on that later. So last week, the heroes had killed Harrek the Berserk, one of the prophecied capitol-H Heroes of the Hero Wars. This week, the players wanted to rest on their laurels for a moment, lick their wounds, and let the player of the late Zonthor ease his new character into the game. I had other plans. We began the game at a celebratory feast in honor of our heroes, having slain (and barely survived the slaying of) Harrek the Berserk. The heroes were seated at a high table in the royal palace of Nochet, being toasted again and again and again by grateful nobles. Iris was wary of poison--she was the first to recognize that their deeds had painted a target on the party's back a mile wide. Androgenus didn't care; they were gulping down horn after horn of rich God Forgot-brewed beer and singing along (badly) with the songs of praise being expounded forth by a young poet who had captured (and dramatized) the events of last session. So far, he was playing up Iris's contribution to the battle as a fearless leader who had come up with the entire plan and was solely responsible for Harrek's downfall. Androgenus thought that his small part in the song (tricking Harrek into casting off his bear-skin cloak) was hilarious, and Waddlestomp wasn't amused at all, especially when the song mentioned him as a 'feathered friend.' Zonthor's ex-player (an enthusiast in Mediterannean archaeology) and Waddlestomp's took great pleasure taking turns to describe how bright and colorful the hall would have been, and the low tables piled high with rare delicacies brought from across the Six Nations. Well, five nations. I mentioned that since the betrayal of the City of Wonders and the fracturing of the Holy Country, Heortland was largely on its own. The Lunars (though beaten back earlier in the year) still prowled the northern frontiers, towards Sartar. Esrolia, the Shadow Plateau, God Forgot, and Caladraland still stood more-or-less together....but the Orlanthi ruled by the vile Broyan the Betrayer, the Last Vingkotling? They'd have to face the oncoming storm by themselves. In fact, rumor around the table was that the Shadow Plateau and God Forgot (I made sure to underline how much of a surprise the latter would be) were apparently preparing to attack Heortland to avenge the fallen God-King. Belintar's death--although caused by the Lunars--was being blamed on Broyan. Perhaps, the rumors said, Broyan had been in league with the Lunars all along. Perhaps he had wanted sole kingship of the Holy Country. In ages past, Vingkotling ambition had led to strife and turmoil again and again. It was to be expected....so perhaps it'd be safer all around if the other former Sixths dealt with the threat first. Iris was dragged into this intrigue when Samastina (Queen of Nochet, recognized as the leading Queen of Esrolia) leaned over the table, looked to her left, and asked Iris her opinion on the "Heortling question." Iris badly fumbled her Noble trait roll, and was completely tongue-tied, offering little more than confused noises and halfhearted platitudes about how unity in times of crisis would probably have been what Belintar would have wanted. "Yes," said Samastina coolly, as the local High Priestess of Maran Gor looked at Iris strangely, "But Belintar, blessed be he, is dead. Should we unite with those who spat on his memory, or against them?" The feast hushed, as if the entire hall was craning in to listen to Iris the Bearslayer's response. Androgenus loudly belched, trying to break the tension with their Trickster Trait, and scored a bare success. Despite herself, Samastina smirked, and things seemed less instant-death for Iris. Our Earth Priestess composed herself, and said, "I would counsel that we consolidate our forces. The Wolf Pirates are scattering, as moss mites do when you smash their nest. However, like moss mites, they will burrow deep and make more nests if we don't track them down and burn them out now. Broyan, if I may be so bold, can wait. The Wolf Pirates should not." Samastina smiled. Iris's player cursed loudly. "Exactly my thoughts as well. My young friend--" Iris's player groaned and cursed again"--is exactly correct. It is at this time precisely that we should strike together against the remnants of the Pirates. Gunda the Guilty is still out there, and may rally the survivors to attack us once more." There was a murmur of agreement. "To this end, and working with my esteemed friend King G'gardas of Caladraland, we shall send Queen Iris of the Three Step Isles to reclaim territory once stolen from us!" Iris choked on her wine. Androgenus fell over, clutching their side and laughing uproariously. Waddlestomp facebilled. A great cheer went up in the hall, and Iris managed to barely restrain herself from glaring daggers at Queen Samastina. After all, apparently she was a Queen herself, now! ....of a trio of remote, pirate-controlled, sheep-infested islands. ....very far away from the Esrolian power centers. Immediately, Iris's player figured it out: they had just made themselves the biggest threat to the Esrolian Queens' power. Howling barbarian demigods? Well, yes, those are horrible dangers to the Queendom and her people. But previously unknown adventurers who can kill those threats like it's nothing? An unknown quantity, particularly when one of them is such an obviously power-hungry Earth Priestess as Iris. The rest of the dinner was a drunken blur, discussing grand strategy and lofty goals: a phalanx of Esrolian pikemen backed up by caladralander naval support, led by Iris and her retinue, retaking the Three Steps in a swift invasion. Plundering the pirates' hidden treasure troves. Building a grand temple to the Moss Godess. Constructing a grand fortress in the middle of sea, from which the Holy Country (with Esrolia at the helm, naturally!) shall project its strength across many lands, for the greater glory of Kethaela! More raucous applause. Androgenus attempted to leap atop the table to improvise a praiseworthy poem, only to be stopped by Waddlestomp grabbing the wounded Trickster and yanking them back down onto their cushion. The feasting nobles laughed uproariously again, and we fast-forwarded past the feast, to later that night. Midnight in Nochet: celebrations for the death ofIris was abed already, having drunk herself into a stupor to deal with being outplayed by the Grandmothers. Waddlestomp was, as ever, sharpening his weapons and meditating on how much he hated humans. Androgenus, meanwhile, was being seduced by a comely servant from God Forgot. Androgenus had gotten even more drunk after the feast, and was busy trying to sleep their way through the entire serving staff. This one servant--a cupbearer that had taken his eye at the feast--was trying to lead them to a quiet stable in the outer bounds of the Royal Palace. Androgenus failed an opposed roll with his Paranoid flaw, and was led, stumbling and muttering, into a suspiciously empty stable. Well, it'd probably have been suspicious if Androgenus wasn't so stinking drunk, anyway. The Trickster wasn't laid down onto a soft pallet of straw, but rather a hard wooden table. They were tied down--which wasn't that much of a dealbreaker for them--but rather than inestimable pleasure, they felt the cold prick of a bronze knife poking them in the forehead! They could vaguely hear a cold, high-pitched voice (with a pronounced God Forgot accent) say: "The Rune may be vanished, but echoes of such a great power still remain, even in such unworthy flesh as this. Haruspex, are you prepared?" "Yes, lord," said the cupbearer, raising the knife. The Trickster sighed, the gravity of their situation sinking in past all the wine. They'd sort of figured it might end this way. It was now that we introduced K'dud. He burst into the stable (literally, using his Fire Rune's breakout ability Bronze Arms Style to punch through a stone wall Kool-Aid Man-style!), easily dispatched a burly Heortling mercenary set as a guard on this dark work, and set about attacking Androgenus's kidnappers. As it turned out, Androgenus had been taken by a Zzaburi sorceror--one taken with studying all sorts of forbidden God Learner-era lore--and his retinue. They sought to extract whatever remnants of the Infinity Rune still might be in Androgenus's carcass and use it for their own foul ends. K'dud wasn't having any of that. Using his Sharp Soul Style, he easily beheaded the Haruspex with his bare hands, dodged a retaliatory bolt of magical energy from the sorceror, lurking in the rear of the stable, and proceeded to kick the babbling, pleading Zzaburi through another wall. After untying Androgenus and using some Fire magic to help them sober up a bit, K'dud made his introductions: he was the youngest son of the King of Caladraland, dedicated to Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, master of several ways of unarmed combat, and he was here to protect Androgenus. Well....he was here to protect Iris, actually, but as Iris's sworn Trickster, K'dud's protection extended to them, too. Androgenus fell over himself (literally) thanking the burly, be-loincloth'd warrior, and scurried home to his quarters in the Palace. This wasn't the last of would-be assassins, either. As the in-game weeks went on in preparation for the conquest of the Three Step Isles, K'dud helped the party overcome a party of assassins sent by a rival priestess of another minor Earth Goddess, seeking to usurp Iris's position in the Three Step Isles (which baffled Iris to no end), a group of surly beastfolk who accused Waddlestomp of selling out their kind to humans by killing Harrek, and on the eve of the fleet's launch, broke the arms of a Dragonewt warrior who sought to punish the party for "usurping infinity with their unworthy mammal parts." Meanwhile, Waddlestomp began meeting contacts he had with other Duck expatriates in the Holy Country--enough was enough. He'd had it with obeying the orders of murderous humans. Once he'd returned from those blasted islands, he'd lead every Duck he could find in glorious war to reconquer their homeland. One way or another, anyway. Androgenus got into a philosophical argument with another Trickster about the illusory nature of Creation and their place within it that ended in a barroom brawl, and K'dud received a quiet pep talk from his father about how important it was for the Sixths to remain unified, even after Belintar's death. We stopped the session just before the fleet to the Three Step Isles set off. Iris had been told in no uncertain terms that she and her....warriors were not to return unless the Three Step Isles had been fully pacified and brought into the fold of Esrolia. Succeed, and a grand temple to the Moss Goddess would be constructed on those islands' chalky hills. Fail, and, well, they'd probably be killed by pirates. Or by Samastina's assassins, should they try to leverage whatever power they think they had back at home to disobey her orders. Thoroughly cowed, Iris finally agreed to this quest, and prepared as best as she could to conquer the Islands.
  18. To avoid spamming the board, I'm going to keep all my actual play posts in a single thread per scenario, rather than 1 per session. Also... is this a worthwhile thing to post, or are actual play threads not really a thing here? I don't want to be "that guy" who constantly puts threads on a forum that are meh or not really what the forum is for. Anyways, the intro scenario, a murder mystery on a caravan, ended with the players fully invested in their characters, which is awesome. Now the PCs are heading to Selgos. Lady Featherjoy is a noble of Selgos owes them favours for "saving her" from joining a cacodemon cult, and they intend to extract those favours from her to improve the caravan's business. Additionally, Dara possesses a strange magic item that she wishes to research more: an intelligent, musical axe that feeds off the psychic energy of crowds. She hopes one of the temples in Selgos has some information. Here is a quick "community sheet" for the caravan: Selgos, meanwhile, is going to be an awesome viper pit despite its small size (about 2,000 people). Here are some things I'm planning on simmering there: The year is 1623, and emissaries of Greymane are in the city trying to recruit Nimistori and mercenaries for their next glorious campaign into Esrolia. the PC Kullen, now a healer, is a disgraced Ditali warrior labelled as a coward and cursed for refusing to kill a fire priestess in Thonble on his first raid. The Cacodemon Cult is still active in Selgos. The Ogres are working toward trying to unleash a summoned cacodemon in the city. Featherjoy's family, is also in trouble. They turned to the cacodemon cult because they were getting pushed out of the market by another family (who maybe were also in league with the Ogres. Will the PCs try to save her family, or let them fall and spend their effort elsewhere? King Volusus of Jaraz plots to centralize his power over the Nimistori, and dreams of annexing Fay Jee and taking over Handra's sea trade <<Something Something 52 Tombs of Castelein Something>> The main thing I need to decide by Wednesday is a "bang" (to use Ron Edwards' terminology) that the players need to react to. I think it's something like, "The PCs arrive at the Featherjoy estate the same time as Greymane's recruiters, who are renting the place for their recruitment drive." The PCs will then be forced to decide if they're ok with Featherjoy getting in bed with the Solanthi.
  19. I just finished running my adventurers through "Gloomwillow's Hollow" and some of its supplementary material about the Woods of the Dead, from The Pegasus Plateau. I hope this writeup of how I played the adventure may be useful to other gamemasters. I also hope that some of the ridiculous things my players get up to may be amusing. Keep in mind that this thread will be spoiler-filled for that adventure, and potentially for other content from TPP. It may also contain some spoilers from the meta-plot of the Hero Wars and other Gloranthan miscellany. Be warned! The adventurers are: Tatanka Bloodstain, a Praxian nomad who is famous for his spectacular heroism fighting alongside the Death Lord Grungnak to avenge the Fattened Trollkin Feud against the Leadgut clan, where he earned his epithet. (Read: crit his Battle roll.) Originally a herder from the Witco clan of the Bison tribe, he's almost accidentally a war hero. He's accompanied by Trundle, a bison with a Waha spirit bound within, who talks. Trundle's catchphrase? "Hello!" Hercules the Fifth, a merchant from Sartar who traveled to New Pavis with his uncle Gil Luckstone—a friend of Argrath's who became Chief Priest of Issaries some seasons after the White Bull conquered the city. Hercules descends from a family line which names the firstborn male Hercules, and he almost always dies in pursuit of sex (Herc's dad died to a succubus, if I remember his backstory correctly). Played by @GeminniRed, who co-GMs the campaign with me. Alexander Bernard is a Humakti warrior, at one point indebted to Hercules for saving his life, although they've squared that debt since he still travels with Herc & Co. He's way older than any Humakti has any right to be (over 40!), and relieves stress through "training" new initiates to Humakt. Drops Dice is a very, very special trollkin. Dumb as a rock (or perhaps more dumb), but so magically talented that he's managed to, through adventuring, even change castes from Food to Value. Also helps that no one he hangs out with is trying to eat him (which is obviously the definition of what caste you are, right?). His name comes from the player trying to name himself "Tak" by just dropping the dice on the table, but "Drops Dice" stuck instead. He's unabashedly my favorite adventurer. Kali Stormwalker is my adventurer, a Sartarite shaman-in-training who worships Odayla, with a lil Orlanth on the side. He despises ducks, and is accompanied by an umbroli godling named Appa. Thrizzian is a newer member of the group. A newtling worshiper of the Trickster, he joined the crew when he drugged out on hazia, got snared by a giant spirit-spider-monster, and dragged away to the dungeon the adventurers were exploring (The Spire of Iron & Crystal for Pathfinder from Frog God Games, which I adapted as a God Learner ruin—excellent fun!). He's stuck around since because they're good fun and did save his life, after all. Reginald is also a new member, who they picked up on a recent trip to Esrolia looking for information about the heroquest they're going to attempt this coming Sacred Time. He's a merchant, albeit yet another Eurmal initiate—he acts under the guise of Issaries, and has a sacred pact with the Earth as well. (Why. Why do my players keep wanting to play tricksters.) The group was mostly brought together by their loyalty to Argrath White Bull, although they've grown personally close over the course of travels and adventures. They're used often as his running boys—go do this, go do that, take this letter all the way to flippin' Nochet, and so on. For a long while, Hercules was the unofficial leader of the group, but of late he's had a falling-out with Argrath over the use of draconic powers, and just recently Tatanka was officially declared an emissary of Argrath, and gifted a white bison-pelt cloak to mark this. The adventurers are definitely skilled, but none of them are a Rune Master or shaman yet. Most of them have a good bit of Rune magic, and their full CHA of spirit magic. There's a number of magic items, and everyone except Thrizzie and Reggie have, I believe, optimized armor for the ENC they can carry. So in general, I'd rate them a pretty dangerous bunch. In particular, Hercules & Alexander are a hair's breadth away from becoming Rune Masters of their cults, and Kali's going to appeal to his teacher to take the shaman trials on the route home during this journey (provided the party doesn't mind taking a slight detour). I offered the call to adventure in the context of one of these long journeys. The adventurers were sent, by Argrath, to cross Prax and visit Queen Leika of the Colymar, to ask her to join him on Argrath's march against Alda-Chur in the following spring. They left Pavis at the end of autumn in 1626. I moved most of the non-Woods of the Dead action of the adventure to the town of Herongreen, since it sits right on the Pavis Road. While in a tavern there—acting as travelers, not emissaries, due to the Lunar presence—they were approached by Harasandra and asked to look in the Woods of the Dead for some missing children, since they appeared largely armed and competent. They agreed, and formulated a plan of action. The adventurers traveled to Day's Hope, both for Humakt's holy day at the temple there, and to get more information from the locals about the Woods. They traveled around the woods, and I ran the brief first encounter with the mossbacks ("The Second Probe"). While they did stay at the Highwall Inn midway to Alone, they didn't get into trouble there because, well... heavily armed & dangerous. On each of their visits to the inn I had them roll some Perception skills to see if they heard or saw anything especially suspicious, but they never succeeded. I decided Jafoska & Baran would probably prefer to avoid risking it with these adventurers, seeking easier prey instead. Their visits to Alone and Day's Hope were largely uneventful. They stayed at Geo's Alone Inn, and I explained the concept of Geo's to them, since the players hadn't encountered one before (though I'm sure their adventurers had). At Day's Hope they gathered a bit more information about the missing children, the Woods, and the mossbacks, and prepared themselves at the Humakt temple, leaving spare baggage, supplies, and mounts behind. Trundle came along because he's a person, not a skittish dumb animal, but the rest stayed. Throughout, the players regularly expected the final enemies to be undead, despite the mention of mossbacks taking kids, stories of Gloomwillow, and the fact that they were going to Gloomwillow's Hollow. I told the players that routes within the Woods are weird, and change, and that a map can't really be drawn. I found the map in the book to be nearly useless for actually running this adventure, especially since it doesn't have a scale, and it doesn't even show where the Highwall Inn is on the Dusk Road. I annotated that myself, and gave a section of the map to the adventurers more for the sake of visualization than for information. The players learned from the Humakti of Day's Hope that if they could find a deep, narrow creek (Thin's Creek) and follow it downstream, they'd find a swampy area, and that Gloomwillow's Hollow could usually be found nearby. They also got a repeated, explicit warning not to go anywhere near Black Rock, because otherwise my players would go treasure-hunting like the little gremlins they are. Sometimes you need "Certain Death Lies Here" written in red paint. Next, I ran the "Ambush!" encounter, pretty much as written, somewhere in the Woods. The adventurers handled this easily for the most part. Tatanka took an impale to the abdomen, and a second hit, but overall lived, and the general combat wasn't dangerous except for the python hypnotism. I ruled that the pythons and dragonflies buggered off once hit, since they're basically just animals, but the mossbacks tried to fight to the death. One lived, and was captured by the adventurers. They could barely communicate with it, but figured out that it was named Croak (or something similar), and could get it to lead them to its home. It agreed to do so because it assumed Gloomwillow would capture and kill the adventurers. The adventurers also learned exactly how dangerous Trundle is in melee; they haven't been able to take him with in a lot of combat situations, since the combat-heavy moments have typically been dungeons involving stairs and tight places and, y'know. Bison. One of the challenges I had with running the mossbacks was determining how many javelins they carried. I decided three felt reasonable, one in each hand, and one tied to them. From the image they're clearly primitive creatures, but they aren't fit for melee combat in the slightest, and I tried to run them mostly as skirmishers, moving to melee as a last option. They also lost lots of limbs to the adventurers. Croak led the adventurers to Thin's Creek, and they followed it downstream to the Miasma Marsh, where they found a crucified corpse. The next session I played them traveling through the marsh haunted by the evil ducks (accompanied by very badly punning rhymes), but this didn't end up being as weirdly-creepy as I had hoped it would. I think that playing this over Discord, instead of in person, impacted the experience somewhat. Eventually they got surrounded by the ducks while on a low rise surrounded by water--both shallow & deep--but the ducks were driven away when Drops Dice summoned a veredthi and began drowning them. Veredthi are freaking huge for their Rune point cost. The rest of the ducks fled because Cowardly, and the adventurers made it the rest of the way through the Marsh. I think the cannibal ducks could have been really dangerous--attacking from underwater and dragging the adventurers down, etc.--but they just didn't have the chance to be properly scary. They fired darts several times, but none of them were strong enough to pierce armor. One of the ducks did catch and kill Croak, but this didn't shake the adventurers much, even when his head was tossed at them. I tried using this to highlight potential dangers of the Marsh, but the ducks just never got close enough to really be impactful. The adventurers eventually climbed out of the Marsh, and saw the dead tree towering over the forest. I had the adventurers encounter "Visions Most Foul" but didn't emphasize the struggle to push through, since there wasn't a significant consequence of failure. They approached, and found the hidden entrance into the bottom of the tree. Which they called a "Skyrim entrance", i.e. the back door convenient exit omnipresent in that game's dungeons, and were generally amused/frustrated that it existed. They considered entry from the top, but chose not to because they couldn't blitzkrieg with the whole party. They wanted to fly, and didn't consider climbing up an option. They did notice there might be guards at the broken branch-bridge main entry, which was why they searched the area first. They descended the tunnels, and got into an extended fight with some mossbacks. Alexander pretty much waded through gore, though Hercules took a few hits to his leg when he tried chasing down a mossback which fled to the next room. I found the map and related text a bit difficult to play. The map's biggest difficulty is that I found it hard to determine what rooms connected to where, since it's a 3D map drawn in cutaway style, and isn't very large. I isolated the image with Acrobat and copied it, then blew it up as its own image file, and that helped me see where everything was. Another difficulty I had was that the map is numbered, but the descriptions aren't. I would have found it easier to bounce back and forth if their numbers corresponded. Finally, I found it frustrating that a number of the total mossbacks present, or at Gloomwillow's command through the Woods, wasn't noted. I ended up guesstimating a dozen to twenty in the tree at any given time from the text. The party couldn't avoid letting some mossbacks flee. Hercules summoned a Spell Traded umbroli as a missiles-shield (which also killed a pair of charging mossbacks), but couldn't control it, so the party was stuck behind an indoor tornado for 15 minutes. They climbed most of the tree without incident; all of the mossbacks, except those guarding the kids, went up to guard Gloomwillow. I ended up not using her ability to cast through the mossbacks because it felt immensely unfair given her spells available (which I'll get to later). They avoided side passages, and continued to travel straight upstairs. While plundering Gloomwillow's rooms--particularly the library, which I wish would have a better description of what's in there, and what those works might be worth--they heard a scream up in the top of the tree, and ran up to see Gloomwillow kill the kid. Ten mossbacks stood between them. Alexander cast Flight (Spell Traded from Herc, who had it as an associate spell from Orlanth) and flew over the mossbacks to engage Gloomwillow. Gloomwillow's opening move was to cast Absorption 6, and basically make herself immune to magic. I narrated this with her covering herself in an inky black shadow, which radiated power. I also used narration to emphasize how dangerous Gloomwillow is, in addition to explicitly warning the players out-of-character that the boss of this adventure is nasty. And she is fucking dangerous. At POW 32, with 32 Rune points, and access to Sever Spirit, she can auto-kill pretty much any adventurer, whenever she wants. Even a Rune Lord only has an 05% chance to resist POW v POW. One of my frustrations with Gloomwillow's writeup was also that she doesn't have defensive abilities noted--namely Dodge, so I gave her DEX×3, 60%, but easily could have been higher--and that it doesn't say whether she can discorporate like a normal dryad. I ruled she couldn't, since she has no spirit magic, and her connection to nature is basically gone; but this does make the scripted part of the battle where she "flies" into the branches of the tree feel strange. We never got to that part of the fight because Alexander was up in her grill the entire time. She threw a Sever Spirit at Alexander. He rolled a Devotion (Humakt) Passion to augment his resistance roll, and crit. He still failed his resistance roll, and chose to use a hero point to avoid death. (This is a house rule we've used for years, which ideally gets weaned off as the adventurers grow stronger. For doing big, dangerous things, you can earn hero points, which are basically a "get out of jail free" card to avoid a blow. They're useful for encouraging the players to take on impossible situations, and give them a chance to win beyond lucking a divine intervention.) When he tried proving he was the true wielder of death (as Humakt), though, her Absorption ate Alexander's Sever Spirit. They assumed it was Countermagic, and another adventurer (I believe Drops Dice, but don't remember who) threw a spell to try taking down the effect while Alexander kept swinging his sword at her. He resisted three more Sever Spirits with his Devotion augment (bringing the roll up to 55%). Meanwhile, the rest of the adventurers were engaged with the mossbacks. Tatanka, Hercules, and Kali were engaged three-to-one and broadly successful at this. Each was taking chip damage, especially Tatanka, who's pretty conservative with his Rune magic. Kali's armor plus an Extended Shield 2 left him nigh-invulnerable without a special or crit against the mossbacks, while Hercules wielded a Spell Traded Sword Trance to lethal effect. Thrizzian entered melee as well, and acquitted himself admirably for a new adventurer, with repeated successful dodges, and I believe two kills. Drops Dice repeatedly fired bolgs into the melee with Gloomwillow, and it was actually the trollkin that got the kill on the evil dryad. She withered to dust at Alexander's feet after he lopped off one of her arms. He dealt the most consistent damage against her, because she didn't have a defense against ranged physical damage. She tried Create Shadow to escape, but Drops Dice, well, has Darksense. After her death, the fall of the tree wasn't as climatic as I had anticipated. It was mostly mitigated by the fact that Herc dropped the Sword Trance and flew, Alexander was already flying, and Kali called on Appa to fly himself and Thrizzian (who failed his Rune magic roll to Become Crane) off. Tatanka immediately bolted for the stairs, and took the written damage being tossed around inside as the tree came down, but ultimately wasn't significantly harmed. Reggie's player wasn't there (if I'm remembering right--throughout this adventure lasted ~4 three-hour sessions, I believe, and we only had everyone present for I think one of them, so my memory's a wee bit spotty) but he also had an out in the form of Hallucinate to fly away on a magic carpet—one of that player's favorite tricks since our RQ3+ game a few years before RQG came out. Once the tree was down, I ruled that the remaining mossbacks had either fled or died. Overall the adventurers did kill over half of them in that melee. They were easy opponents for my adventurers. I chose not to have Gloomwillow cast through them because she could just nail a player from a kilometer away, they would have basically no chance of resisting, and no way to actually catch her. The mossbacks as written can hide in trees, run around, and avoid the adventurers, while Gloomwillow uses them to cast and kill everyone. This didn't seem fun to me, so I didn't do it. I did, however, plan to have her cast Berserk on Croak when they got close, and I did consider having her use some of her less dangerous spells to mess with the adventurers. The adventurers searched the tree and found the rest of the children. I explicitly told the players that they survived because of how they were imprisoned in the tight cages, whereas the mossbacks in that room were tossed around and killed. This isn't stated in the text, but seems to me the only reason why the children aren't killed by the tree's fall. It was dusk, and the adventurers stayed the night at the ruin of Gloomwillow's hollow, outside. Their rations and water had gone bad by then, and they and the kids were both hungry and thirsty. They had enough magic points to fix up the children's minor injuries from the treefall & confinement. After most of the crew went to sleep, Drops Dice and Reggie went into the tree. Drops Dice discorporated, and began searching for a Darkness spirit to put in his empty POW Storing crystal, which has been a player goal for some time. He's recently joined the Sunset Society, a shaman cult dedicated to Darkness spirits, in addition to his worship of Zola Fel (where he's also walking a shaman path; we're still figuring out how the two will intersect and interact). He failed his Spirit Travel roll to find a spirit, and was drawn down, down to the roots of the fallen dead tree, which still extended into the earth. There he found a large black pool of energy, quiescent. I told him its POW was massively larger than his, and that he felt a strong malevolent presence connected with the Darkness, Plant, and Death Runes. So he remembers to cast Spirit Block before poking it. I decided while playing this encounter that, if something went wrong, Drops Dice would find Gloomwillow's spirit which isn't dead, but just dormant, returned to the Spirit World. And very upset that he woke her (I'm still not sure if she knows he landed the final blow, or if she just blames Alexander). She grabs him, and they do a round of spirit combat. She clobbers him even through the Spirit Block, and he pleads for mercy. She demands an offering, and he offers up the soul of Beleros (the Lunar spirit in "The Rattling Wind", which the adventurers kept bound), and then also promises to bring her more food. She eats Beleros, and demands a sign of their pact. I tell the player to offer up to four points of POW (which would be the POW necessary to make a pact with a POW 32 spirit--although he's not a shaman, so it'd be more an "appropriate full offering" than a "you now have a pacted spirit"). He offers three, so she lets him go, and I decided he gained a Rune point in the Sunset Society for his offering, and his pluck. Now he has two bindings to fill with ghosts... Later during the night, the Hunt of Wailing Ghosts encountered the adventurers and children. They ignored the children a) because I wasn't sure if I wanted to deal with the children supernaturally aging, and b) because the hunt is made up mostly of Brangbane's slain wives, and I figured it'd be a plausible touch if they overlooked uninitiated youths. The party tried multiple rolls to ward them off, and a majority failed, so ultimately I decided they attacked. I had the adventurers make the described characteristic rolls to resist the aging effect, and then each adventurer was engaged with one of the ghosts in spirit combat. Once one ghost was defeated for each adventurer, they were driven off. I think every adventurer except Reggie aged either one or two three-year increments on that first attack; he was particularly lucky, not particularly high-statted. However, he was defeated in spirit combat. I ruled that the wailing ghost possessed him, and he had to do another round of characteristic tests. I also ruled that he would have to do them once per week so long as he was possessed, as the effect of covert possession (although Kali discorporated and handled it without much trouble--he has a Spirit Armor enchantment which often lets him manhandle ghosts). I rolled randomly for the spells stolen by the adventurers who defeated spirits in spirit combat. Notably, Tatanka and Kali both rolled Sleep, and learned this rare spell (which I'm sure will be relevant in later adventures...). The adventurers used mixed strategies of spirit combat and other tactics to defeat the spirits. Although Alexander got Befuddled, Herc grabbed his enchanted iron sword to fight off the ghosts successfully. (It's a relic he found in a ruin in the Big Rubble, and it makes many ghost combats pretty trivial.) In the morning, the adventurers were pretty beleaguered. They tried going south-west to cut as close to Herongreen as possible, but ended up going northwest (failed Survival roll to determine direction in the Woods). Mysteriously, the Miasma Marsh had disappeared, even though it was nearby and easy to see from the rise of the Hollow yesterday. As the adventurers wandered, they stumbled across "The Corridor", and continued walking down it. There they encountered the Silver Rider, which I ruled was a spirit which can take the form of a Unicorn. It ignored the adventurers, but healed the children of their hunger and thirst, then led the way out of the Woods. This was both because I figured we should be done with the adventure, and continue on the adventurers' journey, and because a final encounter with a benevolent spirit felt right after all the horrors of the Woods. Despite the minimal danger of some of the encounters (like the Wailing Ghosts and the mossbacks), the raw quantity of stuff I ran them through made this a harrowing adventure, I think. I rewarded the adventurers with ~35L of gifts apiece from the townsfolk, which is close to the written amount (and WAY too little for dealing with Gloomwillow!), even though they didn't ask for reward before going into the Woods. In addition, Alexander has become known as Gloomkiller (to Drops Dice's protestations), and all the adventurers have earned a good bit of Reputation from their success. Despite an ongoing famine (due to Kallyr's failed Lightbringer's Quest), the Lunars running the town were willing to gift the adventurers supplies to replace those destroyed in the Wood. The adventurers still weren't forthcoming about their journey's purpose--instead, they claimed they were sent by Gil to check up on his friend Gringle Goodsale in Apple Lane. I tried to frame the Lunars here as good guys. They returned to Alone & Herongreen recently, bringing food, providing support to the northern region of Sartar. They were genuinely grateful to the adventurers, and cheerful around them. One of them was a local youth who signed up to see the world, then got stuck in his home town. Humanizing the enemy (because the party is SUPER anti-Lunar--but they were part of an offensive defeated by the Crimson Bat, after all...). The adventurers left after about two weeks in the area, to continue their journey in Jonstown, where the signs of hunger and fear grow stronger yet...
  20. This was the final session of my murder mystery. At the end of last session, two key things happened: The party discovered the murderer of the caravan boss - a scholar who the boss was blackmailing into translating some ancient texts. The scholar poisoned the boss, demanding his freedom in exchange for the antidote. The Caravan Boss died rather than admit defeat, which shocked the scholar. The party discovered there is ogre trouble on the caravan! Well.... it's actually more complicated than that: A rich noblewoman was trying to join a cacodemon cult to save her family's fortune. An ogre, masquerading as a hunter hired by the caravan, has made contact with her The noblewoman's assistant witnessed the murder, and was killed by the murderer scholar. The ogre and desperate noble had nothing to do with the murder, but they also were aware things were going bad for them, so they fled into the woods. The party, deciding ogres MUST BE INVOLVED IN THE MURDER, grabbed the NPC Pralori warrior who is the head of caravan security, and they went to hunt the ogre down. The hunter NPC was tougher than any of the PCs. She's an ogre, afterall, and the big bad. But I didn't really expect things to go the way they did. So, 3 non combat PCs and a warrior NPC marched into the woods to find an ogre and human collaborator. I rolled this as a simple contested group challenge - the image I had in my mind is they're walking through the woods and a stream of arrows terrifies them and sends them scattering. ... However, they all rolled amazingly, and my poor ogre rolled horribly, resulting in a major victory for the PCs. Now, since they all took defensive moves, I didn't rule this as physical injury for the ogre. Rather, the ogre was now stuck up a tree in plain sight, and any attempts at moving or getting out of the tree would result in her having massive penalties. If she tried to get out of the tree, she was toast. And she knew it. The PCs, on the other hand, were aware she still had plenty of arrows. So... they decided to parlay. The ogre made an offer: She had nothing to do with the murder, but she'd happily give them the human noblewoman collaborator, in exchange for letting her go. At this point, the players, who are all new to Glorantha, stopped and asked me about Ogres, and then asked me about Chaos. After my explanation, which was very much an Orlanthi perspective (2 PCs are Wenelians, and 1 is a Trader Princess), they agreed to agree to the ogres deal, and then double cross her, cuz "Screw Chaos." 😵😅 Long story short, they set the tree on fire while throwing javelins at her. She rolled badly, and the NPC warrior rolled well, and she was squashed. They then bound the ogre, collected the human collaborator, and marched back to camp. And this is where things got rather special: the PCs gave all humans second chances: they acknowledged the caravan boss was a total bastard, so they let him go in exchange for the texts he was translating (they were treatises about water magic of all sorts). They also exacted many promises from the noblewoman to help them move into the trade networks around her city of Selgos, and she agreed. As for the ogre, well, they decided to have the caravan execute her as a public execution of sorts.
  21. FInished my 3rd session of my online murder mystery game. Here is a bulleted list of what happened: MURDER SOLVED: The PCs kept circling the mystery of 1+1, so I asked them to make some rolls for help putting pieces together. The players seemed totally ok with it, though I'm not sure that would have been the right move for all groups. Anyhow, because of this, things moved VERY quickly, and they solved the murder! Put simply, the Caravan boss was blackmailing many of the people on the caravan, including the PCs. One of the NPCs, a scholar from Saltcastle, who was being blackmailed did not appreciate the situation: he was given a very slow-acting but lethal poison, and was being forced to translate ancient texts for the caravan boss in exchange for the antidite. The NPC decided to turn the tables on the boss, poisoning him with something that was just as lethal but much quicker. In exchange for his freedom, the NPC would give the boss the antidote to HIS poison. ...The Caravan Boss, seemingly out of a heroic level of spite, decided to die instead. The NPC was not expecting this, and put him into a panic. Weekend at Bernies. One of the things the PCs all agreed to which I did NOT SEE COMING is that they have kept the murder of the boss from the rest of the caravan. Play has been a bit too fast for me to really make this an issue, but it's still hilarious to me. In the 3rd session, they FINALLY informed the caravan's head of the watch, a hulking pralori warrior with a hyper-intelligent elk. They learned how to use Hero Points in their attempts to chill the Pralori out, who was feeling very unhappy about being lied to. Those poor, innocent... Ogres? One of the other NPCs on the caravan is noblewoman and a cacodemon cultist. An actual ogre had infiltrated the caravan as a hunter to make contact with her to set up Cannibalistic Schemes (tm) for the city they were arriving in (Yolanda). Unfortunately, a murder occurred they had no part in. Worse, the noblewoman's personal servant witnessed the poisoning and murder. Worse, there were rumours on the caravan about ogres already. All of this has made the ogres start to panic, and they have fled into the wood. When the PCs realized people had fled the caravan camp, they immediately searched the tents, and found cacodemon ritual items. They are now convinced the ogres had something to do with the caravan boss' death, and they are putting together a posse to go into the deep upper woods of Maniria, chasing after chaotic cultists, cuz PCs gonna PC. It's very easy for me to find things I didn't do well, but the fact remains my players are having a blast. Next session will be the last of our little mini-campaign, and then we'll decide what to do next. At least definitely wants to keep his current PC. It is entirely possible I will spend the entire summer running a relatively light-hearted, social skill-heavy Manirian caravan campaign. And that makes me happy.
  22. RuneQuest: The Broken Tower – Week 1.1 Now available on YouTube! Watch Pookie run The Broken Tower from the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha quick-start for Seth Skorkowsky, Bud of Bud’s RPG Reviews, The Tweed Meister, Orcusdorkus, and James. https://youtu.be/tY-IRpWnmKs
  23. Tomorrow night is my second session of my online HQG game, Caravan Calamity. Last session, the PCs discovered the body of their Caravan boss, started collecting evidence at the scene, and also became worried about the social-political consequences of the boss dying. As all three players are new to Glorantha and Heroquest, I am slowly bringing them up to speed. Setting-wise, they are aware they are on a caravan, and they know Elves are humanoid trees. This session they'll be introduced to Chaos, or at least the threat of Chaos, as someone will be starting a panic that there is an Ogre on the caravan! The ACTUAL Ogre on the caravan is rather upset at this rumour, as he's far too smart to kill the head of the caravan in the middle of nowhere.... that's just stupid. In terms of rules, I'm introducing extended contests and using Hero Points. Core things I know: I know who actually killed the caravan boss: a Trader Princess on the caravan, who is trying to taker over his freelance spy network. I know this was witnessed by a scholar from Solung who is on the caravan. The murderer is currently unaware of this, but if the players are sloppy they may inform her. I know which NPCs care, don't care, and are happy the caravan boss (who had a penchant for blackmail) is dead. I'm planning on re-reading the rules on long-term benefits to make sure I know how that works, so there is a mechanic to help them put the pieces together if they don't themselves. So... yeah. Wish me luck. I'll be back over the weekend to let yo uknow how it went.
  24. So, Wednesday night I had my first session of my new mini-campaign. Caravan Calamity is set in Maniria. A trading caravan of wagons and horses is travelling between Jaraz and Yolanda, when one morning the head of the caravan, Road Baron Abbanes, is found dead in a pond. The PCs The PCs all work on the caravan: Kullen is a Ditali Wenelian who is the cook and healer of the caravan. He has been with teh caravan, and with Abbanes, for years. Arlette Scalecoin is a textile merchant from Jubal. She is very likeable, likes creature comforts, and this is her second season with this caravan. Dara is an entertainer with a rough past that has left her suspicious of others. Key NPCs Abbanes, aka "Honest Benny" is a roguish figure who has made and lost several fortunes over the course of his life. He has schemes within schemes, and half the caravan is currently blackmailed into working for him. Lyobun is benny's extremely high strung assistant who knows exactly how much money is invested where. Neurotic and loyal, he is the mirror image of Benny. Bui Six Point is the head of the caravan guard. He is a Pralori, he is tough, and he is mean. I described him as "Jayne from Firefly, on an elk." Mosscalm is a female hunter hired recently as a scout. Very private, and not good at social interactions. She's much better at staying motionless in a tree until game wanders by. Lady Featherjoy is an aristocrat from Selgos travelling with the caravan and constantly complaining about the lack of luxuries. Toff Redscroll is a scholar from Solung who may or may not be a fire mage. The players all started the game knowing this was going to be a murder mystery, that it was going to be "PG-13", and that none of teh PCs were going to be the murderer.
  25. Welcome I want to share my current play through of Pendragon I've started a few weeks ago with two of my friends! This forum has been a trove of useful information for prepping my game and I wish to get a generous check (or is it pride that drives me here?) sharing the fruits of that labor. Currently we've done: Session 0/Chargen, 485 #1 and 485 #2. You may remember my face as one of those from Steven Lumpkin's actual play a few years back. Well I've come back and running my own. We're definitely making some rules mistakes here and there, but overall we're getting better and faster with the ruleset as both myself and colin have played some Pendragon before. Here's our two knights as of the end of 485! If you want to catch it live, we play 4-6pm PT on my twitch channel!
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