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The Great Pagan Campaign


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    I’m a player in an ongoing Pendragon Campaign with the twist that all the players’ families are devout pagans. It wasn’t something we planned ahead of time, all three of us just made our characters independently then came together and went “looks like we’re not going to be seeing much of Jesus in this campaign.” From there our plans grew more ambitious, eventually dreaming of reforming Paganism into a powerful and militaristic force which can fight back against the Saxons and survive the pressures of Christianity.

    But that’s a dream for the future. A few weeks ago I posted a story about how we accidentally threw off the canon timeline for Cornwall in the Anarchy and I enjoyed writing it so much that I began to put together the story for the rest of the campaign so far. And so here it is, the tale of the rise of the Pagan Alliance and the Great Pagan Crusade.

 

    Right now our campaign’s at the year 500. I’m going to try to pace posts here a bit; none of us have enough free time for this “one session equals one year” nonsense (winter session on its own usually ends up with a dedicated session,) and I don’t want to catch up too fast.

 

Year 485

 

Introducing Knights of 485

  • Mahengroen the Tenacious: Founder of the Groen clan, Mahengroen was famous for his honesty, loyalty, and honor. He would gain a name for himself both for his wealth and for his incredible constitution, which allowed him to survive blows that would kill lesser men.
  • Sagrar the Merciless: A mountain of muscle and steel, Sagrar was known throughout Salisbury for the horrifying cruelty he displayed towards his foes. Despite this, he was incredibly loyal to his family and sought to rule his lands with a just, but firm, hand.
  • Cynyrsa the Saxon Bane: After losing much of his family to the Saxon invaders, Cynyrsa swore bloody vengeance against all Saxons. Despite the hatred in his heart, he bore an angelic appearance more beautiful than many of the women at court.

 

    The Pagan Alliance had its humble beginnings with the soon to be knighted squires Mahengroen, Sagrar, and Cynyrsa training under the watch of Sir Elad at Vagon Castle. After making an impressive display of their skills, the three were dispatched to Imber village to hunt down a man-eating bear that had been terrorizing the population. The first day of the hunt was spent fruitlessly wandering through the woods, interrupted only by a brief glimpse of King Pellinore riding by as he chased his Questing Beast.

    On the second day of the hunt Sagrar came up with the plan of luring out the bear with bait. As this was a man-eating bear, he reasoned that clearly the best bait would be to tie a peasant to a tree and wait for the bear to come. To the surprise of many (including the GM) the bear came into the open to investigate. Before it could devour the peasant, the squires ambushed it. The beast tried to escape through the woods, but Cynyrsa cornered it by a lake and slew the bear in single combat.

 

    Upon finishing their hunt the squires returned to Sarum for their knighting ceremony. At court each tried wooing one of the famous ladies of Salisbury, to varying degrees of success. Cynyrsa made his advances towards the beautiful Lady Adwen (their genetics would have created the most beatious children in all of Britain), Sagrar towards the cursed Lady Gwiona (reasoning that he was too Strong to be killed by a curse,) and Mahengroen towards the unfaithful Lady Elaine (“We are Pagans, you can sleep with whoever you want!”). Sagrar and Cynyrsa stayed up all night for their vigil, Sagrar spending the time with one of the serving ladies and Cynyrsa praying to the pagan gods of Britain. That morning, the three squires were knighted.

    Their first duty as knights was to go on patrol in the Bourne River Valley under the command of Sir Amig. They soon encountered a group of hostile knights who sought to raid the lands of Salisbury, and engaged them in battle. Cynyrsa was struck unconscious in the first lance charge, but Mahengroen and Sagrar quickly felled their opponents. Realizing they were outmatched, the raiders retreated. The Salisbury knights managed to catch a glimpse of their foes heraldry, revealing them to be from Levcomagus in the county of Silchester.

 

    That summer Mahengroen and Sagrar planned their retribution against Levcomagus. But before they could extract their full vengeance, they would need more information about the knights who had attacked them. They gathered their family knights with promises of plunder and launched a raid into Silchester. However their unfamiliarity with the local terrain resulted in them being quickly discovered by a patrol from Levcomagus and they were forced into battle. The patrol was crushed, with nearly half its number killed and the rest fleeing. With no one left to oppose them, the knights began to loot the closest village. The peasants who had not managed to flee in time were interrogated for information about the knights and lords of Levcomagus, especially those who had participated in the raid against Salisbury. As reward for being forthcoming with this information, Sagrar did not slaughter them all.

 

    Back in Sarum the recovered Cynyrsa was experiencing a taste of courtly drama. He discovered that the master swordsman Sir Jaradan also sought to woo Lady Adwen, immediately sparking a fierce rivalry between the two knights. Some poorly chosen words by Cynyrsa led to Sir Jaradan challenging him to a duel. Despite Sir Jaradan’s superior skill with the sword, Cynyrsa managed to knock over his foe, impressing and surprising many.

    When Sagrar and Mahengroen returned from their raid they asked their lord Earl Roderick to launch further attacks into Silchester and deal with the troublesome Levcomagus once and for all. While they did inspire the Earl’s thirst for vengeance, there was no time to make war against another county as King Uther was calling the forces of Logres to march with him in war against Sussex.

 

    Many lords of Logres were absent from King Uther’s army, most notably Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. The knights who did come engaged King Aelle of Sussex at the Battle of Mearcred Creek. The battle was a bloody struggle, with Sagrar and Cynyrsa losing many of their family members. Mahengroen was brought to the brink of death, only surviving due to his incredible constitution. King Uther withdrew from the field, making it clear to the knights how dire the threat of the Saxons were.

Edited by ArkSvid
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Posted (edited)

This was the year that we started to experiment with rolling up characters from one of the unnamed NPCs in our families to act as a backup in case of situations like Cynyrsa being unconscious for an entire season last year. At this point we just made one for Cynyrsa, but as we got further into the campaign and things became more dangerous it became the norm for us to have two knights to play as: one who was the head of the family and considered our “main” knight, and a lesser family knight to step in whenever the main was out of play for some reason. Over time their role would expand, until a few years from now the B Team of knights will be having their own storylines and sometimes going on adventures of their own while the A Team is busy with political stuff.

 

Year 486

 

Introducing the Knights of 486

  • Gidwyr: Cynyrsa's cousin. Don't get too attached to him.

 

    The pagan knights of Salisbury began the year on garrison duty during which  they were waved down by an old man who asked the three to help him recover his runaway goat. They fruitlessly chased the goat until it led them to a vicious three eyed giant. Sagrar knocked the giant over with a single powerful blow, and the knights set upon it, killing it with brutal efficiency. The knights then ordered their squires to take the giant’s remains home, as they intended to fashion its bones into trophies.

    Surprising no one, the old man revealed himself as Merlin. He ordered the knights to protect him, and led them to a fae forest. There they did battle with a Nukalavee, and watched Merlin acquire a strange magical sword.

    The knights then divided the giant’s bones between them. Sagrar took the skull, which he placed on a spear as a trophy of his victory. Mahengroen hired an artisan to craft a throne out of the ribcage and limbs. And finally Cynyrsa took the hands to the druids of Stonehenge, where they fashioned the knuckle bones into talismans which would grant the wearer greater healing.

 

    After their garrison duty ended Cynyrsa and Mahengroen met a group of Dorset knights visiting Salisbury. The groups became quick friends, and the Salisbury knights were invited to visit Dorset as well. In Dorset a friendly hunting competition was held between the Dorset and Salisbury knights. The Salisbury group won, hunting down an entire pack of wolves. Good cheer was had by all as both parties of knights feasted and told increasingly exaggerated stories of their adventures.


    Meanwhile, Sagrar remained in Salisbury and patrolled the area around his manor. A peasant warned Sagrar that he had seen what looked like a Saxon raiding party. Sagrar rode to investigate, but instead of Saxons he found bandits. The criminals were no match for a trained knight, and Sagrar quickly defeated the crew. Upon interrogating the survivors he learned that the bandits had been hired by the Steward of Levcomagus as a reprisal against Salisbury’s raid last year (which was a reprisal of Levcomagus’s raid which was probably a reprisal for a….) When Sagrar reported this to the other pagan knights upon their return from vacation, it only further fueled their desire to strike against Levcomagus.

Edited by ArkSvid
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Posted (edited)

Year 487

 

Introducing the Knights of 487

  • Agragor the Merciful: The younger brother of Sagrar. Charismatic, reasonable, and caring, he was the opposite of his brother in almost every way. His wide variety of skills and loyalty to his lord would serve him well as a knight of Salisbury.

 

 

    During the Christmas Court of 487, Merlin presented the magical sword Excalibur to King Uther. Cynyrsa, Sagrar, and Mahengroen told the story of how they had assisted Merlin in acquiring the sword, impressing everyone at court. During the following celebration, Cynyrsa once again accidentally insulted Sir Jaradan, leading to another duel. This time Sir Jaradan’s superior skills proved true and Cynyrsa suffered a humiliating defeat.

 

    In the summer Logres launched a series of naval raids against the Saxon kingdoms, seeking to burn as many Saxon ships as they could. Under the leadership of Uther’s son, Prince Madoc, the knights of Logres sailed up and down the coast of Britain, devastating every Saxon harbor they came across. Sagrar and Cynyrsa were gravely injured during the second raid. While Cynyrsa chose to retire from the raids, Sagrar continued to fight in the following raids until his comrades begged for him to rest and allow his brother, Agragor, to take his place.

    After weeks of facing only token resistance, the forces of Logres were ambushed by a Saxon force twice their size in Essex. They fought bravely, but the knights were unable to resist the Saxon’s superior numbers and had to retreat back to their ships. Gidwyr was killed by a Heorthgeneat and Agragor knocked unconscious during the retreat. With Saxons forces streaming forth, Mahengroen stood in their way, fighting three at once. He slew one of his foes and successfully fended off the others, allowing Agragor to be recovered by his squire and the Logres knights to successfully reach their ships without any further casualties.

    Even though Logres lost the engagement with Essex, as a whole the raids were a resounding success. The knights who had survived returned home with their purses brimming with loot, and the Saxons would need years to rebuild all the ships that they had lost.

 

Obituary

Gidwyr (463-487, 24 years old): Died childless, landless, unmarried, and with no major accomplishments of note. Final Glory: 1273

Edited by ArkSvid
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On 8/15/2022 at 12:36 PM, ArkSvid said:

he reasoned that clearly the best bait would be to tie a peasant to a tree and wait for the bear to come

i have to ask did they ever untie the peasant or was the peasant forgotten?

 

Edited by Ironwall
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Not much happened in 488, so I can use this chance to mention the lands owned by the player knights, as I forgot that at the start.

Sagrar holds Winterbourne Gunnet Manor, Mahengroan holds Newton Tony Manor, and and Cynysra holds Idmiston Manor. All three are in close proximity along the Bourne River.

 

Year 488

 

    This year was a quiet one, with the knights spending most of their time in garrison duty or training their skills. The one adventure of note was when King Uther requested knights to assist the Kingdom of Somerset exterminate a group of water leapers: giant tadpoles with wings and teeth that ate human flesh. Mahengroen and Sagrar joined the expedition and proved their skill against the beasts. Even when one of the water leapers dragged Sagrar under the lake, he continued to fight it while holding his breath, killing the monster in its own territory.

Edited by ArkSvid
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Year 489

 

    The year began with King Uther marching his forces to battle the rebellious Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. The knights prepared themselves for a difficult battle, but this was averted when Uther drew Excalibur. Upon seeing the Sword of Victory, Duke Gorlois was willing to stand down and negotiate. The two armies met in the field not to fight, but to celebrate peace between their lords.

 

    Uther then turned his army northwards to relieve the besieged city of Eburacum from a Saxon army led by King Octa and Eosa. Neither army was prepared for a decisive battle, so Uther sent the knights out to counter the Saxon’s raiding parties and deny them plunder. Cynyrsa chose to ride ahead and scout the villages to see which were being attacked. He soon discovered a group of 14 Saxons who were just leaving a village with their freshly gained loot. Cynyrsa sent his squire back to inform the other knights while he charged the Saxons, hoping to delay their escape. While brave, such a maneuver was incredibly foolish. The Saxons nimbly avoided Cynyrsa’s charge and then killed his horse out from underneath him. Cynyrsa was no match for the Saxon’s numbers without his horse and was gravely wounded by them. He was only saved from death due to the timely arrival of the other knights, who engaged the Saxons in a fierce melee.

    Sagrar and Agragor were the heroes of the fight, together defeating over half of the raiders. The results of their combat clearly showed the difference between the brothers: all of Sagrar’s enemies had been killed, often in one strike, while Agragor took everyone he fought alive. One of Agragor’s foes was captured without leaving a single scratch on him; Agragor repeatedly disarmed the Saxon until he did not even have a dagger left to defend himself with and surrendered out of shame.

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Year 490

 

Introducing the Knights of 490

  • Gadd the Fist: Cynyrsa’s cousin and Gydwyr’s illegitimate older brother. A poor example of a knight, Gadd’s deceitful nature and gambling skills made him more at home amongst the criminals and lowlives of society than the court of nobles. He shunned the traditional weapons of a knight and fought with his bare hands, often capturing his foes by pulling them right off their horses. (Our GM’s using the 5.0 rulebook, which has grapple as its own separate skill).
  • Gahengroen the Gregarious: The younger brother of Mahengroen. Extremely attractive and sociable, he was well liked amongst the ladies of Salisbury.
  • Merrok the Martyr:  Sagrar’s cousin. An adventurer who took every opportunity he could find to travel Britain on heroic quests. His fanatic devotion to paganism in the face of persecution would come to play a major role in the religious narrative of the pagan alliance. Over the years his adventurous side would mellow out as he matured into a wise patriarch of his family.

 

    The Battle of Lindsey. An epic clash between the armies of King Uther and the heinous Saxon invaders under the command of King Octa and Eosa the Giant to determine the fate of Britain. All knights at the battle fought valiantly, but it was here that Cynyrsa proved himself and earned the title “Saxon Bane.” Cynyrsa’s rage against the Saxons ran wild as he cut down his foes left and right.

    As the battle neared its end, Duke Gorlois of Cornwall charged the Saxon’s right flank and defeated Eosa the Giant, causing the flank to rout. Soon after Uther unleashed the power of Excalibur, destroying the Saxon center and causing their army to break and flee. Amidst the chaos Cynyrsa saw King Octa trying to rally his bodyguards, and the pagan knights charged to do battle with the Saxon king. Cynyrsa instantly slew one of Octa’s bodyguards, and then he and Sagrar together fought the king. Octa was a powerful opponent, made more dangerous by the magical Axe Haevn that he wielded. Sagrar was knocked out of the fight early on, leaving Cynyrsa to battle the king alone. After a fierce exchange of blows Octa was unhorsed and captured. As the battle drew to its close Cynyrsa brought the captured king to Uther, who showered the knights with treasure as reward. Cynyrsa kept the Axe Haevn as a trophy; while he wasn’t trained in using an axe, Cynyrsa promised that his child would be taught how to wield the weapon and continue his legacy of slaying Saxons (this promise is going to come back to bite me 10 years from now).

 

    With the Saxon army crushed Prince Madoc led a raiding band to strike while the land was defenseless. The knights still healthy enough to fight joined him, burning down multiple Saxon villages.

Edited by ArkSvid
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Year 491

Introducing the Knights of 491

  • Vortinc the Good Pagan: Cynyrsa’s cousin. A paragon of pagan virtue with a keen strategic mind and a deep love for his family. His rise to fame would one day overshadow Cynyrsa to the point that the name of their clan would change from the Cynyrsa Clan to “The Vortinc Clan.”

 

    With the pagan knights having gained the king’s favor from their success at the Battle of Lindsey, Sagrar and Cynyrsa requested permission from Earl Roderick to marry Ladies Gwiona and Adwen. Sagrar was granted permission to marry Lady Gwiona, and their marriage set for the coming winter. It seems Sagrar the Merciless truly was stronger than any curse.

    Cynyrsa’s request to marry Lady Adwen had a complication: Sir Jaraden had made the same request earlier that day. Earl Roderick had not given Sir Jaraden a definitive answer yet, so there was still hope for Cynyrsa. Roderick declared that whichever of the two knights performed best in the upcoming war would be granted Lady Adwen’s hand in marriage.

 

    And war was coming. The treacherous Duke Gorlois of Cornwall had broken the king’s hospitality and risen in rebellion. However Cynyrsa’s sources in the court revealed that Uther’s desire for Duke Gorlois’s wife, Ygraine, was the real cause of the conflict. But whether the conflict was just or not, the king had ordered them to war and so they would go.

 

    On the eve before the battle Sir Jaraden swaggered through the army’s camp, showing off a jeweled sword he had bought. While bragging about the purchase, he made some barbed jests regarding Cynyrsa’s tendency towards being knocked unconscious in battle. As much as this angered Cynyrsa, he did not want to risk injuring himself right before such an important battle, so he let the comments pass without challenging Sir Jaraden to a duel. Instead he went to his cousin Gadd and began to plot revenge.

    Gadd was more than willing to engage in underhanded revenge quests, and quickly put together a plan, recruiting Sagrar to act as his muscle. Sir Jaraden’s squire was a young man named Beris, who was developing a reputation for his greed. Gadd found Beris while the squire was away from his knight and invited him to a game of dice. Beris’s greed was greater than his sense and he accepted the offer, despite Gadd’s famous deceitfulness. Gadd and Sagrar played the squire along, tempting his greed to pull him into increasingly larger bets until the stakes were much higher than any squire could hope to pay off. At that point Gadd pulled out every cheating trick he knew until Beris found himself owing over 20 libra to the knights. Gadd “graciously”offered Beris a way out of the debt: bring him the jeweled sword Sir Jaraden was so proud of, and all obligations would be cleared. Beris was greatly tempted, but his loyalty to Sir Jaraden won out and he refused, even when Sagrar tried to intimidate the squire.

 

    The plan to steal the jeweled sword may have been foiled, but there was another way to strike back at Sir Jaraden. The upcoming battle would determine whether Cynyrsa or Jaraden would be able to marry Lady Adwen; it would be a shame if Sir Jaraden was wounded before the battle began and wasn’t able to fight at his full strength. Claiming it was to serve as a reminder for his debt, Sagrar cut off Beris’s left pinky finger and sent him back to his knight. The moment Sir Jaraden saw what Sagrar had done to his squire, he immediately challenged Sagrar to a duel.

    While Sir Jaraden may have once been the most skilled swordsman in Salisbury, he had spent the last few years practicing his courtly skills to try and woo Lady Adwen, while Sagrar had done nothing but study the blade and had surpassed Sir Jaraden’s abilities. The duel lasted only moments before Sagrar drew first blood and Sir Jaraden was forced to surrender. The wound was not deep enough to greatly hinder Sir Jaraden’s combat ability, but just seeing the master swordsman being so quickly defeated filled Cynyrsa with joy.

 

    Uther’s armies laid siege to Terrabil, where Duke Gorlois and his army were holed up at. The siege reached a climax when Duke Gorlois led a night attack on Uther’s forces. In the chaos of the fighting Gorlois killed Prince Madoc, Uther’s son, only to then be immediately killed by the pagan knights of Salisbury. Seeing the death of their liege threw Gorlois’ bodyguards into an impassioned rage. The pagan knights were nearly wiped out, with Cynyrsa being decapitated and the rest brought to the verge of death before reinforcements arrived and rescued them. The battle was won, but at terrible cost, both for the king and the pagan alliance.

 

    Cynyrsa’s death caused a crisis in his family as he had no male heirs, brothers, and none of his sisters were married to knights who could take over the military duties required of his manor. Vortinc, as the most prestigious living knight in the family, claimed ownership of Idmiston Manor and moved in. This was at best questionably legal, and at worst a blatant power grab. Vortinc’s claim would not go unchallenged.

 

    The bodies of Prince Madoc and Cynyrsa had barely had the time to cool before Uther declared his engagement to Lady Ygraine, the widow of Duke Gorlois. He held a lavish wedding in the summer which included a hunting tournament that the pagan knights would participate in. The first day of the tournament was fairly uneventful, but on the second day the group found a lion’s tracks. They tracked the beast down and ambushed it, dealing great wounds to it. This was not enough to kill the lion and it let loose a terrifying roar. Vortinc and Mahengroen fled in terror, leaving Sagrar alone to face it. Strong as he was, Sagrar could not hope to kill a lion by himself, and was brutally torn apart.

    On the final day of the tournament Vortinc and Mahengroen went hunting for the lion, seeking to avenge the death of Sagrar. They followed the wounded beast’s trail, and upon finding it quickly struck it before it could release another roar. Thanks to the injuries inflicted on it the day before, the two were able to defeat the lion. This was by far the greatest catch in the tournament, and Vortinc was given a masterwork sword as a prize (+2 to sword skill).

 

    Mahengroen spent lavishly during the fall and winter. He gave Lady Elaine over 22 libra worth of jewelry as a gift, which finally convinced her to accept his proposal and the two were married in the winter. Mahengroen also built a marble statue of Sagrar in Newton Tony Manor to memorialize the death of his friend. Superstitious peasants would claim that on some nights blood would flow from the statue’s unsheathed blade, but this story was never confirmed by any reputable source.

 

Obituary

Cynyrsa (465-491, 26 years old): Had his brief moment of fame after defeating King Octa, but his rising star was quickly cut down. His lands would be inherited by his cousin, Vortinc. Cynyrsa only had one living child, an illegitimate daughter named Avariath, who was also taken into Vortinc’s care. Despite the protests from decent society regarding proper gender roles, Vortinc swore to fulfill Cynyrsa’s promise and raise his child to wield the magical axe of Haevn against the Saxons. Final Glory: 3,934

 

Sagrar (465-491, 26 years old): It turned out even Sagrar was not strong enough to defeat the curse of trying to marry Lady Gwiona. Sagrar only had one child, an illegitimate son named Sagrados who could not legally inherit Winterbourne Gunnet Manor. Instead his lands were passed to his brother, Agragor. Sagrados was taken in by Sagrar’s cousin, Merrok, who would give the child a proper pagan education. Final Glory: 3,862

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