1. Uwain Broadfoot (5,372)
2. Cyfan of Teffort (4,964)
3. Lug of Winterslow (4,782)
4. Nidian of Haxton (4,075) (absent)
5. Teryrnor of South Cott (3,080) (absent)
6. Gwyn of Tytherington (2,341) (absent)
7. Madog of Idmisdton (1,343) (absent)
The political situation is quickly coming to a head. Various Saxon emissaries are pressing Countess Ellen to ally or face the consequences. She has sworn to give fealty to King Cerdic, but he hasn't managed to make it up to Salisbury yet, and he will not promise troops in defense until she gives her oath as regent for the young lord. The attack from the eastern Saxons, for refusing to pay tribute last year, is immanent. Worse, Duke Ulfius of Silchester has allied with the eastern Saxons, so they will get free passage through his lands.
Uwain rides out hunting with Cerdic's son, Prince Cynric, to get a feel for things.
The Countess takes council with the knights. After deliberation, they recommend that she ride down to Hampshire to give her oath, and to also have the county prepare for war, even if it means a diminished harvest in the fall. She agrees and gives the order.
After a few days of packing, they set out. The knights, used to hard travels on the road and sleeping out of doors, are not used to the size of the Countess' party nor the slow speed at which it moves. In fact, it moves so slowly that Merlin catches up to them on his donkey! He is leaving Britain for the continent and beyond, and is looking for a strong escort to the southern ports.
At dusk a few days later, night seems to be drawing in quickly with a thick fog. Preternatural howls are heard in the distance! The knights frown; these do not sound like wolves at all. Merlin stiffens. "No, they are not wolves," he says. "They are the Black Dogs of the Fae."
Uwain shouts to circle the wagons. The Countess' escort of 25 handpicked knights form the first line of defense, the squires behind them, and the Countess' household inside the ring of wagons with bows and flaming brands. Growling and circling sitff-legged in the fog, at the edge of the light, the dogs come closer. They have glowing blue eyes and are the size of ponies. "Watch out for pack tactics!" yells Uwain. The curs leap! The knights yell! They engage the animals, but this is very different than fighting men. The dogs come in from the side, trying to hamstring man and horse indiscriminately. Sir Lug's prize charger, Hoss, screams as his left hind leg is shredded to ribbons. Sir Lug voids his saddle and lands on his feet. As the dogs take wounds, they disappear, seemingly at will, only to reattack a different knight.
Finally the dogs retreat. One of Ellen's knights (an NPC) is dead. They dragged him off his horse and tore his throat out as his yells turned to gurgles. Sir Lug's charger is a loss and must be put down.
"What do you know about those creatures?" Sir Cyfan asks Merlin during the aftermath. "Were they here for you?"
Merlin nods. "I'm afraid so. An evil sorceress took offense to me, and this is her revenge."
"Well, thanks a lot. We lost a good man because you are unable to solve your problems without getting others involved."
The sage looks troubled. "Noble knight, I assure you that all I do is for the good of Britain."
Sir Cyfan snorts and rides away.
The party continues to Hampshire. They are warmly received by all, and after a few days, King Cerdic and Countess Ellen exchange vows of fealty. The knights grind their teeth as they watch their liege lady kneel in front of a Saxon, but thankfully all fail their Hate (Saxons) roll and don't act out of line. Interestingly, it looks like Cerdic is building many, many ships.
With the oath sworn, they extract Cerdic's promise to send a small band up to Salisbury for the rest of the year -- about 30 knights and 60 foot. Hearing that, they decide to split off from the Countess' party and go to London, both to gather rumors of the Saxons and to see if the rumors about the sword embedded in the anvil at St. Paul's Cathedral have any truth to them.
There is indeed a sword in the courtyard at St. Paul's. It is stuck through an anvil, into a marble slab. On its blade are printed the words, "Whoever pulls this sword from the stone shall be the next High King of Britain."
The knights have a go, just to say they did, but of course it doesn't budge for them.
They ride out to the east to look for Saxons. They find them, are spotted, and escape through the trees with some hard riding. A cold, fireless night ensures that their escape is complete. Strangely, the Saxon force appears to be about a hundred men. That seems awfully small for invading Salisbury, but perhaps they're going to pick up more somewhere else. The knights ride hard back to Sarum and prepare the defense.
After a week or so, the Saxons show up. They're still only about a hundred foot soldiers. With the help from Cerdic, there are a hundred knights and three hundred foot. Uwain splits them into a reserve and a main force, and they meet the next morning in the field in front of the Sarum walls.
The Saxons are noticeably nervous. The Salisbury men are up on a little rise, and the Saxons are loathe to charge uphill. So they plant their spears and wait to receive a charge.
"What?" says Uwain. "They invade us, and then want us to mount the attack? ARCHERS!" The foresters of Salisbury loose a flight of arrows into the Saxon ranks, which spurs them into action. The Saxons charge! The knights charge out to meet them and it is a bloodbath. After a few dozen minutes of engagement the Saxons are broken and run, ridden down by the knights. Salisbury losses are minimal. A victory, but against a heavily outnumbered foe.
Harvests are down again, but at least not due to paying tribute.
1. Uwain Broadfoot (5,769)
2. Cyfan of Teffort (5,342)
3. Lug of Winterslow (5,171)
4. Nidian of Haxton (4,110)
5. Teryrnor of South Cott (3,137)
6. Gwyn of Tytherington (2,497)
7. Madog of Idmisdton (1,403)