Session One Hundred Fifty-Four - August 10, 2019

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred Fifty-Four - August 10, 2019

Postby Matt » Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:08 pm

Nolus 12, 733
Overcast and rainy

Goreg Ocazer thrust his face above the battlements of Caer Olokand and got it thrust right back again. A massive storm, replete with loud thunder, battered the fortress.

Having tasted the weather, Squire Ocazer retreated down to the main chamber of the Sanric Tower, the southwest pinnacle of the castle. There Lord Ewen Ravinargh's retinue gathered for the regular breakfast meeting, relocated from Raven Hall for the duration.

Goreg reported on the day's condition.

“It is of no matter,” said the Lord of Ternua. “We need to reconnoiter toward Setanlin today, regardless of conditions.” A map of the district north and west of the town was spread out on the table next to the pork sausage. “Order a detachment for a reconnaissance-in-force to leave at once.”

The troop of light horse would form the core, joined by three of the local knights—including Sir Daxton, three of the knights of Ternua, the Baron's retinue, Lord Prehil, and Lord Ewen himself. Twenty-four swords in all.

Any viking raiding party they encountered would likely be four to eight times as large, but the mounted force would be large enough to defend itself, and, even with the mud, could move relatively swiftly. The important thing now was to gather information and try to blunt the viking advance ere the Queen's arrival with the principal armies of Kaldor. If the opportunity presented itself, they might be able to cut off a smaller group of Harbaalese and eliminate them.

As they prepared to leave, Artanar Nalis, the steward, approached Ewen. “Milord, could I beg a moment of your time?”

“When we return.”

“Well, I hope that will be soon, milord. People are starving, you know.”

“Eh?”

The steward—once recovered from an immense hacking fit—reported that Olokand, swollen with refugees, stood on the brink of famine. The invasion had come at the worst possible time, with the harvest some months away.

Time was short, and Ewen had no wish to speak on a problem of such magnitude without consideration. It would have to wait until he returned.

So they rode out, the sound of the steward's cough echoing behind them.

In the teeth of continuing rain, they rode from midmorning to almost noon, reaching Brin Manor. The bailiff there, Sir Hamada Yalland, reported no activity other than a few refugees coming through. The refugees were from Huxley—a cause of concern to Sir Daxton. They proceeded to Doerin manor, where the bailiff there, Sir Alder Odasart, reported much the same thing. Past Doerin the Calaprast stream split. Thunder boomed overhead. The road became a trial.

Two miles further on, Lord Ewen's forces reached Bahrey Manor. There a lone knight, accompanied by a rather motley band of militia, prepared to depart.

“Sir Daxton!” the knight called out. “You've come at just the right moment!”

Lord Ewen rode to the front. “I am Lord Ewen, Baron of Ternua, Sheriff of Meselyneshire. Who is this knight?”

“So, a new sheriff at last!” He introduced himself as Sir Velcram Ardazar, holder of this manor from Abriel Abbey.

“What can you report of the situation?”

“My manor of Clodan to the west is being attacked by the vikings!”

“In what numbers?”

“I don't know. My peasants have run away and just arrived. Don't know what can be done, but I'd be grateful for any assistance.”

“Milord, might I suggest Goreg and I scout ahead and return?” Sir Baris asked.

“What's the distance to Clodan?”

“No more than thirty minutes, milord, with a sure-footed steed,” Sir Velcram said.

“Let us all go. See what we have to deal with.”

“Very good, milord,” Sir Baris said.

The party forded the rain-swollen Calaprast and made good time—to a scene of desolation.

Clodan was a tiny place, no more than fifteen families, but it had been a place of life. Now bodies lay in the doorways and skewed grotesquely in the watering troughs. The left door of the Peonian chapel hung on a single hinge; the windows were shattered. The corpses of men, children, and old folk littered the area. Some had obviously fallen wounded and been dispatched. What livestock could not be driven off had been slaughtered on the spot. The fields were trampled. Surely the only reason the entire place was not a blazing holocaust was that it was too wet to burn.

Sir Daxton, grimly surveying the scene, said, “Whatever happened here, we missed it.”

Sir Velcram grimly surveyed his fief. “About a third of the folk are missing, I'd say. The vikings must have taken them.”

All about in the churned mud were footprints of the raiders, hundreds of them.

“Sir Daxton,” Lord Ewen said, “Do you think the barbarians would go through Huxley to Setrew?

“If they did not go through Setanlin, that would make sense. They most likely headed back to Huxley.”

Sir Velcram said, “The rain will make the muddy roads hard to track.”

Nevertheless, Lord Ewen ordered pursuit. The trail of the viking host was easy enough to follow, blazoned by the carcasses of pigs and sheep.

Cekiya, her curiousity unbound, dropped from her mount, and lay astride one of the fallen sheep. “No hope. They’re as cold as a gulmorvrin’s tomb.”

When they reached Huxley, Sir Daxton hid his face in his hands and moaned. His manor had suffered the same fate, probably the previous day. Each home lot was an ash pit now, the corpses charred and swollen.

Three roads converged at Huxley. A study of the tracks indicated that while traffic had traversed all three, there were cloven hoofprints only towards Setrew. The prints must have been made that day. The horde must have split here to cover more territory.

Cekiya considered Lord Ewen. Yes, he could handle such a task. “Move the peasants,” she said quietly. “And their animals to a place the vikings cannot reach them.”

Ewen sat higher in his saddle. “We have to evacuate the countryside!”

A difficult endeavor, and Sir Velcram objected at first. Ewen, supported by Sir Daxton, laid out the plain sense of the move. He agreed to dispatch his squire to Setanlin—assuming it had not yet been raided. Sir Daxton, accompanied by Lady Ealen Gravelyn, would go to Doerinn. Sir Paquin went to Loban, Hesby, and Wythian, and Lord Ewen ordered Sir Welcris Labiera to go with him.

Not until 11:00 in the evening did the force reach Olokand again.


Nolus 13, 733

The next morning found Lord Ewen in deep contemplation. How severe need he be? The peasants would need encouragement in order to do what was best for all. Should malingerers who refused to bring food with them to Olokand be hanged? Probably too harsh at this point. But that threat would need to held in close reserve.

He could hear Artanar Nalas hacking outside his chamber door.

“Come in.”

Ewen informed the steward of his plan to evacuate the countryside.

“Very good, milord. The extra food the peasants bring will alleviate the immediate problem. The new refugees can be sent into Nelafayn Hundred, where they can be fed.”

“How many are in town right now?”

“About 300, milord. But that is not the only part of the problem. Right now Ambarnis Hundred, including Olokand, has been wrecked. We already have a deficit of 170 mouths a month. Starvation will come quickly.”

“How great a deficit is that?”

“Well, take Doerin, for example. They were expected to produce, this harvest, food enough for 60 mouths. That was their entire surplus for the year. So 170 is quite a lot, I'm afraid. When each manor is sacked, their production falls to nothing. These raids are becoming self-defeating, because the vikings can take what they need this year, but there shall be no supplies for them the next. They're like locusts, milord. They will need to go into other hundreds to get supplies, eventually reaching Gardiren. The bridge at Setrew must be a logistics depot, for people, but not for livestock. If they are raiding Allence Hundred, they must be using boats. Last year they had sixteen warboats, enough to make the bridge. They may have more now.”

“I see.”

“But I must say, milord, that the manors we are discussing will not be sufficient. It shall be necessary to tap the outlying manors. Carts must be sent out. These may require commandeering. The raids started around the 5th. Now it's the 13th. Food stocks are low this time of year. In the fall, this might not even be a problem. But it's not fall, milord.”

Ewen was going to have to find some local figure with enough moral authority to sway the countryside. Perhaps the Bishop at Abriel Abbey? What was the man the like? He rose to go find Prehil.

“Er—milord?”

“Yes?”

“By tradition, the sheriff holds court on the 15th of the month.”

In the midst of all this chaos? “How many cases are there?”

“Sixteen, milord. Six in your immediate jurisdiction and another ten appeals from the hundred moots. But good news, milord—many of the litigants are from Ambarnis and Allence hundreds. They might not show up.”

“We should be able to move through those fairly expeditiously, I should think.”

“Very good, milord.”

Ewen found Lord Prehil sinking his morning ale.

“What sort of man is the Bishop at Abriel Abbey?”

Prehil took another swig and considered. “Remal Curo? He's nothing like his brother, I can tell you that.”

“How hard will be it to convince him to aid our efforts?”

“How much money did you bring?”

“Is that it?”

“Well, he's not going to inherit the earldom. A bishopric's the next best thing, but there're only so many opportunities to line one's purse.”

“Do you think you can sway him?”

“Me? Nah. Honestly, he's probably the least political animal there is in the Curo clan. But I hear he is a tolerable sermon-slinger!”

By mid-morning Sir Daxton had returned, but not Lady Ealen, Sir Paquin, or Sir Welcris. Sir Daxton said there was no issue with the manors he scouted. Malteset was safe, so far.

Without waiting for more information, Lord Ewen rode to Abriel Abbey, escorted by Sir Baris, Goreg, Sir Daxton, and several other knights. Sir Daxton was eager to go along, in hopes of directly informing a member of the Curo clan of the actions of the Baron of Setrew.

“I have cause that the Baron will regret the previous earl's passing before this is over,” said the good knight.

For Sir Ewen, Sir Baris, and Cekiya, the sight of the abbey village brought back uncomfortable memories of their first visit two years before. Sir Baris in particular had no wish to stay one moment longer than necessary. Only his loyalty to Lord Ewen drove him on.

All was in order here, with no sign of the vikings. The peasants tugged their forelocks at the party. Things were more disciplined than they had been at the party's first visit, and two soldiers of the Order of the Lady of Dolithar stood careful guard at the abbey gate.

One held up a hand. “Greetings to you, good knight!”

“Greetings. I am Lord Ternua, new Sheriff of Meselyneshire, here to see the Bishop on a matter of some urgency.”

“He will be pleased to see you, sir. Come this way!”

The Bishop's residence was a U-shaped building abutting the abbey's cemetery. There the guards handed the party off to two mekens of the guard. The steward ordered refreshments, but Sir Baris was so put out he could only drink half an ale.

A man with a strong resemblance to Meden Curo, but with a younger cast to his face, entered the room.

“You are the famous Lord Ternua! I have heard a great deal about you. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“Thank you, my lord Bishop. I have no idea what manner of fame dogs my heels, but I am pleased to be here. Although I must say this is not a purely social occasion.”

The Bishop blessed the party. Goreg reacted with keen devotion. Sir Baris tried to look elsewhere. Then the clergyman took a seat.

“Is this ale? Bring wine!”

“I'm fine with ale,” said Sir Baris.

“Nonsense! It's a medicinal fact that wine goes better with the constitution. You wouldn't want to cross a Bishop, would you?”

Sir Baris refrained from saying what he thought of Laranian bishops.

“Sir Baris is famous for his love of ale,” said Ewen.

“In that case, we shall grant an exception, and give you an indulgence for ale.”

Ewen continued. “I couldn't help but observe, my lord, on approach, that the grounds look to be in a fine state. The last time I was here was in the tenure of your predecessor, which ended unfortunately.”

“Ah, well. Unfortunately for some, fortunately for others. I should say we conducted a complete and thorough exorcism of the entire grounds. But milord Sheriff, you mentioned pressing business?”

“I wish had more time for pleasantries. I come from Olokand. Unfortunately, several raiding parties of vikings, approximately 200 strong each, have sacked the Ambarnis and Allence hundreds and inflicted many casualties, destroying many manors. I am reluctant to say, and Sir Daxton can provide eyewitness testimony, that they have taken Setrew keep.”

“My brother will be very unhappy.”

“I believe the Baron of Setrew has departed east to Gardiren to bring the news to him.”

“That will make him even unhappier.”

“Indeed. The situation in Ambarnis Hundred is grave, my lord. I have been tasked by the Queen to do what I can in the teeth of the invasion while she gathers her forces. I believe she intends to ride out at the head of those forces, though the mustering will take time. I come to petition my lord to assist in what we can do in the meantime to mitigate the disaster.”

“I will call together my knights, soldiers, and even my priests, to help defend the kingdom.”

“Of course, milord. Given the number of manors sacked and the livestock taken to the base at Setrew, Olokand is in desperate straits in the matter of food. There is also the problem of refugees streaming, perhaps into this very hundred. It is incumbent upon us to give proper thought to these matters.”

“Of course.”

“I must make sure the royal town of Olokand stands, and the Queen not disappointed to find it taken.”

“Oh no, we should never want that.”

“It is, after all the very heart of her royal clan.”

“Yes, I believe I see the dilemma. Allow me to propose a solution. The dilemma being that the poor unfortunates are forced to flee their homes and throw themselves on the charity of others. It is of course incumbent on those others to provide succor. Yet if they provide too much succor, they themselves will be in need. I see us in a position to even that out. Naturally, the poor refugees have nothing but the rags on their backs. And those of us in Nelafayn have much provender. I should think that if we were to offer the good villagers of Nelafayn a good and honest recompense, they would open their larders and their hearts. What think you, milord Sheriff?”

“An unusual offer, milord. I'm not sure if I can think of a precedent. Tell me more. It sounds to me like you are suggesting I should be reimbursing peasants?”

“Well, not so much the peasants as the holders and custodians of those villages, who would be, shall we say, almost fatally compromised in caring for those peasants, without proper due. Now naturally these kind of things can be considered at a very high level.”

Ewen considered this. “Milord, how much did you have in mind?”

“One hesitates to put a number on such things, but there would be a significant organizational component to this, from what you tell me.”

“Your reputation for organization is well earned.”

“It is too kind for people to say that, it is exaggerated. I should think there are 33 manors in Nelafayn hundred, each a fine prosperous place ...”

“For the time being.”

“For the time being. Good for their lords, good for their peasants, as Larani orders it. 33 manors—it would seem to me that allowing for breakage of half of them, a mere £16 would enable an all-out organizational extravaganza.”

Sir Daxton looked shocked.

“Milord, you mentioned the muster of some knights to assist you with the defense of the lands to your north. I believe these would be instrumental in assisting my forces to defend your lands.”

“I see no reason why not. In addition to the normal contingent, there is the chapter at Iverson, my personal guard. I would be happy to send them to Olokand. Five knights and ten meken. All I would ask is that while they are volunteering, they do so at the shrievalty's room and board.”

“Certainly. It would be my pleasure.”

“Then they are at your disposal.”

“Thank you. My lord, as you will imagine, with these matters of great magnitude and the shrievalty so newly placed in my hands ...”

“Yet clearly in the right hands. I shall have to tell my brother, and correct his opinion.”

“Your brother and I, as you may be aware, have made each other's acquaintance and sat upon the council together. His is a sharp mind. And a worthy successor to your father, whom I also met, having dined at his table on one memorable evening. I offer my condolences on his loss.”

“You dined at my father's table only one evening? A gastronome you are clearly not. I hope you did not overindulge.”

“It was not for lack of opportunity.”

“My brother, as you are no doubt aware, is more abstemious.”

“Yes.”

“Well, you would no doubt be anxious to return to Olokand and your responsibilities.”

“Yes. It would benefit me and my desire to punctiliously fulfill my responsibilities that the matter of the £16 be thoroughly documented on both ends.”

“It will be done, above board. I will forward the paperwork at a later time. Before you depart, I would have my steward write up an order to the chapter house at Iverson, for them to follow you.” He spoke to the steward, who scurried off. “One more thing, milord Sheriff, one more thing. You said the Baron of Setrew had gone to Gardiren?”

“That was Sir Daxton's understanding.”

Sir Daxton took voice. “Milord, he decamped for Gardiren with all due haste. I believe he took a whopping fat purse and several ladies.”

The Bishop steepled his fingers in the Curo way. “I thank you, Sir Daxton. Have we met?”

“I have attended services here over the past year.”

“Yes, of course. One more thing, milord Sheriff. Since the Baron of Setrew has apparently departed posthaste, my brother will be coming.”

“We can use all the help we can get.”

“He will not be alone.”

“I am heartened to hear it. And I shall be pleased to greet him when our paths cross again. In the meantime, my lord, it has been a pleasure.”

A servant boy appeared at Ewen's elbow with a firkin.

“Please, take this wine,” said the Bishop. “I recall the wine at Olokand being ...” and he made an equivocal face.

“Milord Bishop, before I take my leave, if I may prevail upon you for one more blessing?”

The clergyman again raised a benedictive hand over Ewen and his troop.

On their way out of the abbey, Ewen casually said to Baris “Do you think they have a rack in there?”

Baris shuddered.


At Iverson, Ewen delivered the Bishop's orders to acclaim. “About time we killed some vikings!” the knights shouted.

By late afternoon they were back at Olokand. The first evacuated peasants, and their livestock, were arriving. On the ostler's common, the only place with room, slaughtering had begun to feed the starving masses of the town.

The castle steward met Ewen in his chamber. He informed his lord that Sir Dickon had arrived in their absence. The Sheriff briefed the man on his arrangement with the Bishop.

“Very good, milord. Now that you've made the opening move, I will send a reputable man to oversee the operation and ensure the food arrives.” He fell to hacking again.

“Yes. Make sure all the details are documented.” Ewen waited through the end of the fit. “Steward Nalas, may I ask what the matter is with your lungs?”

“It's nothing, milord. I'll rest eventually. You're a long time dead.”

Ewen had nothing to say in response to that.

The return to the abbey had left Sir Baris with a great need for ale. He repaired to the great hall of the castle, ready for a tankard and a bit of sociability.

At one table, already imbibing, sat Sir Cardiel, Sir Telek Sumsby, and the newly returned Sir Paquin.

Why had Sir Cardiel never mentioned his sister was Sir Baris's wife? And his wife had only mentioned Sir Cardiel once. Sir Baris resolved to find out. He drew his own foaming tankard and went to join the trio.

Sir Baris slapped Sir Cardiel on the back and said “Sir Cardiel! I recently found that you and I were legally related, and I thought I would introduce myself!”

“We've met,” said Cardiel. “You're Sir Baris Tyrestal, Lord of Selepan. We crossed lances in the tournament.”

“Well, yes, but we have not conversed as such.”

To which Sir Cardiel said nothing.

Sir Paquin decided to fill the vacuum. “Sir Baris, you're lucky you never crossed lances with my uncle, Sir Kathel!”

“But I did fight next to him, at Olokand, where he fell in battle. I am glad I never crossed lances with him. He fought to the utmost, and acquitted himself as a knight should, honorably.”

“Wait a minute. I heard about that. Were you the guy who stuck the arm in his belt?”

“Yes!”

“Well, I want to share an ale with you!”

There was a glow of manly camaraderie, but still Sir Cardiel said nothing.

Sir Baris tried again. “Sir Cardiel, I find myself new to the joys of matrimony. Are you married?”

“I am.”

“Any advice?”

“Are you asking my advice about women?”

“No, I don't have any problem with that.”

“Are you suggesting it's possible to be married to something other than a woman?”

“No!” The word 'Orcbuggerer' burned across Sir Baris's mind, but no one here, luckily, knew anything about that. “It's just all new to me. What do you do during the day?”

“Well, I'm not married,” said Sir Paquin. “But during the day, you stay out of her way.”

“I'm doing that! Duty is all! But at some point, do we talk?”

“Do you talk? What on earth would you talk about?”

“I don't know. Do husbands and wives talk about stuff?”

“No!”

“This isn't easy!”

“The very notion—talking to one's wife!” Sir Paquin snorted.

“Are you not, in fact, unmarried?” Sir Cardiel asked.

“True. I don't actually know.” With that remark, Sir Paquin left to find the privy.

Sir Baris, finding himself alone with the man, tried a new tack.

“I'm sure you've seen your sister's son has been acting as my squire. I'm confused because he tells me his uncle is acting as his warden. I just want to make sure I'm not stepping on anyone's toes—or stepping in shit. I've tried to talk to Erane, but maybe I haven't been asking the right questions.”

Sir Cardiel put down his ale and looked right at the Naked Knight.

“My sister, as you term her, has made several bad decisions. I do not say you were one of them. But—taking her children from their land and leaving it in the hands of her erstwhile quondam brother-in-law was among the most foolish, irresponsible things she had ever done in her entire flighty life. If you have married my sister, and I care not to acknowledge her as such, you have my sympathies. However, I spent some of the afternoon with my nephew and he is a delightful child.”

Baris digested this. “I do not know this brother-in-law.”

“He is a scavenger, a thief, and a coward.”

“His intentions are clearly not honorable.”

“He seeks the fief for himself.”

“This is valuable information.”

“And it is my nephew who is Lord of Rovinath, not this other guy.”

“It seems like this is probably a family matter, a problem for another day. You can rest assured that your nephew is in good hands with me.”

Sir Cardiel resumes his ale. “Selepan—how many acres?”

“Almost one thousand. I can't remember exactly. That's Tora's bailiwick.”

“Rovinath is one thousand four hundred and fifty, a substantial fief. I hold four manors.”

“I don't know if it will come to war, but I have allies.”

“Well, yes. You do seem close to Sheriff Ternua.”

“I shall have to think on this.”

Baris went back to the tun for another tankard. What had his new wife gotten him into?


Outside the castle, on the north side of Olokand town, was a desolate swath. When the vikings had attacked the previous year, the houses there had been destroyed to allow for better defense. Now the refugees claimed the space, huddling in crude tents.

Arva went to them.

“I am a harper in the Sheriff's retinue. He has sent me to see to the well-being of everyone here. I thought I'd play a few songs to raise your spirits.”

And play her lute she did, and the spirits of those broken folk were, for a moment, raised. They began to chat with this harper. Some from Setrew described their Baron's departure. He left early in the morning, took a boat from the docks and crossed over to Halperin manor. There were ladies with him, as well as his personal guard. The Baron took much personal luggage, chests full of it. As he left, he addressed the handful of townsfolk who emerged to see him off. He told them to stand fast, that he was going to fetch help and would return. The guildsmen of the town left shortly thereafter


The Sheriff himself was on another errand.

“Going for an evening stroll, milord?” asked the gate guard. “Shall we escort you?”

“No need, I can manage.”

Ewen left the castle and went to the neighborhood of Olokand next to the destroyed area. He stopped at the shop of one Releyne of Lerik, lexigrapher. The door was locked.

With the power of his mind, he unlocked it and stepped into the darkened shop. It was much as he seen it a year ago. He slipped into the back room, opened a trap door in the floor, and descended into the cellar.

Living rock was the best foundation for Deryni portals. Though it could not be seen by the naked eye, Ewen could sense its presence. He thought of the three portals in Tashal he knew: the Peonian crypt; Rahel's study; and the cellar corridor of Dickon House. Although he knew of no other portals in the city, Rahel had indicated she had created one in Caer Elend itself. It seemed to him her study was the best choice at the moment.

Standing on the portal in Olokand, he bent the energies in a way that had become familiar to him and found himself in Tashal, a distance of many miles in a single bound.

Rahel's study was empty on his arrival, but his sister soon swept into the room. “About time,” she said, pouting ever so slightly.

“I apologize for arriving at your boudoir unannounced, my lady. Shall we speak?”

She paused. “I'm trying to decided if I should accept your apology or ignore it. I will ignore it. Come—I have an exceptional new brandy. There was no point in sharing it with anyone else. I do hope you will not rush away.”

“I see no need to to. The provisions here are far superior to those on the other side of the portal.”

“Tell me everything.”

The two joined in rapport, opening their minds to each other. For Rahel's part, there was less to tell. The Queen had received Ewen's messengers and sent couriers to all the great of the realm, ordering them to gather their troops and march posthaste. Ewen noted with interest that the Earls of Vemion and Neph were among those summoned. Lord Orsin Firith would be the general of the army, but the Queen intended to take the field herself.

The merging of minds led to a merging of bodies.


Somewhat later, Ewen transited back through the portal to Olokand and returned to the castle.

“Well, milord, I hope that was a walk of great refreshment!” said the guard.

“Yes, I feel invigorated and ready for a new day ... Sergeant.”

Once Ewen was past, the newly promoted guard squealed “At last!”


Nolus 15, 733

Early that morning, Sir Daxton visited Lord Ewen.

“Milord Sheriff, a moment.”

“My time is yours.”

“I shall not take too much of it. When you asked me to evacuate certain manors, including Malteset, I asked a person of consequence there, the miller, if he would be willing to engage in dangerous exercises. I did not wish to inform you of this, in case it did not come off. But it has. This miller enjoys fishing. He owns a coracle, and spends many afternoons dropping a hook into the Kald. I asked him to secrete himself in the village, to see what happened after evacuation, and then use the boat to make a speedy journey here.

“He arrived late yesterday. He said the vikings, to their eternal confusion, arrived in Malteset to loot—and found nothing. They burned the village, but the miller tells me they did not look happy.”

“I am gratified to hear that. I appreciate a knight who takes initiative.”

“Yes, milord. So we know that at the very least they made it as far as Malteset, and that they came away empty handed because you sir, were farsighted enough to secure the food before they could steal it.”

“We must anticipate their next moves.”

“Across the river, I say. Olokand stands between them and Nelefayn. They must build across the river to Allence and Myaman hundreds.”

“It would behoove us to do what we can in Allence Hundred to replicate what has partially succeeded here. I may call for other measures, but I need to know who are the dependable knights in Allence.”

“That is a reasonable position, milord. I am not as familiar with the men of Allence as I am with the men of Setrew. I can tell you this much: one of the great landowners is the Sheriff of Balimshire, though he is in his castle to the south, Shebra. If I may suggest, one of the things that enables the vikings is this bridge in Setrew. It's made of boats. Are not boats made of wood, milord? Does not wood burn?”

“Yes, it does.”

“Perhaps if I were to take a boat or two myself, something might be done. There are two available here at the shipwright's. If we were to take two upriver in the night—the moon is not full, but not waning—and set fire to the bridge. That might deal quite a blow to our foes. I would be happy to join such an expedition.”

“I like the audacity. It might be possible. We could rig the boats out like fire ships.”

“There are only two, milord. How would we get back? Perhaps we could bring two smaller boats along and use those, provided it was a small enough contingent. We could load up the niviks with combustibles.”

“This wouldn't be a mission that would benefit from many men.”

“Scarcely more than a dozen, I would think. This would be upriver, so there would need to be enough to row.”

Ewen considered the knight. He was no vassal of his; he didn't even have to report like this. “I like your eye, Sir Daxton. I like a man with a sharp mind. Can I trust you with the task of overseeing these niviks and securing a crew?”

“Consider it done.”

“What night would you use for this mission?

“Tomorrow wouldn't be soon enough. But to be sure of it, and have the right people, probably better to have one more day. So two nights hence.”

“Let it be done. Perhaps members of my retinue might contribute. They have experience in these things.”

“They would be welcome.”

“Choose men in whom you have confidence.”

“They must necessarily be seamen, milord, and of those there are not many in town. I may have to take what is available.”

“Of course.”

The sound of hacking down the corridor signaled the steward was coming. It was time for court.

Ewen took a purse of 60d and gave it to Sir Daxton to defray the costs of hiring the needed mariners.


Steward Nalas led Ewen to the Council Chamber in the Southwest Tower. The great table had been moved, and the hall was now filled with hungry-looking litigants. All rose as he entered.

“Milord, tradition holds court is the one occasion on which the sheriff is expected to sit upon the throne.”

Ewen took the hallowed seat. “Steward Nalas, pray begin.”

The aged retainer of the shire turned to the assemblage and spoke in his loudest voice.

“SITTING OF THE SHRIEVALTY COURT AT OLOKAND FOR NOLUS 733, THE RIGHT HONORABLE LORD EWEN RAVINARGH, BARON OF TERNUA AND SHERIFF OF MESELYNESHIRE, PRESIDING. OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ.”

Cases falling under the direct jurisdiction of the shrievalty:

#1: Battery.

At the Standing Bear Tavern in Olokand. The miscreant was in custody.

“He's not the victim! He swung first and hit me!”

The two parties agreed they hit each other. They agreed on nothing else.

The Lord Sheriff asked “Are there any witnesses?”

“I'm so glad you asked,” stated the plaintiff. “I have a witness.”

A woman came forward. “I saw the whole thing, milord! I saw that miscreant strike my husban—er, that man.”

The Lord Sheriff ruled that both men disturbed the Queen's peace, and sentenced them each to a half a day in the stocks.


#2:Rape

A man of Nelefayn Hundred accused Ottar the Beadle of having raped his daughter in the course of his official duties.

The Lord Sheriff asked “Is this man's daughter present in the court?”

“She is too ashamed to show her face in public—or her distended belly!”

“Does the beadle wish to defend himself?”

“I wish to speak, milord! I do not know this man or his daughter!”

The Lord Sheriff ruled that since the young lady could not see fit to bring her own case, he dismissed the charges. The plaintiff was futilely outraged.


#3: Conspiracy

A man claimed he overheard Heltern the Salter, of the village of Watanish, talk of his partiality to the vikings, and his love of their … women. He furthermore stated that Heltern gave valuable information to the foe.

The Lord Sheriff asked who the plaintiff was.

The plaintiff stated he was Heltern's brother, though not a salter, but a cotter, of three acres.

The Lord Sheriff asked if Heltern was present to defend himself in the court.

“Yes, milord.”

“Are you prepared to take an oath you are a loyal subject of the Queen and an implacable enemy of the vikings?”

“Aye, milord. I take that oath without reservation, and I beg milord not to harm my brother, who is slow-witted.”

“I am not slow witted! What does that mean?”

The Lord Sheriff ruled that the case be dismissed, and enjoined the plaintiff to bring no further frivolous lawsuits in wartime.

“Milord,” said Haltern, “I think my brother would benefit from a stint in the Queen's service.”

Ewen looked at the slow-witted brother. “Are you willing to serve her Grace the Queen, at peril of your life?”

“Er—I guess. Ah—sure! Yes! Yes!”

“He will run, milord,” said Heltern.

“We need every man we can get.”

“Thank you, milord. Our family harmony will be much greater for it.”


#4:Battery

The defendant was already in the stocks. The Lord Sheriff ruled the case be skipped.


#5: Rape

A young woman, the plaintiff, came forward. Accompanying her was her white-haired litigant who identified himself as Honelon of Udibis.

“Milord!” stated the litigant. “This is an egregious case. The defendant, one Shawe the Tentmaker, a notorious philander, has abused my client behind a tent—IRONY!--he gave her a posey and forced himself on her. I ask you for justice!”

“Did you client have an existing relationship with this tentmaker?”

“They both live in town. They knew each other.”

Ewen turned to the young woman. “How did you come to go behind the tent?”

“He offered me a posey, milord.”

“And you accepted.”

“It was a posey, milord. But it was wilted.”

“Prior to this event, had you socialized with this tentmaker?”

“Not entirely sure what that means, milord.”

“Did you pass time in his company?”

“Yes, of course. And then there was the posey. Wilted!”

From across the room came a voice. “OK, fine! I'll marry you!”

“Will you accept this offer?” said the Sheriff.

“Gladly, milord.”

“Is there a priest in the court?”

In the back of the crowd, a man in clerical robes rose. “Yes, milord.”

“Can I trust this in your hands?”

“I shall take them to the chapel forthwith.”

The Lord Sheriff ruled the case resolved.


#6: Fraud

The plaintiff declared “Milord, I bought candles from the chandler Evin of Quenal, and they burned fast. Too fast! I say he is selling fraudulent goods, and I wish to have my tuppence back!”

“Is the chandler present?”

“Yes, milord. I stand by my wares. I have brought a candle, and propose to light it and watch it burn here in full view of this honorable court. It will burn slow.”

“Proceed”

The chandler, after some trouble getting the candle to stand straight, managed to get it lit. All assembled watched ... and watched ... and watched.

The Lord Sheriff ruled he would like it not, if this candle were his. He ordered the tuppence be refunded and the chandler take care of his reputation and the reputation of his guild.


Cases appealed from the lower courts of the hundred moots:

#7:Battery

From Allence Hundred. The litigants were absent.

The Lord Sheriff ruled the verdict of the hundred moot upheld.


#8: Conspiracy to commit burglary

From Myaman Hundred. Sir Penn Ostauney accused one Sir Baris Tyrestal of having married his sister and taken possession of his ward. Furthermore, Sir Penn stated his understanding that Sir Baris intended to take her sister's jewels in order to finance his dissolute lifestyle.

“The marriage is a sham!” stated Sir Penn. “He beguiled her—bewitched her, I might say.”

Sir Baris challenged Sir Penn to back up the accusation with either facts or his life.

The Lord Sheriff expressed surprise Sir Penn was pursing his complaint through the courts, instead of settling this matter as gentlemen do.

Sir Penn stated he was willing to face one such as Sir Baris.

The Lord Sheriff ruled that the matter be settled by arms, with himself adjudicating. He stated this would be a more manly resolution that ruling on some legal nicety. The combat would be held that very afternoon. Both parties agreed.


#9: Rape.

From Ambarnis Hundred. The litigants were absent.

The Lord Sheriff ordered the case be postponed to the next session.


#10: Arson.

From Ambarnis Hundred. A villager's cottage had been burned down in Huxley. This was before the coming of the vikings, and any evidence had no doubt been destroyed.

The Lord Sheriff ruled that this was a crime against property, and since that property was now in jeopardy, the case was dismissed.


#11: Temple Crime.

From Nelafayn Hundred. One Kital of Valanae was accused of despoiling the chapel of Peoni and stealing one pence ha'penny. Kital, in his despoiling, had felt the irresistible urge to urinate upon the altar.

An aged prioress of Peoni came forward and urged clemency toward the accused, provided restitution was made to the poor.

The Lord Sheriff stated he was inclined to have Kital hanged.

Shocked, the prioress begged for the sentence be reduced to time in the stocks and ninepence.

The Lord Sheriff sentenced the miscreant to three days in the stocks and the aformentioned ninepence.


#12: Murder

From Ambarnis Hundred. Owain the Charcoaler was accused of killing his wife. His family, represented again by the white-haired litigant, asked for justice and the return of her dowry.

(The Lord Sheriff, intent on the facts, invoked his uncanny wyrd to ascertain the truth of the matter, unbeknownst to any.)

Owain stated he didn't kill his wife, and that she was not in fact dead. He claimed she ran off with a harper.

(The Lord Sheriff could see the defendant was telling the truth.)

The harper was present in court. Under questioning, he stated he last saw Owain’s wife that morning, and intended to keep company with her.

The Lord Sheriff pointed out to the plaintiff that the victim was alive. The litigant objected, saying all they had was the word of the harper that that was the case.

The purported victim's voice popped up in the rear of the chamber.

The litigants withdrew the case.


#13: Murder

From Allence Hundred. The litigants were absent. The case was postponed until the next session.


#14: Corruption

From Myaman Hundred. Sir Jasten Jastare accused one of the village reeves, a longtime trusted retainer, of stealing both cash and produce.

The reeve's nephew testified his uncle bribed him to take the produce to market and sell it, for which he received one penny out of twelve.

The Lord Sheriff sentenced the reeve to be hanged. Furthermore, he asked the prioress to find some holy task for the nephew to perform, that he might atone for his crimes.


#15: Murder

From Ambarnis Hundred. The litigants were absent. The case was postponed until the next session.


The docket complete, it was time for lunch. Steward Nalas approached Ewen as he descended from the throne.

“Milord, Sir Penn seems to have gone to the privy and disappeared. He's nowhere to be found.”

“In that case, it seems like the entire suit was fruitless. I leave it to Sir Baris to deal with the matter as a gentleman.”

“Very good, milord. Might I suggest some sort of monetary penalty to the benefit of Sir Baris, in order to recompense him for his pain and suffering?”

“Just the thing. I fine Sir Penn £50, to go to Sir Baris. See that that's placed in the court record.”

The remainder of Lord Ewen's day was spent inspecting the castle's defenses, seeing to the disposition of the incoming peasants, and approving the distribution of rations. There was never enough time for all that needed to be done.


In the late afternoon, the sound of trumpets could be heard in the distance.

What was this? An attack?

“A force approaches!” cried the watchman on the tower.

“Vikings?”

“No, milord!”

Who could it be?

A troop of horse rode up to Caer Olokand. In their midst was a viking warrior, tied like a hog and looking very put out.

The captain of the group dismounted and saluted.

“Milord, I come to report that we, the soldiers of Baseta, have met the enemy in mortal combat. I present to you our prisoner, Vraden the Bold, one of the viking leaders, accompanied by a message from Constable Tereneth: “Courtesy of Sir Hannix Baird.”
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Matt
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