AD 498: Hampshire Dies and Cynric Caught Aslumber

This was always going to be an unusual Spring Court. Under invitation from Gaelavin and Erec, Prince Cyrinc, son of the Saxon King Cerdic of Wessex, had joined us at Christmas to talk about alliances and tribute. Having heard what was on offer he had left to consider his response. We would hear at the Spring Court.

When the drawing out of the hours of sun marked the coming of spring, Cynric was nowhere to be seen. Of course that dastard Prince Aecswine, son of Aethelswith King of Essex was there demanding tribute - as if he couldn't take the hint last year. Prince Celyn, son of AElle of Sussex joined him too. Will they never leave us be! There is hope maybe to found in their lack of cohesion - as one force they would overwhelm us entirely, but just as the lords of Briton are in disarray and disorganisd, so too these pagan barbarians seeem to have little time for each other.

As the now annual negotiations commenced there was a disturbance in Ellen's hall. The arrival of a stranger bearing the limp form of a slain man. At first the corpse was not recognized, but a gasp of horror went around the hall when it was announced to be that of the Earl of Hampshire, executed on order of Cerdic to whom he had sworn vassalage.

The stranger bearing the dead Earl introduced himself as Sir Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn. Together with the Earl he had plotted to overthrow Cerdic in an attempt to regain Hampshire. Word had been sent out to muster men for this cause, but one of these messages had been intercepted - or a traitor was numbered amongst those he had counted as friends. In blind fury, Cerdic had ordered Hampshire slain in fron of his family and people. Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn was spared, banished and ordered to take the body of the dead Earl to Sarum as a warning to those who might defy him! In light of this betrayl, Cerdic offered Ellen the choice of tribute or vassalage and peace or else a life of misery and conflict.

Aecswine offered to fight alongside them against Cerdic if they paid tribute - but not trusting him, they sent him packing. Celyn too was sent away, tribute refused. Instead, urged on by Erec's recklessnes and Gaelavin's thirst for vengence, they plotted with Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn to bring down Cerdic and to trust in their strength and the newly erected defenses around the castle at Sarum (courtesy of the generous gift of Erec and yet more generous gift of Gaelavin!)

As they discussed plans, they were disturbed once more. Word came from the Steward of Medbourne in the Forest Sauvage, that Erec's cousin Erec to whom it was enfoeffed (by lil' Erec) had gone missing. Despite having been redeemed from the hand of the fiend Gorboduc, the manor and its holdings hadn't recovered from the depression that dragged it spiritually and physically down. Having heard tell of a nearby well whose waters had healing power, Erec of Medbourne had gone to see if by retrieving some and pouring it on the church grounds, it's accursed nature could be alleviated. Worryingly, he had not returned.

But such concerns had to be put to one side for now. With haste they laid plans with the Countess' permission. Word wassent to neighbouring Dorset, calling on him to send knights to ally with them against the Saxon foe. Dorset responded in haste, meeting them at Bokerly Dike where they revealed to him the nature of the threat upon both their lands. Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn urged Dorset to sieze the moment that presented itself to them, and although his speech was not eloquent, his appeal was met with approval. Promptly they set out together to Du Plain and then south along the Test River, coming to Hantonne under cover of the trees. Here they remained unseen, biding their time until first light, seeking every advantage against the 200 barbarians encamped outside the town. Indeed, this they needed to do, for their forces were but 100 on horseback.They were outnumbered by 2 to 1.

Gaelavin and Erec took just befor dawn a unit of 25 men each through the woods. Dorset commanded the other 50. As the sun's first rays fell on the field, Dorset had his footmen fire burning arrows upon the sleeping Saxons. Erec and Gaelavin charged under the cover of the arrows, pasing through the panicked foe as they emerged stumbling from the tents. Their lances bit clean, and many were dispatched as they rode straight through the camp to the town beyond. Here they met with no resistence, and as they rode to the Bailey beyond, it became clear that although the Cerdic may be holed up in there with upto 50 men, they were going to receive none. In fact their hailing was met by no reply. Leaving a few monitoring the doors to the bailey, they returned to the skirmish below them.

Dorset had contained the Saxons, encircling them and harrying them. With the return of Gaelavin and Erec's units, the final resistance was squashed - although not without a hairy moment for Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn as he was sent toppling from his stead. With a combination of fortune and skill he was able to find a new mount and return to his unit unscathed.

Back to the Bailey to deal with the king. Erec persuaded a terrifed local peasant to put his head above the fence to ascertain what was going on beyond. When no one could be seen, the poor peasant was forced over to go and open the gates so that the knights could ride in. A tragic sight awaited them; the slain bodies of local people left in their houses and stalls. Still no resistence though. This changed as they approached the tower itself, with an arrow being shot at Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn as he drew near.

It transpired that only Cynric was within with his immediate bodyguard - King Cerdic was in Chichester. With him, however, were Hampshire's wife and daughter. Concerned for the safety of his dead lord's lady, Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn opened an urgent negotiation with Cynric. Finally Cynric agreed to surrender them in exchange for his life. His men were taken prisoner, and he was taken to be ransomed - Cerdic was sure to pay enough gold in exchange for him that the wall around Sarum could be made complete.

All that was left was decide the fate of the Saxon prisoners - those left on the field of battle and Cynric's bodyguard. Gaelavin and Erec were all for slaying them, but Gwyn Ap Ddraiggwyn responded with stern words, desiring to show then Christian love and charity. Dorset, himself a christian, agreed that this was the appropriate thing to do...

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