Court was held at Sarum this year. With Sir Gaelavin caught up with other duties, no one was there to keep Erec from excessive recklessnes, and so maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprise when he proposed to the Countess. His plea was impassioned, and his argument pursuasive - had he not done much to advance the cause of Salisbury, making is safe and getting such a powerful ally as Nanteleod on their side. Ellen was stirred by his words and ardour, although unsure of how to respond to his approaches. In the end she said she needed time to consider her response. By Chrismas she would have a reply for him. Maybe in the meantime he could prove his love for her...
There were no Saxons at Court this year, although there was still the continued pressure to pay tribute. There was the presence of Sir Lak, however, from Estragales, although neither Erec or Gwyn were aware of why he had come.
During court, the two knights debated how best they could serve Salisbury. How could they respond to the continual threat from the Saxon barbarians? Was there anyway they could set them back? In the end they came up with a plan either ingenious or foolhardy, or possibly both. They were to raid the Saxon King Cerdic of Wessex. Of course they and their families hate a long standing feud with the King. Gwyn's Lord had been slain by him and his homeland overrun and together with Erec and Gaelavin, they had sought revenge by capturing and ransoming his son, Prince Cynric.
In disguise as bards (owing to a lack of musical talent, Erec took the guise of their guard), they set off along the road, passing through Camelot, and Portchester. Between these two cities, they passed a band of Saxon raiders. Committed to their mission, they did not stop to confront them, or ride back to Sarum to alert them of their advance,but instead sent a squire to warn the Countess.
Arriving in Chichester, they 'entertained' the crowd whilst awaiting to be allowed in. Gwyn's harp skills let him down (a fumble on his play harp), a misplaced strum breaking his strings. The resulting laughter, however, did not harm their progress, in fact it set the guards at ease, who let them in.
They spent a week preparing themselves. Frequenting inns to learn of Cerdic and his ways. It became clear that he was rasing funds through raiding to employ mercenaries so that he could rival the other Saxon Kings, who, he felt, looked down on him. Erec's bard also took time to learn about Saxon musical tastes and developed an epic saga in song extolling the King and his prowess - in the Saxon tongue too!
They spent their evenings, and nights, confronting various bards who they discovered played for the Saxon 'court'. One by one they dispatched them under the cover of nightfall, having initially attempted to get one to get them entrance into the court by playing their composition on their behalf. He had claimed it was a failure - but they knew through overhearing the cheers that it had been a success. In the end, Cerdics steward summonded them, having heard of their ability, and requested that they play for him that night.
When evening came, they launched their bold plan. Gaining entrance to Cerdic's Hall, they waited to be invited to play. First they had to wait whilst Cerdic gave his warriors a rousing t he said they could not determine. All they knew was that it was met with much cheering. When the moment arose, they entertained him with great concentration, praying to their gods that they would not be recognized. Their prayers were heard - not only did Gwyn manage to play without further embarresment, but also Cerdic and his veterans failed to recognise them from previous encounters!
Having done their bit, they waited until the warriors had become relaxed - in many cases drunk - before walking out with flagons in their hands. Pretending to be inebriated themselves, they staggered across to the guards by the bailey, and offered the drinks, laced with poisonous herbs that Erec had procured earlier. By this point, Gwyn could contain his hatred for these who had slain his people no longer. Inflamed by his hatred for them (Hate Saxons passion success) he impatiently stabbed one of the guards with his dagger, dispatching him with one blow, whilst the other slumped overcome by the toxic brew.
With what haste they could muster whilst maintaining reasonable silence, they dragged the bodies into the bailey, and searched for the strongroom for Cerdic's treasure. It wasn't hard to find. Quickly they grabbed what they could, stashing it in the sacks their instruments had been housed in. Erec took as much money as he could handle. Gwyn took a sword, helmet and goblet which were of fine craftmanship and worth.
Their escape was not unnoticed - probably because Gwyn had torched the bailey as they went. They had the advantage of surprise on their side, however, and bested their pursuers. Erec's remaining squire assisted them, opening the city gates whilst they slew the guards. Under cover of nightfall they rode away, leaving no doubt a fuming Cerdic.