(( Response via PM to stop from giving out a spoiler for another player ))
Balen is satisfied for now.
“Thank you all for the honour of speaking first. Illustrious knights, please continue.”
The knights continue to question Sir Estève, and as the questions go around, you find that roughly half the knights are in full support of him, and their questions are little more than opportunities for the knight to portray himself in as positive a light as possible. The other half seem to be quite aggressively attacking him, focusing on two incidents in particular. First, there appears to have been a time when Sir Estève rode out during the siege with five other knights to secure passage for supplies. Sir Estève was the only man who returned, with all the supplies. (and it’s perhaps telling how desperate a situation they were in that a weeks worth of supplies was able to be carried on the back of a horse). He told a tale of hard fighting and his comrades all dying heroic deaths so he could return with the supplies, yet, it was noted that not only was his armour in pristine condition, but in addition, there were ten executions held by the Saxons the next day, far away from the city walls. Five of those executions looked to be knights, from what could be seen. Also, seven city guards disappeared the next day. The common factor was that all of them were on duty that evening, overlooking the supposed battle that Sir Estève led. Only one guardsman survived to give his account, and that man now just happens to be Sir Estève’s squire.
The other incident is one in which Sir Estève was seen outside the walls, walking back from the Saxon camp, a claim made by a Sir Ioco, but denied by Sir Estève. There are no other witnesses, including a dozen guardsman on the walls. Sir ioco, it should be mentioned is somewhat of a leader of the side that is in the belief that Sir Estève is a traitor.
Balen, as the questions go full circle, each knight is invited to ask one more question before you retire for the day. The trial shall continue tomorrow.
Owain will have a scan of the assembled guests to see if there are any familiar faces, at a minimum looking for Gallus who he meg at the stables, but also keeping alert for any mercenary leaders or others from Malahaut that he may have previously met. He’ll also see if he can identify who Gaius is from judging the interactions around him
(As a reminder if relevant, Owain met Syagrius when the Praetor visited Salisbury.)
Owain, the diners are all seated in the atrium, around the great basin that catches rainwater, the impluvium. This is a place for lesser guests and you neither see Gaius, or Gallus here. Moving through into the opulent gardens, you find, among great sumptuous cushions, making something of a high table in their own fashion, Gallus and Gaius. No-one here eats, but are involved in passionate discussions with one another. As soon as he sees you Gallus, who sits three down from Gaius stands, and introduces Gaius to you.
“I am most pleased to meet you Sir Owain” Gaius wears incredibly expensive clothing and jewellry “Come, sit with us, tell us about your journey North, tell us the tidings of Salisbury. How is my dear friend, the Apollo of the Tor Worshippers - Armello I believe you say.”
(Evenly split? Colour me surprised.)
Balen rolls up his sleeve, to reveal a long straight scar.
“Dealt to me by Octas bodyguard himself.”
He pulls open his jerkin to show a jagged mark.
“When I was overcome by my hatred and charged the Saxons single handed.”
He brushed aside his hair to reveal an ugly criss cross of scar tissue.
“…and worst of all, when Sir Hamm schooled me in the art of the blade.”
“Can you give us your own account of this battle that cost 5 knights? (and presumably their squires?) Please use your own body as part of your testament.
(Hence the need to find a neutral deciding vote, this is not his first trial)
Sir Hamm also chuckles (Sir Hamm was one of his supporters, if that is information that helps)
“It’s simple, we rode out under cover of dusk. We had spoken with the Iberian and he had seen where the Saxons were weak. He told us that the child soldiers were stationed in Clifton Without, with no adults at all. So we rode through there. On the way out, we barely heard any stirring. On the way back however, we were ambushed. Feroxii, I believe you say berserkers. The Master who had secured supplies gave me his horse, he instructed me to ride. I was chosen for I was the better rider.”
There are jeers at this, and Leonardo snarls “Silence!”
“I was chosen, but I did not ride immediately, I fought with my end, until the bitter end, until they pleaded with me to make their sacrifice not in vain. Seven men had fallen by that time, two of my own knights and five of the Master’s soldiers. Our squires too had all fallen, these barbarians ignored us to kill the youngest first. While we had fought the brutes to a standstill, ever more numbers clustered to attack.”
With a knife he slices open his clothing, and reveals a body with three great scars on it, and numerous smaller. I too bear the marks of fighting the enemy, but none from that day, I escaped injury.
I rode, as fast as the Master’s horse would carry me, I rode back, away from the city, for our path was blocked. I circled around to another path I knew and I admit, I closed my eyes as I rode it, trusting in the feet of my horse in the dark and prayed that no Saxons blocked the way. When I opened them again, I was within the Saxon siege, and close to the walls. I called out and was given entry, even though the gate was not where I was expected. That is all I can tell Sir.
Well… it is not much of a “plan” per se…
Merrick leaves the Earl thanking him for the use of the supplies and vowing, if the group starts to run short during their stay, Merrick and his squires will restrict their consumption to compensate.
When he exits the building, he will look around to see if the man in the funny hat is making himself known. Merrick is curious as to what the stranger’s purpose in the city is and why he was following him… However, he then realises he is a stranger in this city, and as such must keep his wits about him.
His plan is to approach the Tullus Villa with a bottle of wine in hand with the squires bringing the rest. He will see what the guards say and how they react to him before he speaks.
Owain returns the welcomes cordially. “The Armello is well. It seems it will be a long time before she has an opportunity to dwell on my lands again, as she has found herself favoured by King Uther, and sits amongst his closest advisors.”
“As for Salisbury, we continue the same as ever. A Saxon warlord has established a foothold in the south, and although Silchester bears the brunt of their raiding, we are not foolish enough to ignore the danger. The Earl’s son has just been knighted, and leads a number of new knights to replace some of our losses from recent campaigns.”
“The journey north was not particularly notable. Some unseasonably poor weather. The merchant caravans on the road in Lindsey seem a bit more heavily guarded; private coin spent on sell-swords to protect their wares rather than contributing to the Duke’s forces directly.”
Balen leans over and whispers, “You’re going to have to explain ‘hero of the city,’ later.”
Merrick, the Iberian no longer follows you!
The guards outside Tullus’ wing of the palace nod politely, they look almost like children, and soft children at that to your eyes, their armour barely fits, and the left hand one’s helm constantly slips to low on his brow, though he has mastered the art of wrinkling his forehead to stop from having it cover his eyes completely. “Er, Who goes there!” the other one calls.
Balen, there are a few more questions, but nothing particularly illuminating comes to light, then the court is dismissed for the day. “We shall reconvene at the same time tomorrow evening” Leonardo announces “And this time, let us pray that there is a majority.”
At your comment, Sir Hamm waggles his ears and for a brief moment you catch a glimpse of the younger more care free knight he once was as he smiles and whispers back “Ah, nothing worth talking about my friend, luck and little more!”
Owain, Gaius nods at your words, then, almost casually “So tell us Sir Owain, man to man, why do you think the King will want an alliance with such a weak country as Logres”.
All conversations, hushed as they were around you cease and you sense that everyone who can listen, is.
I think a quick Proud / Modest check might be in order to guide Owain’s response
d20: 7 vs 11 Proud
d20: 13 vs 9 Modest
Owain visibly bristles at the description of Logres as being weak. He speaks softly, but with an edge to his voice. “Man to man, do you believe the King thinks that your city would have weathered the Saxon siege without Logres defeating Octa in battle at Lindsey? Your walls still bear the scars of the damage wrought on them, despite the efforts to hide them. Logrian lives were lost and blood was shed to help lift your siege, including that that of my kin and my squire. If such things mean so little to Malahaut, then perhaps Logres maybe wiser in not seeking to re-establish the friendship between our nations.”
He pausing to drink a mouthful of ale, and is a little calmer when he resumes talking.
“Weakness is a relative term. Without friends and allies, Logres is weaker than she would be if she stood alongside those who would protect Briton from overseas invaders. But my country is still strong. We can field the largest army of knights, numbering many veterans of recent battles. Cornwall is now united by marriage of Lady Ygraine to King Uther, and there is common cause once more, rather than distrust and enmity.”
“Are there greater powers than Logres? There isn’t one bordering your lands that also happen to hold many of same cultural values and beliefs as Malahaut. The only reason such a military alliance does not make sense is if Malahaut would gain more enemies by such an association. But do we not share the same foes? Is there some conflict that Malahaut is worried that Logres would draw them into?”
“I have travelled to the far north to the Land of Giants, and seen what invaders can do if allowed to slowly subsume the lands of tribes who stand isolated from one another. Those people fight with great strength and honour because they fight for their land, their freedom and their way of life. But when standing alone such things are not enough. Malahuat is proud of her culture and traditions, and rightly so. But she needs friends in order to help her fight to maintain them. Better a friend that shares some of the same ideals, and one who already stands and fights for them.”
Gaius stands “You see” he cries out loud enough that all the diners indoors can hear, his voice is confident and he is clearly used to, and good at addressing an audience at this volume “From the mouth of Sir Owain, as honest a man, a knight as I, you or any of us have likely met. I was right all along as I always have been, Logres is strong! Won’t you listen to me now! Logres can still field enough knights to rival any two Armies of Britain, even a united Cambria couldn’t compete! Even the Kingdoms of the Northern Kings couldn’t compete! Tell them Sir Owain, convince them!”
“Tell me of Sir Ioco.”
“There is nothing to tell. I shall be charitable and assume he was mistaken rather than a liar, but aside from that his name is a mere footnote in all but his politicing, failed politicing i might add.”
“… any prior issue with the knight on trial?”
He shrugs “No, not that I know of at least”
Owain raises his voice, staring in challenge at any around who appear to frown or doubt Gaius’ word.
“Logres can assemble a force of knights that cannot be matched in Briton. Cambria is not united, neither are the Northern Kingdoms, and even if they were, Logres would be their better in the field.”
“But Logres does not stand alone. Alliances are already established with Kingdoms in Cambria, and the bonds of marriage have joined two of the Northern Kings to Logres.”
“We would have Malahaut join us and these other Kingdoms in common cause to protect our island from those who would claim our lands and destroy our culture. For the more lands that fall, the greater the foothold the invaders gain, which is the detriment to all that remain to face them.”
“I honestly believe that the common cause we hold in protecting Briton already makes us allies in spirit, and we should be allies in arms, as has been the case previously.”