Rues action Accounts


Robert de Feu Duke of Rathen

Robert de Feu Duke of Rathen was 39 years old and his duchess was Marie Chateaumont, second sister of King Eudes of Thentis.  This accounted for their bright 21-year-old son being Abbot of Ekthalon’s Simonite Abbey. That their eldest 23 year-old dim son Michel was Royal Inspector of Roads had more to do with his wife (Roslyn FitzRalph) being the King’s most recent mistress. Currently the Duke and his wife were voting members of the Regency Council of Thentis. The King had taken an army off on crusade, to recover Hamora from the Chaotics and left the Regency Council to run his Kingdom in his absence. The Council operates from the Ekthalon citadel with whatever members are present. The chairman should be his heir Duchess Hilda but she and her husband are at their stronghold of Chaillot, ready to repel any chaotic strikes from Horg or Danrin. In her absence Otto Neuman the Archbishop of Ekthalon officiates. Other voting Members are the Duke and Duchess of Wardour, the Barons of Matham, Dune, Acquitaine and Tyron, the Mistress of the Royal Household and the Seneschal of Thentis. Lower ranking officials comprise advisory non-voting members and include the Protectress Royal, Eudes’ illegitimate daughter Katherine. Some of the members have gone with the Kings Army. However the Duke and Marie had now some business to attend to.

     In the Rathen Duchy were two adjoining manors, Surmener and Cuisant, which King Reginald gave to his stepdaughter Princess Maudette. When Maudette was arrested and reportedly burnt for witchcraft, the church of Eru took possession of these. Surmener went to the militant Order of St. Judas and Cuisant to the nuns of St. Chiara. They began to build a combined Preceptory there, although progress was slow as both of these orders had little money. When Princess Maudette won the Baratrean civil war, King Eudes was eager to reduce any possible friction between Thentis and Bara. The Order of St. Judas being one of the main causes of friction, he confiscated the two manors and offered them back to Princess Maudette. She graciously accepted them in principle but had been too busy to physically take possession of them until now. She had been crowned Grand Duchess of Bara and sent an army off to join the Crusade in Hamora. The Duke had just heard that she has announced her choice of husband as Doze Handor Culip of Oblivia. For her to physically accept the manors, she will have to view their boundaries, pay heriots and swear allegiance to the Duke of Rathen for them. She is expected expect to sell them off afterwards but that matters little. So when the news reached Ekthalon that she was ready to travel out of her Grand Duchy to the manors, the Duke and his wife, with suitable escort proceeded to Huiling Mansion nearby. However early next morning a Lucrecian nun arrived there.

“Your Graces I fear that I bear grievous tidings! My name is Sister Sincerity who was originally Sabina Maltot of Claux. I took the veil at Cruas Abbey eighteen years ago. Twelve years ago my family was wiped out by hun raiders and the Maltot Manor should have come to me. Due to my vow of poverty it came in fact to Cruas Abbey.  A Sir Christopher Lambert sent the deeds, writing that the manor was completely wasted. Neither of the two Abbesses ruling Cruas since then took any action about the manor, it being so far away. Then recently a letter came to me from the Marshal of Bara.” And she handed it over.

To Lady Sabina Maltot, thought to be now a nun.

Madam, in the service of Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maudette of Bara I had occasion to visit your manor of Maltot at Claux. I am sorry to say that it has been left in a wasted condition. The burnt out mansion remains a haunted ruin. It has good woodlands and there are walnut and quince trees run wild. From his records we have discovered that Sir Christopher Lambert seized the twenty-three of your serfs who survived the hun raid and put them to work on his own properties. He did the same elsewhere and we have arrested him for these and other matters. His trial is yet to come but I doubt not that his sentence will be severe. Her Royal Highness Maudette Grand Duchess of Bara desires that the whole area be brought back to prosperity and suggests that you might wish to sell it to her as she has other property nearby?

                                        Morgana Lefey Marshal of Bara

“I thought this a most kind gesture to me and the Abbey your Graces. However Abbess Frida said that there was no urgency and that she would bear it in mind. Our Prioress Livelihood is a sister of Sir Christopher Lambert and I think she was angry that her brother had been arrested. They both of them regard Morgana and the Grand Duchess as evil witches. Now I well knew my sister-in-law Gorgaine who had magic powers and there was nothing wicked about her! She never used her powers for anything bad and I have not heard of Maudette doing so either!”

 “Indeed, but why have you come to us Sister Sincerity?” demanded Duchess Marie.

 “Your Graces, soldiers have been coming to Cruas Abbey and they intend to attack the Grand Duchess at Rues! I heard that they have enlisted people in that village and the soldiers at the Abbey will go to join them when Maudette comes. Some of the soldiers are Baratreans but some are from Thentis. Your Graces I think it a great wrong if they slay Grand Duchess Maudette. It will be a great dishonour for Thentis at a time when Bara, like Thentis and Perigord has armies away on a crusade!”

  Duke Robert replied, “Thank you Sister, you are very right to have come giving warning. We must think how we can foil this dastardly attempt. We do not know for sure when Maudette will arrive but we will send her a warning letter. One not going through either Cruas or Rues! Then we are too far away here! I think we shall all move to our hawking estate at Ferneaux.”

This they did and then waited for a response from Maudette. Her Mistress of the Royal Household Dame Melusine wrote back, saying that Her Royal Highness hoped to be coming to the two manors on the 10th or 11th of the Tenth Moon. Due to the warning she would be bringing a stout force and be on her guard, at Rues. Her doughty Marshal had recently defeated sizeable forces of dissidents at St. Rollo and Claux and she had few fears for her safety whilst she was with her!

 The Duke and Duchess were waiting at Ferneaux for further word when on the night of Workday the Ninth, there was a terrible fire in the wooden stables. All their precious horses were burnt to death! The two grooms supposed to be guarding them were found unconscious and tied up. Obviously the work of the enemies of Maudette!

The Duke organised a conference and decided that he would take all his forces on foot to clean out Rues! Duchess Marie, Princess Katherine and his daughter Lady Angeline declared that they would come too. So he arranged for two ox carts to carry them and their abigails. The conference thought it would be useful if the force could arrive at the village shortly before Maudette’s force. Then hers could lend a hand if the troublemakers were stronger than they hoped! So as large a fighting force as possible was assembled and marched for Rues, Care being taken not to over-tire the men. As the Duchess told the force, the honour of Thentis required that they rout out the dissidents and save Grand Duchess Maudette from attack!

     The Dukes force eventually arrived near Rues in the late afternoon. Everything appeared quiet. Too quiet! The fields were empty that normally would have had peasants weeding and ploughing in them. Because of the crops in these fields, the force was confined to the road. It was fifty-four strong with the ladies and their attendants in the two ox wagons. Their approach was cautious for they were all sure that some ambush had been laid. A woman shouted from the village palisade that they all had the plague within and then fell down! The Duke’s men were understandably reluctant to proceed but believing this was just a ruse, he ordered Squire Elmo Cuspe and three spearmen, to go in and investigate. Once they were within the palisaded enceinte, a wagon was pushed out from the side completely blocking the entrance. Duke Robert ordered then his other men to attack the palisades, as peasants charged Elmo and his men. The men on the right were crossbowmen who fired at the peasants. Those on the left were spearmen who wiped out the women wielding pitchforks who opposed them. A nun leading them was seen running away.  As the fight continued the plague woman set fire to the cart with a fire pot. However the peasants were routed and more and more men climbed over the palisades. Squire Elmo and a spearmen made a rapid tactical withdrawal to the corner of the palisade to the north-west. It was thought that a spell from the nun played a part in this. Meanwhile Sir Vincent, with two spearmen, ran round to the right. He managed to attack in the rear some militia fighting Maudette’s now arrived force. These promptly surrendered. Maudette’s force was wholly mounted and had been attacking the east end of the village. The Duke glimpsed her banner bearer beside a black garbed dame in the street beside the church tower. He was leading some crossbowmen to follow Sir Vincent along the south side of the village. Behind him the rest of his force entered the village with the exception of the ox carts still blocked by the burning cart. Missiles were thrown down at Maudette’s banner bearer and the black garbed dame, so they moved forward to join Ducal forces under Sir Victor Plonquet. As they did so a knight of St. Judas rushed out from the base of the church tower and attacked the banner-bearer with a poleaxe. The banner bearer managed to parry his blows and was soon supported by Sir Victor and two spearmen. The knight of St. Judas fought valiantly and managed to get his back to the Sir Alard Inn. But outnumbered by skilled fighters he was eventually struck down by a sword blow to the head from one of the guard spearmen. Then it was discovered that the banner-bearer was Grand Duchess Maudette herself! Elsewhere the dukes forces found that most of the villagers were hidden in the church and wanted no part of the fighting. Two Chiaran nuns and a trumpeter, lurking at the top of the church tower surrendered, as did four crossbow familiars of the Order of St. Judas. They had been firing from the vicarage on the east side of the village. Ten more villagers were held prisoner including the Vicar and two others found fled into the church. But they had been seen fighting at the start. Dead totalled seven village women and eleven men, plus one sore wounded man were found of the villagers. Of soldiery, there lay dead Sir Esher of the Lambert menie, an Order of St Judas Sergeant and three spearmen and one spearman plus one St. Judas familiar sore wounded. With the assistance of Maudette and some of her menie the village was now cleared and it was thought that only the plague woman, the nun and two of the familiars escaped. The enemy commander had been Sir Eustache Avoirdupois of the Order of St. Judas and he was found to be still living and taken into custody. Duke Robert’s force had lost two guard spearmen and a light pikemen dead.  Of Maudette’s force that fought in the village, Lady Sabine Flaneur suffered a leg wound from a stone cast by the nuns in the church tower. There had however been harder fighting on the road to the east of the village. There, Sir Terence Lambert had attacked the rear of Maudette’s column with a mounted force. The rear of the column under Marshal Morgana was sore pressed for a while until some others in the village, under Sir Richard Nogent returned to their support. Then the nerves of the dissidents gave way and they fled to the east

   Dusk was falling as the action finished, so once all was secure and the wounded being attended to, both the Duke’s and Maudette’s forces set to stay in the village for that night.

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Sir Eustache Avoirdupois of the Order of St Judas

Sir Eustache had made sure the blaze was going well enough to doom all the horses at Ferneaux. Then he returned to Rues to set all the forces for the coming engagement. During the night Sir Terence brought up his mounted force to hide in the forest. The villagers not willing to get involved, were herded into the church, to keep them safe. Sir Terence had scouts out, as the expectation was that Maudette’s force would arrive in the late afternoon of this Woeday the Tenth of the Tenth Moon. They returned around the fifteenth hour to say she would be at Rues within an hour! All the forces hid themselves as planned and awaited for her arrival. “May Eru defend the right!” declared Sir Eustache. The ladies Joanna Devisage and Nicollette Decre had been at Verreric, when Maudette had been clad as a knight and carried her own banner. The banner Azure two lionesses Or. They expected her to be garbed the same now and that the witch Morgana would wear her purple shimmering gown and immense hennin. Riding a blue unicorn she would be easy to spot and so Sir Eustache warned the defenders. These two were to be their priority targets!

   His own post was at the top of the church tower with a trumpeter and the two nuns Magdalene and Uglia for company. To his dismay he soon saw a body of foot accompanied by two ox-wagons, approaching from the west! Due the arable fields on either side of the road they remained in column. Apart from sending Dulcee one of the fire-pot women to the west entrance into the village, Sir Eustache maintained his forces in their original positions. The two wagons bore the banners of Rathen and Thentis, removing any doubts as to their identity. After the damage he had wreaked the previous night, Sir Eustache knew he could expect little mercy from Duke Robert if he caught him! He obviously expected trouble and was behaving cautiously.  As his column reached the village entrance he heard Dulcee shout, “Keep away! We are all dying of the plague!” This certainly led to a pause in the enemy advance, extended when Dulcee sank to the ground with an impressive groan. Then four brave enemy souls came forward inside the palisaded enceinte. Immediately Sub Prioress Psalma had her women push their cart behind the four, cutting them off and the Vicar led his villagers to the attack. As the result of some spell Psalma cast on him, one of the enemy spearmen flinched away from the action. Dulcee then rose again to her feet and cast a firepot at the cart, which was soon ablaze. Enemy crossbowmen fired into the village to the left of the cart whilst other foes attacked the pitchfork women on the other side. These they slew and clambered over the palisade that they had manned. Sub-Prioress Psalma retired rapidly to the door of the church. There she stayed outside however, when after a brisk fight, the outmatched remnants of the Vicar’s force fled inside. Whilst this was in progress Maudette’s fully mounted force had appeared to the east of the village. Rather belatedly Eustache ordered the trumpeter to ring the bell signal. Sir Terence’s cavalry emerged from the forest and circled round to get behind Maudette’s menie. Her main force then charged the eastern entrance to the village.  They managed to get inside and to prevent the St. Judas familiar’s cart cutting any off. Despite the Devisage spearmen’s brave efforts, the leading enemy, all knights, gradually bore them down. Their officer Sir Esher fought and then fell, which led to those to the right of the gate to surrender, whilst those to the left then fled. “Throw rocks at any who come within range especially Maudette, the one with the banner!” Sir Eustache ordered the nuns.  “I must go down and rally my men!” In fact he was intending to flee to the forest to escape Duke Robert’s wrath. However when he looked out of the door at the foot of the tower, a wall of enemy were approaching! Then he saw the witch Maudette herself, riding past with another lady mounted on a blue unicorn on the other side of her. The witches Maudette and Morgana! He charged out to attack Maudette with his poleaxe. She parried his blows with her sword and then a knight and two spearmen came to assist her. Outnumbered Sir Eustache manoeuvred so his back was to the wall of the ‘Sir Alard Inn’. Unfortunately this allowed Maudette to escape out of the fight. Then everything went black for Sir Eustache!

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Marshal Morgana & Grand Duchess Maudette at Rues 10th Eleventh Moon

It was a fine sunny day without a breath of wind and the sun was low to the south-west. Since they were expecting trouble they formed a double line with the women all in middle of the second rank. The Constable of Charles Sir Richard Nogent was in front of Maudette and said “Your Royal Highness these fields ploughed and of crops will impede our progress. I fear we must revert to column to enter the village anyway?”

Maudette called a halt to decide the matter. “We expected the Lambert’s to issue forth to challenge us an they be here. Perhaps they are not here?”

 “Nay your Royal Highness, someone is in there and I think I can see fighting at the far end of the village street. In fact I can hear fighting too!” With the menie stood still it was just possible to catch distant shouts and screams! 

Dame Melusine spoke, “It must be Duke Robert’s forces taking a hand on our behalf! If he drives them out of the village we shall cut off their retreat if we stay here!” Dame Melusine was wearing an imposing black double steeple hennin and bore a large chamberlain’s staff that she had discovered in the treasury. If anyone looked like a powerful witch she did! Certainly the villagers of Montpezal had all shied away from her!

However Morgana responded, “But what if the dissidents repulse his efforts and we stand doing nothing? You Royal Highness no glory is to be won by such a course. I counsel that we do form column as Sir Richard suggests and then charge into the village. I doubt not that a hot welcome awaits us there but I deem the enemy at a disadvantage with being assailed on two fronts!”

 “You are right Madam Marshal. We will form into column!”

They had just done so and begun to advance again when flames were seen at the far end of the village. Its church bell then rang a few times. The menie was getting to within charge distance when a body of horsemen was seen emerging from the forest away to the right.

 “Keep riding Sir Richard, we must rush the village, but Marshal Morgana, do you take a detachment to deal with those people!”

So Morgana collected Sir Desmond, Sir Gilbert, Head Groom Bried, Sergeant Neville, four hobilars, two arbalisters and Mistress Clarisse and formed them to face the enemies who were predominantly clothed in black. They numbered double Morgana’s force, as they circled round to approach it from the east. Four arbalisters rode through some ripe rye to fire at Morgana’s detachment but her men fired first and one foe dropped from his horse. The main body formed in column on the road ready to charge four abreast.

    Meanwhile Sir Richard’s force with the knights Robert, Fier and Gilbert and Squire Gauntlet to the fore charged to the village entrance. Some St. Judas familiars tried to push a cart out to block the way but they were too slow. Even so the leading riders were attacked from either side by spearmen. Though these fought stoutly they were overmatched, six and a black clad knight, were downed for no loss as they were pushed back on both sides! In the street, Grand Duchess Maudette and Dame Melusine found themselves at the head of their forces. Dangerously so, as they realised, when two hand stones were hurled down at them from the top of the church tower. Then Sir Victor and two spearmen from the Duke of Rathen’s force, came to take the foes on the left in the rear. These, five bowmen and four militia spearmen, then surrendered and those on the right broke and ran. Maudette and Melusine advanced to get away from the hand stones and to unite with Duke Roberts’s men whom they could see ahead. As they did so a knight of St.Judas charged out from the church tower and attacked Maudette with a poleaxe! Desperately she fended of his blows with her sword until Sir Victor Plonquet, with two Thentian Guard spearmen came to her assistance. They drove him away back against the wall of the Sir Alard Inn and eventually struck him down. Ladies Sabine and Clothilde Mistress Lys sought to follow Maudette and thus came within range of the stone throwers on top of the Church Tower. One of these missiles struck Lady Sabine on the right leg, breaking the small fibula bone in it. They consequently retired to shelter to the rear of the village shop. The Duke of Rathen’s men meanwhile forced the surrender of the remaining defenders. These were only four familiar crossbowmen in the Vicarage and a trumpeter and two Chiaran nuns in the church tower.     

    Morgana’s force counter-charged the mounted foes and a grim four to four ensued on the road frontage. Morgana fed forward her knights as the leading hobilars fell. Sir Richard Nogent led his force back to help once he faced no more resistance on the ground in the village. There were crossbow bolts still coming from the vicarage and his own trusty mount Melonda, sank to the ground with one through her neck! Soon Sir Fier, Sir Desmond, Squire Gauntlet and Sir Robert came to be bearing the brunt of the fight. Morgana worried about her Steward Sir Desmond Fraicheur as his opponent she recognised as Sir Thierri Ommange a famous jousting champion in his day! However Sir Desmond well kept him in play. Then an enemy knight sought to come round the flank in the pea field. Morgana, her gown shimmering spurred Harold forward and split his helmeted head in two! At this the enemy mostly turned and fled with Sir Thierri covering their retreat. Further away another black clad knight with wings on his helmet was trying to stem the rush without success. Morgana remembered that the hero Sir Bertrand Lambert had worn such a helmet as guessed that this must be his successor Sir Terence. She knew her men were tiring after such a hard fight and thus called a halt. Dusk was beginning to fall and it was best to succour the wounded and make sure that the village was now safe. The enemy halted to reform some distance away but then rode eastwards towards Montpezal. She found that Duke Robert had secured the village and brought forward some of his foot though the fields in case they might be needed. 

    Morgana’s force had lost four hobilars dead plus one sore wounded and an arbalister wounded. Of the mounted enemy Sir Reginald Lambert, Sir Bertrand Avoirdupois, Sir Gerard the Steward, two arbalisters and one hobilar lay dead with another arbalister lying sore wounded. Four horses had been captured for the loss of Sir Richard Nogent’s mount. Back in the village Lady Sabine was wounded and the Duke had lost only three men dead. There the villagers had lost eighteen dead and ten taken prisoner including their Vicar. Also lost had been Sir Esher a knight of the Lambert’s, a sergeant and four soldiers with four crossbowmen a trumpeter and two Chiaran nuns taken prisoner. Also prisoner was their Commander Sir Eustache Avoirdupois of the Order of St. Judas. He was in a coma from a sword blow to the head.

     Morgana found Maudette very excited and boasting of her exploits in fighting off Sir Eustache. Dame Melusine on the other hand was very shaken by the dangers they had survived and annoyed that Lady Sabine had been wounded! However her grand dame attitude certainly impressed the young Duke Robert and his wife Marie. They agreed to stay overnight in the village and move to transfer the manors on the morrow. That done they would discuss what to do about the prisoners. The villagers would be left to bury the dead. The knight owning the village was away on the crusade so the Duke wanted to do as little damage as possible.      

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Sir Terence Lambert

Terence told his men “Today we will avenge Sir Christopher and Vicar Barnabus! Today we strike a blow for the Church of Eru against the practitioners of foul witchcraft! An we win here today, Bara may rejoin the Kingdom of Thentis and who knows, I may become Royal Seneschal! Death to the pagans!”

   Unfortunately after this high note it was not until late afternoon that anything happened. Then the scouts reported that Maudette was coming and would arrive within the hour. But then first a force was seen coming on foot along the road from the west! Maudette was supposed to be coming from the east! Sir Terence realised that this foot force must be the Duke of Rathen, determined to poke his nose in where it was not wanted! And this despite losing all his horses! Two wagons in their rear flew the banners of Thentis and Rathen. Squire Teodore suggested, “We could assault yon body once they are engaged with the village. Thus we could make sure they are destroyed before Maudette arrives!”

But Sir Terence disagreed. “Nay we have no quarrel with the Duke of Rathen nor the Regency Council of Thentis. Our quarrel is with Maudette and those who follow her. Let Sir Eustache fight as best he may, we shall stick to the plan already agreed.” And soon enough a mounted body carrying the two lioness banner of Maudette was sighted in the east. Sir Terence moved his force forward to the edge of the wood in readiness. But Sir Eustache let the foe in close to the village ere he rang the church bell. Then Terence led his force out, circling round to be quite behind Maudette’s. He sent his four arbalisters across a field of growing rye to loose at the enemy from thence. The enemy had arbalisters too and one off the Lambert ones was downed! Meanwhile a dozen of the enemy turned to face their force on the road, whilst the rest still fought their way into the village. 

    Sir Thierri Ommange and Sir Reginald Lambert led the Lambert’s charge but because of the ditch and crops it was not practical to fight more than four abreast on the road. The dozen enemy counter-charged and met the Lambert force with a mighty crash. A purple shimmering glow in the foes midst indicated the position of the witch Morgana! Sir Terence thought that his numbers would tell but with four on four he could not get their benefit. However the foe were losing hobilars to your knights, until these were replaced with knights of their own. Morgana’s dozen were soon reinforced by riders from the village. There also could be seen the footmen of the Duke of Rathen, taking control everywhere! Sir Eustache must have fared ill! Sir Terence had hoped that the mighty jouster Sir Thierri Ommange, could cut his way through but the knight opposing him struck him blow for blow! Brother Sir Reginald fell as did a hobilar, Sir Gerard and then Sir Bertrand Avoirdupois. The last had tried to go round the flank through a pea field and had his helmet cloven in twain by the witch Morgana herself! At this Sir Terence’s men lost heart and turned to flee. He and Sir Thierri sought to rally them but they would not stop until full a couple of bowshots hence. Then it being dusk, Sir Terence decided that there was no point in trying to renew the action. Footmen belonging to the Duke of Rathen were now supporting Morgana’s force, so another attack would be suicidal! He just could hope that Sir Eustache’s force had dealt heavy blows against the enemy in the village. However he knew that he and those with him must be reckoned lost. Doubtless the false Maudette, assuming she was still alive, would go on the morrow to take possession of the manors. Sir Terence realised that he had not the strength to stop her now. 

     His force rode on in the dark but turned off the road to camp in a wood, two myles south of Montpezal. There he held a conference with the other leaders, Sir Hildebrand, Sir Thierri, Lady Joanna, Sir Francis and Lady Nicollette. “We have been bested I fear. Alas that the Duke of Rathen should have turned up so inopportunely!” Sir Terence lamented.

 “Yea but we must seek how best we can strike another blow against these evil ones!” declared Lady Nicollette.

Lady Joanna shook her head. “But we can do little now here in Rathen! The burning of his horses will have turned Duke Robert firm against us! With Sir Bertrand and Sir Gerard and almost certainly Sir Eustache dead, we can expect little support from the Avoirdupois now.  Sir Theodore Avoirdupois is on crusade with King Eudes or else the family stand to be dispossessed for this day’s work!”

Sir Hildebrand then spoke. “I agree with the Lady Joanna. We can do nothing here now. My rede is that we should return to Airvault castle and prepare for a siege. It is strong enough to repulse anything that Maudette can muster against us! Ere the crusading army returns that is!”

 “What cower there and do nothing to further our cause!” stormed Lady Nicollette. “Should we not better try for Charles citadel whilst Maudette is away? Have you not supporters in the city Sir Terence?”

He replied “I have indeed but they are few. Their tale is that Maudette has won the support of the citizens there, and in much of the countryside. Besides if Airvault castle be strong, Charles citadel is stronger! Have you any opinions to state Sir Francis?”

Sir Francis shook his head. “I go where Lady Joanna and Sir Thierri command.”

Sir Thierri said, “I see naught but troubles for us and for you an we join you in Bara. My brother-in-law Basylt was not popular and we are like to lose you such support as you may gain. I think our best course will be to go hunting awhile in the Arbor Deowyn out of the public eye. Mayhap we can seek allies for the future in there?”

  Sir Terence thought for a while and then said, “My decision is that Sir Thierri and the Avoirdupois menie depart to go where they will. We Lambert’s shall return to Airvault by a circuitous route avoiding inhabited places. There we shall plan what other blows we may strike against Maudette and those who support her. Lady Nicollette, you and your menie are welcome to come and assist us. I know you have family member’s deaths to avenge against the witch Morgana.”

 “We shall be glad to accompany you as you suggest Sir Terence.” Returned Lady Nicollette

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Sub-Prioress Psalma and Dulcee         

Dulcee the daughter of Herbet was around twenty-three winters old and had been married to a fellow serf Lapin for six years. To her regret and her mother’s scorn they had had no children. The village had heard about the Monseigneur’s crusade to Hamora and three men had gone on it with their lord Sir Bertrand Helion. Then Sir Eustache and Sub-Prioress Psalma had come asking for the villager’s assistance to combat the evil witches Maudette and Morgana. They claimed that these had used their powers to make the authorities give nearby church lands to themselves! They said that the witches would be coming to claim these lands but gentlefolk loyal to the church of Eru were coming to help stop them. Vicar Isiah told his congregation that he thought it their duty to aid Sir Eustache and stop the evil ones from entering the village. Many said they were willing to assist and as Lapin was in the village militia it was expected that he would play his part in any fighting. Holt the Reeve, who owned the village shop, said they were fools! He prophesied that they would rue the day and the village was like to wind up burnt! Others agreed with him saying what had they to do with the quarrels of the gentry, not even their own gentry! Sub-Prioress Psalma suggested that the ‘faint of faith’ should shelter in the church so as not to hinder those of stout hearts! Thus half the village decided to hide out of the way, whilst the other half trained to aid the soldiers Sir Eustache had brought with him. Dulcee’s mother Dot sided mocked Lapin and sided with the Reeve. In consequence Dulcee sided with her husband and her friends Decream, Mimi and Olive. She and the last three were each given two fire-pots each and told how to use them. Their post was at the southeast corner of the palisade where they were to throw the post at any enemy trying to sneak past. Lapin’s post was with the other militia nearby. However the first enemies were seen to be coming from the west. The trumpeter boy came to send Dulcee by herself to the south side of the western entrance. There she could see Sub-Prioress Psalma, Mistress Kruisa and some village women armed with pitchforks. Their task was to push the high batten cart to block the entrance at the right moment. By the time Dulcee got to her new post the long enemy column had got fairly close. There were a lot of soldiers and knights amongst them far too many for just two fire-pots! The other women were hiding as was the Vicar and his men in the square. Dulcee wondered if she could hold the enemy off by guile? She stood up in full view and shouted, “Have a care good gentlemen for this village is stricken by the plague and many are dead!” That stopped them in their tracks as they conferred amongst themselves. Then four came forward whilst the rest stood still. The better to deter these four Dulcee gave an agonised groan and fell to the ground. Disappointingly the four van foes still came on but once they were within the palisades Psalma had her women push their cart to block the entrance and cut the men off. Vicar Isiah then had the village men charge these four, who became three when Psalma cast a spell on one and he ran away! Dulcee could here orders being given and the tread of feet as the enemy advanced the other side of the palisade. If more soldiers cam they could easily move the cart, she thought, but not if it was on fire! In an instant she had jumped up and cast one of her fire-pots at the cart! The pot brake and the oil soon had the cart well afired. But the enemy were almost at the palisade and as she was armed only with a knife Dulcee dodged back between the huts. Crossbows were loosed from the other side of the palisade so Dulcee fled into the hut that was her own home and listened. Enemies were climbing over the palisades and it sounded as though the enemy soldiers were besting the village men. They were moving into the village! Well she had done what she could, now it was time to think of herself. She grabbed a half loaf of bread and a cheese and wrapping them in an apron she climbed out of the back window. She glimpsed an enemy soldier in flames as a horde of them attacked her friends, cutting them down mercilessly. It was time to leave! Fear spurred her to climb successfully over the palisade fence, something she normally would not even thought of attempting! She then crawled to hide in the entangling jungle of a pea field. Working her way in it away from the village as far as she could, she heard the sounds of battle move to the east and then cease altogether. Darkness fell but she could now hear strange voices laughing and cheering in the village. The witches must have won! It would be suicide to return so she walked round in a big circle in the darkness to reach the forest. There was an autumn chill in the air there she expected to find some shelter. As its dark vastness loomed ahead a voice from it whispered,

 “Come hither mistress an you be fleeing the evil ones?”

 “Of a surety I seek for mine own safety. Who are you that speak?”

 “I am Sub-prioress Psalma and I have with me three soldiers of our cause. Who are you?”

 “I am Dulcee wife of Lapin the militiaman.”

 “Why, you are the woman who stayed the foes with your tale of the plague. I heard you and it was well thought off. Alack that we failed in the end. Sir Terence’s horsemen were driven back toward Montpezal and it seems that all the village is taken. Now we must freeze in this wood I fear!”

 “Mother I had thought that we go to the place of the hobnut bushes. There we could cut leafy branches to cover ourselves with and, since it well within the forest even light a fire.”

 “Then lead on Mistress and it shall be as you say.”

 Dulcee had often enough been in the forest in daylight but found it much harder finding her way even though the moon was near full. It took her over an hour of stumbling about but the hobnut bushes were found and they lit a fire. Then they shared out such food as they had. They cut the leafy branches to make rather inadequate blankets but enough to mitigate the frost that came with the dawn. They picked what nuts remained on the bushes, the main harvest having been collected three weeks before. Then Dulcee led them to a pond she knew off so that they might drink. After that they headed to the edge where they could spy on the village. They were in time to see the enemy wagons and the east entrance cart heading off laden with bodies to the stone-field burying ground. After an hour they returned and then many perhaps all of the enemy marched away to the west. Dulcee wanted to go back to the village then to seek news of her husband and friends but Sub-Prioress Psalma thought it best to wait. “We cannot be sure that all the enemy have left the village. We had best keep watch for a few hours. Besides Sir Terence may return to his hiding place here.”

So they waited until after noon some children came to the forest to collect firewood. Psalma asked if the enemy soldiers had all left and the children replied that they had. They said that her friends Decream, Mimi and Olive had all been killed. They did not know which men had been slain. So then an upset and worried Dulcee took Psalma to the village. In the square they encountered Dulcee’s mother Dot, “Ha! Come slinking back after all the trouble you have caused! You and the black crow with you! D’you know that wastrel husband is dead? Dead and buried this morn!”

 “Oh I am sorry Dulcee.” Lamented Sub-Prioress Psalma.

 “And so you should be sister! And for the many others this village has lost! Anyway Dulcee, Holt the Reeve wishes to see you in his shop. I doubt he has good tidings for you either!” and she strode away.

Dulcee was in a state of shock. She had suspected that Lapin had been killed amongst the others but nevertheless it really hit her when it was declared certain! She sat down in the road with Psalma praying beside her for support. Eventually the nun helped her to her feet, “Come Dulcee, I will help you to your home you will be better able to recover there.”

 “No sister, we can go there presently. First I had better see the Reeve. He is a mean man and doubtless wishes to dun me for moneys Lapin owed him. I had best go and get the round tale of it.”

Psalma accompanied her to the village shop. Holt the Reeve was there accompanied by his wife and children. “My mother tells me you wish to see me?”

 “Widow Dulcee, you are in debt to this village. Not only for the moneys owed in respect of your cot but for the cart!”

 “The cart?” faltered Dulcee.

 “Witnesses have declared to Robert the Duke himself that you set fire to the village cart. Our cart which is now completely destroyed! I am bound to take your cot in part exchange for the debt. You must leave it and go back to your mother’s by dawn tomorrow!”

 Dulcee had to sit down again. “Why so soon?” demanded Psalma

 “If I am to keep order in this place whilst our knight is away I must be firm. You Sister, and Sir Eustache, have misled our people into dangerous ways! It has cost us very dear indeed!”

 “How dare you imply that Sir Eustache and I did anything other than point out to your people, their duty with regard to dealing with witchcraft! Cecare Fulgar!” and the shop was lit by a flash that blinded everyone except Psalma herself. The children started to wail and Dulcee found herself dragged outside. There she soon recovered her sight. “Take me to your cot please, I think we have much to discuss.”

  In the cot Dulcee prepared a meal of Polenta and beans for Psalma and herself.  They drank some ale that was still in the keg but it was past its best.

 “What am I to do sister?” lamented Dulcee. My husband and friends are gone and so is my home. My mother hates me for marrying Lapin in the first place. She lives with my brother Hever and his wife and really I do not want to face having to live there!”

 “Well Dulcee, I have been thinking about this and think I may have an answer. Why do you not join our sisterhood? Not at first anyway a full sister but as a lay sister. You have proven yourself brave, resourceful and having the right devout spirit. The Order of St. Judas has lay agents, who often operate in secret away from their Preceptories. It has been for some time the intention of our Order of Chiara to do likewise employing female agents.”

 “What? You mean leave here, where I have lived all my life? Leave my friends and relatives?”

 “I thought that your friends are dead and you do not care for your relatives?”

 “True enough I suppose. My husband and friends gave me a relief from my relatives. It will be sore to bear them now. From being mistress of mine own cot I shall come behind Mother and Hever’s wife. But then, would Sir Bertrand Helion allow me too?”

 “You mean the Lord of your village? He is away on crusade anyway but he could not stop you were he here. Our Order could pay some restitution for your loss to him as a serf woman, should he ask for it.”

 “Does it mean I have to wear black all the time and forswear men?”

 “I am not too sure about our requirements for lay sisters. Full sisters swear poverty chastity and obedience but of these I think obedience is the most important for our work. As an agent your job would be to seek out heretics, witches and information important to the Order. It might well be needed that you wear coloured garments for our purposes.”

 “What about my hair? I heard that you crop yours short?”

 “The cropping of hair is the practise of the Lucrecian nuns from whom we originated. It would certainly not be necessary for a lay sister.”

 “Good because it is not something I should like. The poverty part would be easy, not only do I have little enough of anything but I owe the village for their cart! I would likely be paying for it for the rest of my life!”

 “True enough. If you do join us then all your possessions belong to the Order in common. They will be used only in the service of the Order. The Order will provide food, drink and money as required. Depending on circumstances of course! Under present circumstances they cannot be what we would like. However if will join with me we can go to Abshalmaz. There the Bishop will accommodate us and we can contact others of our Order. An we left at dawn, we might reach its gates by dusk.”

 “Then that is what we will do sister. I shall join your Order under the terms you suggested and if we rise early we can avoid any that might obstruct my leaving!”

 So when Reeve Holt cam next day to take possession of the cot, the bird had flown taking such clothes and provisions as she and Psalma could carry.

To the Introduction

The Umpire's Stuff

Sir Eustache's Briefing

Sir Terence's Briefing

Duke of Rathen's Briefing

Dame Morgana's Briefing

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