Restitutor Orbis

Caer Guinnion

The eighth battle was near the fort Guinnion, where Arthur bore the image of the Holy Virgin, mother of God, upon his shoulders, and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy Mary, put the Saxons to flight, and pursued them whole day with great slaughter.

When the winter broke, Aulus Hectorius rode south with his army, where he was met at the old Roman fort at Vinovium by Osgar Ravenshield, an emissary of the Bretwalda. He announced that the heir of Ambrosius Aurelianus, Ambrosius Aurelianus Brittanicus, the new emperor, had named the Bretwalda his magister militum, and that the Bretwalda had sent him to offer Aulus Hectorius the opportunity to serve him in the emperor’s army. Caius Hectorius and Aulus both knew Brittanicus in their youth: a vain, pompous, cruel, and cowardly boy. Aulus gathered his knights to discuss their options. By uniting their enemies, the Bretwalda did bring peace to the island, but Caratacus Strongarm warned that such a peace would only be one that benefitted the Bretwalda’s warriors. To refuse to serve the Bretwalda would mean declaring open rebellion against Brittanicus, Ambrosius’s lawful heir. He gave his commanders time to consider their decisions.

When they reconvened, each of them agreed to rebel against Brittanicus and the Bretwalda. Caratacus, having found friends in Caius and Badiovirus over the winter, revealed that the Bretwalda had approached him, inviting him to join his forces, revealing himself in the process. Caratacus revealed the identity of their enemy as Ælle, King of the South Saxons.

Osgar had not come to Vinovium alone, though. He had several Saxon warbands waiting in the countryside nearby. The knights carefully coordinated the fort’s defense in relative secret, extracting the garrison from the blackmail the Saxons had used against their commander and Einion ap Mark. They also discovered that Ælle had made an arrangement with Gartnaich, who brought even more Picts to the battle, in exchange for Gwenhwyfar. Lugh Striking-Hand slipped out of the fort at night with Gwenhwyfar and hid her with a friend living in a nearby estate, then found Gartnaich and convinced him to let Gwenhwyfar marry Aulus, and thus bring peace to Pictland. Gartnaich agreed, but vowed to watch closely, and that he would take Gwenhwyfar back if Lugh’s suggestion proved fruitless.

In the morning, Aulus, bearing his shield painted with the image of the Virgin for the first time, led his army against the Saxons. They repelled the attack, and Aulus’s warband spent much of the day running down Osgar’s personal retinue.

The battle marked a critical moment, like Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon — Aulus and his knights were now irrevocably in defiance of the Bretwalda Ælle and his imperial puppet, Brittanicus. The army marched towards Eboracum, where Constantine’s troops acclaimed him emperor over a hundred years before, to determine the future they were going to fight for.

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Cantium

During the winter, Content Not Found: badiovirus approached Aulus Hectorius about the fate of his kingdom, Cantium. Aulus pointed out that the Cantiaci had fled generations ago; their descendants considered themselves citizens of Londinium, Icenia, or Atrebatia. Even if Badiovirus succeeded, most would not leave their homes simply to fulfill their grandparents’ nostalgia. Meanwhile, Saxon settlers had come from across the sea — men, women, and children, come to simply live their lives. What would Badiovirus do with them? Was this a mission of genocide?

Badiovirus referred to his family’s history in the Revolution, how they fought to free the poor, urban, Christian population from the exploitation of a rural, pagan aristocracy. Now, he said, the people living in Ceint suffer under a new tyranny: the warmongering god Wotan, and his religion of violence and domination, created a society where those ordinary people who came simply to live their lives suffer under a warrior aristocracy. Badiovirus said that he did not want to take back his kingdom to drive out the Saxons as a people, but to liberate them from their pagan oppressors. Aulus was satisfied with this answer, and authorized Badiovirus to return to Ceint for the remainder of the winter.

Aulus called in his brother Caius Hectorius and asked him to accompany Badiovirus on his mission. When Badiovirus told him his vision of a kingdom guided by Pelagian principles, Ualcaved also volunteered to join him. Badiovirus sought help from Caratacus Strongarm, who provided a keel, and offered some of his own Saxon warriors to follow him.

As they sailed to Ceint, Badiovirus told Caius and Ualcaved about Ceint: how Hengist and his warriors came from the Franks, but the settlers who followed them came from Saxony and Frisia. He told them of his family’s history in the Revolution, and his plan to encourage the settlers to rise up against Æsc’s rule. Badiovirus was quite successful in this. As he convinced more and more of the settlers to join the revolt, Caius spent more and more of his time turning a rag-tag bunch of farmers into a disciplined army of warriors.

After a few initial victories, Badiovirus was contacted by a messenger from Octa Big-Knife, asking for a secret meeting. There, he offered to betray his father, Æsc Hengistsson, in exchange for becoming Badiovirus’s magister militum, the commander of his military. Octa could see that Badiovirus would win, eventually; better to join him now and secure position and power in his new regime, than die as his father’s heir. Badiovirus asked about his beliefs; Octa told him that he believed in Wotan, because Wotan gives him strength and glory, but also warned him that many of Æsc’s warriors would gladly accept death for the glory it would win them, so unless he wanted to fight to the bitter end, he would need someone like Octa who could control those warriors in his name. Badiovirus accepted the wisdom of that assessment, and agreed to Octa’s terms.

Octa threw open the gates of Durovernum, and with a significant portion of the warriors joining Octa against his father, they won the battle handily. Æsc was executed. With the winter ending, Badiovirus had to return to rejoin Aulus’s army. Octa offered to rule the kingdom in his stead, until he returned. Badiovirus was wary, until Octa warned him that many of the soldiers were still loyal to him, so if Badiovirus tried to call upon someone else, they may become angry and revolt. Octa promised he would try to dissuade them from that, but said he couldn’t promise that they would listen. Badiovirus assented, leaving Octa in charge of Cantium until he could return, but he also left Ualcaved there to keep an eye on Octa and keep him in line.

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Din Eidyn

After Kaw’s defeat at Cat Coit Celidon, Aulus Hectorius’s army headed to Din Eidyn, the capital of Guotodin, to winter in the court of King Lot. A number of other dignitaries were gathering there, as well — from the Picts, their king, Nechtan, along with Gogfran, Gartnaich, and his advisor, Theodora; from Novant, Queen Corotica and Abbot Galam; from Ystrad Clud, King Dumnagual; and from Dál Riata, Fergus mac Eirc. Hectorius’s plan for his northern campaign was to win enough battle to forces the various kings of the north to gather at Din Eidyn to establish peace in the north, for the first time ever.

Lot had a delicate problem, though, so he turned to his son, Lugh Striking-Hand, to settle it quietly. The bandit Vorcunos had been making trouble in Guotodin. If any harm came to any of the rulers traveling to Din Eidyn, it would bring shame on Lot — sending the message that he could not keep his own kingdom safe, and possibly hinting at weakness to his enemies. By the same token, taking the matter directly to Hectorius would do much the same thing. Instead, Lugh went with Vorcunos’s long-lost son, Peredur, as well as Badiovirus, Caius Hectorius, and Titus Drustanus. They encountered Vorcunos and managed to run him off, eliminating the threat to the traveling dignitaries, but Vorcunos escaped.

Back at Din Eidyn, Lot managed to reconcile some of the deep rifts in his family. Badiovirus, looking for a wife, married Corotica, offering her a Christian king to use as a figurehead, deterring Abbot Galam’s efforts to overthrow her. Titus, an old rival of Fergus’s, stole several of his men from under his nose. Together, the knights succeeded in negotiating a treaty that brought peace to the north.

Meanwhile, Gwenhwyfar arrived with news that Ambrosius Aurelianus had died. She began working with Myrddin and Lugh to move more quickly on their plans to make sure Aulus succeeded Ambrosius as High King of Britain. They pointed to the incompetence and selfishness of Ambrosius’s heir, Ambrosius Aurelianus Brittanicus.

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Cat Coit Celidon

The seventh battle was in the Caledonian Forest, that is, Cat Coit Celidon…

Riding hard to catch up with Aulus Hectorius and the main army, Caius Hectorius, Lugh Striking-Hand, and Peredur fall into and then escape a Pictish ambush. Meanwhile, angry with himself for his failure, Quintus Badiovirus maneuvers around Kaw’s Pictish guerrillas. During one of their ambushes, the Picts wound Aulus, forcing the army to move into the ruins of an ancient Roman fort to hold out until their commander can recover.

When Baviovirus makes it back to camp, he’s looking forward to some time with Aedan ap Cynfelyn, but Aedan wants to penetrate Badiovirus this time. In explaining why he doesn’t want to do that, Badiovirus explains that a Roman man cannot be used like a woman in such a fashion. Aedan, for the first time, that their relationship isn’t about love, but domination.

Myrddin sends Caius, Lugh, Peredur, Badiovirus, Owain Rheged and Titus Drustanus to a nearby well said to have healing powers, to bring some of its water back for Aulus. There, Caius drinks from the water, giving him a vision in which the Virgin Mary leads him to a battle against his darkest self. The monk guarding the well accuses Titus of murdering his wife in Ireland. Owain’s gwyllt overcomes him, sending him naked into the woods, where he encounters the god Bran and can only regain his humanity by mastering the language of the trees and guessing the god’s name. Lugh notices the syncretism of the shrine, uniting the imagery of the older goddess Brigit and the Virgin Mary. The monk admits that he used to be a druid, and has composed a poem encoding ancient druidic secrets, called the Cad Goddeu (“Battle of the Trees”). Owain learns the poem, and notices that it seems to relate to his encounter with Bran.

After they bring the water back, Aulus drinks from it and recovers. He tells Caius that he had a vision of the Virgin Mary as well, in which she appeared as a fierce mother bear, cast him into a fire to burn away his sins, called him “Arthur,” promised that if he painted her image on his shield his campaign would succeed, but said that he would only save the Britons if he could learn the lesson she had already taught his brother.

Aulus sends Titus to infiltrate the Picts. When the Picts send him to kill Badiovirus to prove himself, he takes Badiovirus’s bear pelt, and murders and beheads one of his men, to convince them. Badiovirus, angered by the apparent death of one of his men at the Picts’ hands, pursues them and finds their hidden camp. He returns to alert Aulus. Lugh promises that whoever of his men kills the most Picts will win a prize. The army attacks the camp, killing Kaw in the process. Only after the battle is over does Owain realize that the events of the battle seem to already be encoded in the poem.

Aedan killed the most Picts of any in Lugh’s warband, and Lugh reveals the prize as the pick of the Pictish loot. Aedan asks for the head of Badiovirus’s man, displayed in the middle of the camp. Badiovirus is furious. Aedan offers to give it to him — if he will submit to Aedan penetrating him right there, in front of the entire army. As he finishes, he whispers in Badiovirus’s ear, “If you want to make this about power, then I can oblige.”

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Bassas

The sixth battle was on the river called Bassas…

With the eastern coast secured, Aulus Hectorius takes the army north. In Eboracum, Einion ap Mark hosts a feast for the Dux Bellorum and his army. There, Firactus’s attempt to have Peredur killed fails, forcing him to reveal that he knew Peredur’s father, Vorcunos, who is still alive, and has become a brutal, cannibalistic brigand. Caius Hectorius has to deal with the local bishop, Gnaeus Pollienus Auspex, who is upset that Aulus expects the church to contribute monetarily to the war effort. Meanwhile, the Duke is trying to push his daughter Velua on Aulus, so Lugh Striking-Hand intervenes to keep them apart.

The army continues north, traveling beyond the Wall to stop an Anglian warlord named Bassa. There is contention among the army. Why are they traveling beyond te Wall when the Saxons remain in Britain?

Aulus wants to pull Bassa’s men away from the walls of the old fort at Alauna, now under Lot’s control, but beseiged by Bassa and his army. Lugh’s men, eager to win glory in their own lands, convince him to charge them here in a morning attack. Peredur sneaks into the fort in the night with a message — without realizing that the message asks the garrison to join the attack at first light, which means he’ll have to join them.

In the morning, Lugh’s warband charges Bassa’s army, while Peredur leads the garrison as they sally forth to join the fight. Caius takes up position behind them, expecting Lugh’s warband to draw them into the open field, when Picts in the fog-shrouded forest launch a surprise attack. The battle turns into utter chaos, and Caius succumbs to gwyllt. His son, Caius Hectorius Moderatus, has the presence of mind to take command of his warband, and leads them bravely. Lugh slays his Pictish rival Hueil in a duel, and Peredur kills Bassa. The Saxons are defeated, and Aulus sets off in pursuit of the Pictish warlord Kaw, while Lugh and Peredur go to find Caius.

Caius experiences several lifetimes as different plants and animals before Lugh and Peredur find him naked in a stream.

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Lindum

The second, the third, the fourth and the fifth were on another river, called the Dubglas, which is in the region of Linnuis…

With Icenia under control, Aulus turns the army north, to Lindum, where Catuboduous is under siege. The Saxons use the rivers to make lightning raids across the country, sailing their longboats into position. Aulus’s cavalry force relies on the Roman roads. Aulus points his commanders to the points where those two networks intersect to intercept the Saxon longboats and disrupt their raids.

Caius Hectorius, Lugh Striking-Hand, Peredur, and Content Not Found: badiovirus align themselves with a Celtic militia leader eager to fight the Saxons, and begin ambushing longboats heading up and down the river. The attacks draw Winta out, pulling him from his siege of Lindum. When a second Saxon force joins the army, they fear that Winta has overwhelming reinforcements, but it turns out to be Aulus joining the fight with his main army and the Saxons still loyal to Catuboduous. Caius bravely charges into battle to duel Winta personally, but is defeated. Lugh, Badiovirus, and Peredur reach the fight later, where they manage to defeat Winta and save Caius.

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Icenia

Owain Rheged waited with the Wailing Arrows in Durobrivae, as commanded by his master, Myrddin, where he met Titus and his Irish warriors, come to take advantage of the Saxon insurrection in Lindum. Aulus Hectorius arrived shortly thereafter with his army. Myrddin welcomed Owain and his horse archers to the ranks, and Titus offered his services as well.

The next morning, the army road out, following the Roman road east into Icenia. While camping that night, Peredur noticed signal fires being lit, and deduced that Saxon scouts must be tracking them, and alerting their comrades of their movements.

In the morning, they found out why: the Saxons had built a huge earthwork cutting across the road, stretching for miles in either direction. A hundred Saxon warriors stood at the top of the earthwork, forming a shield wall. Lugh Striking-Hand and his men dismounted and began scrambling up the earthwork to attack the northern flank, while Titus’s Irish warriors attacked the southern flank. Caius joined his brother on a charge against the center. The Saxons had put everything in their favor, playing to every weakness of the cavalry force Aulus had mustered. They repulsed the charge against their center. On the southern flank, Titus lost control of his men, and the Saxons slaughtered them all. On the northern flank, Lugh had more success, as Peredur led some of Lugh’s men to run down some fleeing Saxons, but Aulus’s failure to break the center of the line forced them to retreat.

The retreat left Peredur on the wrong side of the enemy line, and his pursuit of the fleeing Saxon warriors left him deep in enemy territory before he realized that Aulus had lost the battle. At the camp, Titus questioned Aulus’s leadership. Caius became irritated with Titus, not for questioning Aulus, but for doing so loudly and publicly, ending in Caius knocking Titus out. Lugh began recruiting volunteers for a grand expedition in the morning to rescue Peredur. Myrddin, fearing that Lugh would not have the subtlety for such a task and may invite further disaster, asked Content Not Found: badiovirus to undertake a rescue mission that night and be back with Peredur before morning — and, if possible, scout out the road ahead. Myrddin suspected that they would likely face other earthworks further down the road.

Badiovirus and the Fraternitas did find Peredur and the warriors he’d led, feeling triumphant for their part in the fight. Together, they scouted the road ahead, and discovered a second earthwork further down the road. Both stretched for miles, ending only where the terrain became marshy, where the horses would become bogged down and infantry — like the Saxons — would have the advantage.

In the morning, Titus confronted Aulus about his tactical decisions. Myrddin agreed with him that they should not try a conventional attack a second time, but suggested something even more unorthodox than Titus had in mind: settle the affair with a duel, playing on Icel’s family history to bind him in a sacred oath of non-aggression.

Badiovirus and Peredur returned to camp with the dawn. Badiovirus reported Peredur’s successes to Aulus, who was about to give him his own warband to command, when Lugh offered him his own warriors, the ones he had led at the earthwork. Badiovirus and Peredur then set out immediately again to find and kill the Saxon scouts following the army.

When they returned to camp, they found Ælle in the camp. He had come to offer to act as an intermediary between Aulus and Icel, to help arrange a meeting. In return, he asked Aulus to make him Comes litoris Saxonici — the Count of the Saxon Shore. Aulus agreed.

Myrddin gathered the knights and told them about a sword called Caliburn. It came from a time when steel weapons were very rare, so they called this sword “hard edge,” Caledfwlch, or Caliburn. It was the sword of a Catuvellauni chieftain named Cassivellaunus. When Julius Caesar invaded Britain, Cassivellaunus united the tribes to stand against him. His sword became the symbol of British unity against the invader. When Cassivellaunus surrendered to Caesar, he presented the sword to him, and it became the sword of Julius Caesar, father of the Roman Empire. It was returned to Rome, and there it stayed for half a century. Then, a descendant of Julius Caesar, the Emperor Claudius, launched the final invasion of Britain. When he succeeded, he had his ancestor’s sword brought to Camulodunum, where a temple was erected to his victory, and placed it there as a symbol of Roman power. So, a few years later, when the Iceni queen Boudicca rebelled against the Romans and sacked Camulodunum, she took that sword, and offered it to Andraste, the goddess of victory, by throwing it into a lake. Thus, Caliburn had become a symbol of unified defiance against foreign invaders to the Britons, a symbol of the ancient glories of the empire to the Romans, a sword dedicated to the goddess of victory, the Lady of the Lake. Aulus’s duel with Icel had moved the battle from the earthworks, where the Saxons had built their advantage, to symbols and stories. There, the knights would need to build Aulus’s advantage — by finding Caliburn.

Owain had a vision of a giant bear roaring, overlooking a town. When he shared that with his fellow knights, they reasoned that it must mean the town of the Iceni, their civitas capital, Venta Icenorum. So, they rode out to Venta.

There, the knights met with Lucius Adeodatus, king of the Iceni and Count of the Saxon Shore. They asked for the location of any witches in the territory, who might know the places sacred to the ancient pagans. Adeodatus had ordered the execution of every witch he knew of, so he had none to offer, but promised to send his men to look for one. Lugh also asked to speak with any warriors he had who might have seen Icel fight personally. He did have a few, all Saxons themselves. From their descriptions, Lugh gleaned some insights into Icel’s fighting style. Impressed by his hospitality and generosity, Lugh told Adeodatus that Aulus planned to give his position to Ælle. Adeodatus said that it was his duty as Aulus’s lieutenant to provide him with another option. He decided to seek out an ealdorman who’d sided with Icel, who might still owe him enough loyalty to at least let him talk to the Anglian king.

Meanwhile, Titus found Paullus Hostilius, the commander of Branodunum, and disappointed with the influence and power the Saxons have gained under Adeodatus. When Titus told him that Aulus planned to place Ælle in charge of the Saxon Shore, they began a scheme to raise an insurrection among the fort commanders to make Hostilius the new Count.

Peredur decided to hit the streets and see what he could learn. He had locals speaking of a demonic bear plaguing the countryside. Owain thought that his vision must point to this bear. The other knights decided to join in the hunt. They found signs of it easily enough in the woods, for it was a very large bear. They tracked it to its den, at the side of a lake. Caius charged into the cave. Together, the knights brought the bear down. In the back of its den, they found an ancient Celtic longsword, very similar to the spathae they wield. Deciding that this must be Caliburn, they took the sword and returned to Aulus’s camp.

Lugh had time to give Aulus a few dueling lessons before Icel arrived with Ælle — and the head of Lucius Adeodatus. The ealdorman that Adeodatus thought might still be loyal to him, wasn’t, and it cost him his life. Aulus challenged Icel to a duel: if Aulus won, Icel would never attack the Britons again; and if Icel won, Aulus would recognize him as king of Icenia. To bind the terms of the duel, Myrddin laid Caliburn on a stone altar. By ancient British tradition, only the victor could draw the sword from the stone, and it would forever symbolize the oaths that bound them.

The duel began. Each of the knights contributed in their own way — cheering for Aulus, praying for him, analyzing Icel’s fighting stance and shouting out their suggestions, or controlling the crowd. Together, they gave Aulus the edge, allowing him to defeat Icel and draw the sword from the stone.

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The Twin Giants

490 AD

The Roman road between Olenacum and Verbaia in Brigantian territory was always one of the most dangerous in the island, not only because of the difficult geography it crossed, but because of the Brigantes themselves, who, when not in full revolt, often occupied themselves with raiding and brigandry. Owain, prince of Rheged, a kingdom only a day’s ride north of this road, sent a message to Uther Pendragon, advising him to send his son Caius Hectorius with a patrol along this road, claiming that he had seen in a vision that Caius would “slay a giant and find a hero.”

When Caius arrived in Verbaia, he immediately heard stories of a giant called Butu, a brigand who robbed anyone who tried to take the road. Caius took the road, determined to put an end to Butu’s menace. He was prepared for an ambush, but he did not expect that “Butu” was actually not one, but two brigand leaders, each with their own gang. Caius was trapped, attacked on both sides. It was Titus’s timely intervention with his Irish fighters who saved Caius and his men that day. They defeated the Butu brothers. Caius took the head of one to hang from the gates of Olenacum, while Titus took the other back to Verbaia.

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The Shadows of Din Tagell

489 AD

Titus returned home to Dumnonia from Ireland with a band of loyal Irish fighters, and a dozen different stories as to why they followed him. He wasn’t back long before Gerontius tried to recruit him for the struggle against Marcus Cunomorus. Titus’s hatred for his father, one of Cunomorus’s most trusted commanders, made him easy to persuade. Gerontius asked Titus to kill Gauorignus, a Dumnonian sub-king loyal to Cunomorus.

Gauorignus lived in Din Tagell, an impregnable fortress on the kingdom’s northern coast. Oddly, Owain arrived at Gerontius’s villa that very night, traveling from Rheged to share a vision that he’d had with Titus. That vision inspired Titus to attack Gauorignus from a different angle: seducing Gauorignus’s lover, Rosula. Rosula, convinced that if she killed Gauorignus that she and Titus could have a future together, did just that, but Titus was long gone by then, returned to Gerontius to collect his payment.

Gauorignus’s son, Bellatus, captured Rosula, tortured her until she confessed to everything, and then had her executed. He set out to hunt down Titus to take his revenge. Badiovirus had come to Dumnonia to seek Gerontius’s help in the fight against the Saxons. He employed many of them himself, which made Badiovirus nervous, but he also controlled one of the largest fleets in Britain, a vital resource in the war against the sea-borne Saxons. He stepped in between Titus and Bellatus, convincing them that they needed to set aside their squabbles and focus on the threat to them all posed by the Saxon invaders. Bellatus only relented when Badiovirus bested him in combat. Though no longer actively hunting him, Titus knows he has a sworn enemy in Din Tagell, one who schemes to one day take his revenge.

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The Wild Man of the Elms

488 AD

Tales of the Wild Man of the Elms, a mysterious savage who lived in the elm forests near the Wall, by the Ituna Aestuarium (Solway Firth), attracted Titus to the area, hoping to earn glory by hunting and slaying the beast-man. When he finally found the creature, he discovered he was a prince of Rheged named Owain, plagued by gwyllt. Years before, while delivering supplies to Concavata, he was attacked by a band of Pictish raiders led by a warlord named Kaw. The trauma drove Owain mad. He fled into the woods and became the storied Wild Man. When Titus discovered this, he decided to take Owain home, but others had set out to hunt the Wild Man, too. One of them was King Lot’s daughter, Minura. Titus found her before she found Owain, seduced her, and convinced her to capture the Wild Man, rather than kill him. When Minura brought her prize back to Din Eidyn, Lot recognized the prince of Rheged, and assigned his son Lugh Striking-Hand to take Owain home and help him recover from his madness.

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