Restitutor Orbis

The Old North

Tensions were building in Icenia. Icel’s plan to bait Arthur into breaking the truce by seizing control of Dommoc had fallen apart when Lugh Striking-Hand listened to the Angles’ concerns, and thus forced them to question their loyalties. Meanwhile, Saxons from across the island who yearned for a chance to fight Arthur again and reverse their defeat at Badon Hill continued to flock to Icenia, seeking Icel, the only leader to defeat Arthur in battle. Yet the bonds of oath and honor still forced him to refrain from attack.

According to some, this was why Icel begged his eldest son Cnebba to kill him. Cnebba, unbound by those oaths, could pursue the war that he could not. Of course, that story seems far too convenient for Cnebba — many believe that he merely took advantage of the growing faction eager for war to slay his father and seize his throne.

This news reached Lugh by way of a messenger, who also reported that Wulfric had died. Bound by oaths of loyalty to Icel and his heir Cnebba, Wulfric faced a similar dilemma to Icel. Impressed by Lugh and unwilling to raise arms against him, he nonetheless could not betray Cnebba. So, when Cnebba ordered him to attack Arthur’s forces, he did so — alone. Though he fought bravely, his decision to go alone was suicide, intended to remove him and the entanglements of his oaths. The messenger bore all this, as well as greetings from Dommoc’s new commander, Beorn, with assurances of his loyalty.

With this news that war had broken out in Icenia, the knights rushed to Arthur’s camp. Arthur took control of their warbands, but sent them to Guotodin along with two other of Lot’s sons, Ualcos Magesos and Ualcaved. Arthur feared that the war in the south would encourage Lot to take advantage of the opportunity to revolt against him in the north, and hoped to keep a second front from opening up by sending a few hand-picked warriors there.

As they rode across Guotodin to see Lot at Din Eidyn, they paid attention to the talk among the people of the realm. They spoke of Arthur as a foreign invader who had no business beyond the Wall. They pointed to his sister, Modron, as evidence of this. She is the eldest child of Uther Pendragon — why is she not High Queen? It shows that he is a Roman, ignorant and dismissive of their traditions. They spoke of the Peace of Din Eidyn with resentment, believing that it merely kept them from a war they were sure to win. Such a war would bring them wealth, glory, and power — but it might also bring their sons and daughters home who had left the kingdom behind in search of fortune and adventure. Some called Lot a fool for agreeing to it, but most blamed Arthur for pressing him into it.

The knights were received warmly at Din Eidyn, and Lot soon proposed that he should marry Arthur’s sister, Modron. He said that it would be easier for him to convince the people of Guotodin that Camulod was a friend and not a foreign conqueror if Arthur was his kin. The knights quickly suspected that this had more to do with Lot positioning himself for the High Kingship himself. Referring to Lot’s treatment of Teneu, Caius Hectorius took particular exception to his long-lost sister marrying Lot. As the discussion escalated, it became yet another point of contention between him and Lugh, as the discussion started to shift towards not wanting his family connected to Lugh’s family.

The knights visited with others who held power and influence throughout the realm, including Aedan ap Cynfelyn and the poet Anierin. Anierin, who had often written poems of praise about great warriors and their adventures, wanted to take part in one himself, and he had one perfectly suited to the idealistic knights of Camulod in mind. He pointed them to a local chieftain named Emrys who oppressed the local people terribly. Anierin rode with the knights as they attacked his fort. In his hall, Emrys grievously wounded Bedwyr. The sight of his brother-in-arms struck down enraged Caius, who rushed forward to slay Emrys.

In Din Eidyn, Senica mocked Bedwyr’s wounds, which again enraged Caius, who challenged her to fight there and then. Senica proved a far more vicious fighter than Caius had anticipated, however. Bedwyr, in turn enraged to see this treatment of Caius, tried to challenge Senica as well, but he, too, was handily defeated. Senica scorned the warriors of the south, and said she would never support a southern weakling like Arthur until Caius and Bedwyr could both prove their worth by beating her just once in a fight.

As Anierin’s poetry begins to spread, praising Bedwyr and the Sons of Lot for their heroism and bravery, attitudes in the kingdom towards Camulod have improved ever so slightly. However, there remains much to do. The knights have started to think about the traditions of the Votadini. For centuries they lived on the edge of the Roman Empire. Though conquered by it for only the shortest time, they nonetheless became embroiled in the Empire’s wars, their traditions shaped by centuries of conflict until war became the only thing that mattered to them. Now Rome has gone, but its legacy remains. The knights begin to wonder: could this be more than a diplomatic mission for Camulod? Might they be able to take on the challenge of reshaping Votadini tradition … to give them something other than war to take pride in?

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Joyous Guard

Bedwyr, Caius, and Peredur serve the pirate Bellinios for a month while Lugh checks in on his Saxon Shore forts. They train his men, help him hijack a few ships coming in from Byzantium, and discover that he has a massive spy network stretching across all of Britain — and beyond.

They return to the hermit Petiacos, who tells them that the bishop in Isca has been shirking his duty to care for the city’s widows and orphans, so they must prepare a feast for the needy. That this will publicly shame the bishop is an additional benefit. On the walk to Isca, they run into an old man struggling to carry a bundle of firewood. Peredur agrees to carry the wood back to his home, in the opposite direction from Isca. Bedwyr and Caius head to the city. They throw the feast and Caius gets the bishop to bless it, and to pledge to take care of Dumnonia’s neediest.

When they return again to Petiacos, he tells them that the old man with the firewood was the third test, and they have proven their worth to his satisfaction. He gives them the mantle of Joseph of Arimathea, which he’d kept hidden under his floorboards the entire time.

The three knights leave the cloak with Myrddin in Camulod, then meet up with Lugh and Arthur at Camulodunum in the kingdom of Londinium. Lugh tells them that the Saxon Shore fort Dommoc has been taken over by Saxons loyal to Icel, and they may risk war to get it back.

Before they leave for Dommoc, they talk to Batraz about the whetstone of Lucius Artorius Castus. He tells them they might want to start looking in Bremetennacum, a Sarmatian community in Pagensia. He tells them it’s not a physical object — the story hides the truth about an old Sarmatian custom. The whetstone is said to be poisoned, but there’s no poison that can be transferred to a sword from a whetstone.

The four knights arrive at Dommoc with kegs of ale as a peace offering. Wulfric, the new commander, comes out to meet them. With Bedwyr translating, Lugh talks to the men and finds out that they’re resentful of Britain and Arthur, and they love Wulfric and want him left in command. Meanwhile, Caius talks to the quartermaster, who reveals that Caius personally killed his cousin at Badon Hill. He’s been plotting revenge ever since. Caius challenges him to a duel and knocks him down, but does not kill him.

At the feast that night, Wulfric tells Lugh that Dommoc has been purposefully filled with Icel’s most loyal followers, and that Wulfric’s mission is to force Lugh into killing him and routing his men, thereby giving Icel the excuse he needs to start a war. Lugh refuses to fight him, instead offering three things:

  1. He will allow the worship of Saxon gods in the shore forts, though he fully admits that he cannot speak for the rest of the island.
  2. Every Briton stationed at the forts will be made to learn some Saxon, if every Saxon will learn some Latin.
  3. Lugh will put his trust in Wulfric personally.

Wulfric is shocked and impressed, especially when Lugh tells him the story of how he and Bedwyr burned down a church. He isn’t supportive of Arthur by any means, but Lugh seems to have quelled the mutiny — at least for now.

The knights continue on to the city of Londinium. The bishop, Libo, tells them about a Pelagian woman named Illica who is writing theology just outside the city. He wants them to humiliate this heretic, but Bedwyr outright refuses. Lugh vaguely promises they’ll “look into it” and breaks the news about Saxon worship at his forts as gently as he can. Libo is not happy, to say the least.

Liberalus, on the other hand, is enormously grateful to Lugh for all the money his idea has made him. He’s planning a huge celebration for the one-year anniversary of the battle of Badon Hill, and needs help recruiting skilled fighters. He also asks Lugh and the other knights to participate. Lugh, Bedwyr, and Peredur readily agree, but Caius holds the traditional Roman belief that gladiatorial combat is no better from prostitution, and refuses to take part.

The garrison commander Serranus tells Caius that his old friend Cenacus Dog-Head has returned to banditry. Peredur goes undercover as a down-on-his-luck war veteran to infiltrate Cenacus’s bandit band. He recruits all forty of them to the army Arthur’s building against Icel — and to “fight” in Liberalus’s mock battle of Badon Hill.

Lugh plans the show, casting himself as King Arthur and Cenacus as Ælle. He uses the battle recreation to further ease tensions between Saxons and Britons by presenting the Saxons as good people poisoned by Ælle’s lies. Bedwyr has a scene where he loudly declares that “All Saxons who love this land should join with Arthur to fight the evil Bretwalda!” at which point, one group of “Saxons” turns against another group.

Towards the end of the show, Lugh is supposed to take a dive and be rescued by Peredur. Liberalus urged him to do this so he could make money from all the people who bet on Arthur. However, as Peredur sees Cenacus-as-Ælle pretending to kill Lugh-as-Arthur, he has a flashback to the actual battle and nearly kills Cenacus for real. Lugh sees it happening and manages to deflect the blade so that Cenacus only gets knocked down. The crowd goes wild.

Caius, disgusted with the whole affair, goes to speak with the merchant Gallio Scipio, whose new trade alliance with Francia is doing poorly for some strange reason. He wants a new trading partner for Londinium, maybe with Pictland. Caius promises to make some inquiries. Scipio notices that Caius seems unhappy and offers him a job “doing what you feel is right.” Caius notes that it seems odd to pay someone just to ride around doing good for people, but Scipio compares it to patronizing the arts. Caius is tempted, but ultimately turns him down.

Bedwyr speaks to Catonius, who still doesn’t like him but realizes that so many Cantiaci refugees are excited about returning home that he needs to get in front of the movement in order to maintain his power. He and his men have been reviewing old property maps, trying to see where families came from, where Jutish farmers have resettled, and where to fit everyone without causing a civil war. He asks Bedwyr for his help in this, and Bedwyr instantly agrees.

Lugh leaves the city to ask Illica for her help in this. She is impressed by what she hears of Bedwyr, contributes her scholarship to the project, and even moves to Durovernum. Bedwyr successfully leads a number of Cantiaci back to Cantium.

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Realm of the Merchant-Princes

Arthur Pendragon, High King of the Britons, dreams of reforming the diocesan council at Camulod. The council has not met since the days of Vortigernos. Arthur intends to even extend it to include the British kingdoms beyond Hadrian’s Wall. However, with the Saxons defeated at Badon, many of the British kings have already resumed their old rivalries. Some would rather deny any authority above their own. Others resent the ideals Camulod stands for as counter to their own. Still others would rather see the young High King destroyed before he has a chance to establish his power.

While he sees to the growing tensions with Icel, Arthur sends his knights to prove Camulod’s worth to the various kingdoms of Britain. But before they leave, Myrddin calls them to the Giants’ Dance to tell them about the Treasures of Britain — twelve treasures from British legend and history that, collected together, could replace the protection once offered by the head of Bran the Blessed, and keep Britain safe from invasion. They already have one: Caliburn. They need to find and collect 11 more, including the Horseman’s Knife, the location of which is known only to Vorcunos. Lugh challenges Myrddin to find another treasure, to respresent Arthur’s contribution to British history. He is intrigued by the idea, and agrees.

The knights visit Vorcunos in prison. Vorcunos tells them the knife is hidden in a cave in Eboracum, but cannot — or will not — tell exactly where and insists on acting as their guide. Lugh can tell he’s lying and plans to escape, but that he also still has some humanity struggling to get out. Peredur orders better lodging and treatment for his father, to coax his humanity back. But they don’t want to go to Eboracum just yet. They decide to begin in Dumnonia, where Arthur is already well-liked by the leadership and the Mantle of Joseph of Arimathea is hidden.

Marcus Cunomorus welcomes them warmly to Isca Dumnoniorum, the capital of Dumnonia. Peredur drinks with the locals and finds that the common folk hate the nobles and have great love for a man named Gerontius, who is raising a rebellion against Cunomorus, and a pirate named Bellinios. Meanwhile, Caius and Bedwyr find out that a hermit in the countryside named Petiacos knows where the Mantle is hidden.

At the feast that night, Cunomorus tells them of a sea monster called the Morholt that lives between Dumnonia and Ireland and has been attacking trade ships. He asks the knights to kill it. Lugh forces him to agree that if they kill the Morholt, Cunomorus will treat his people better — if only for the sake of stability — and enforce Arthur’s new laws in his land, revoking many of the old Roman laws, like those binding farmers to wealthy landowners as serfs.

The knights obtain a boat, crewmen, and some harpoons and sail out into the sea, where they find and kill the Morholt — a giant, man-eating squid. Lugh, having been yanked into the water, lands the killing blow with his sword.

They meet with Gerontius, but all he wants is for Cunomorus to be deposed, and will accept no compromise. So they go to visit Bellatus, a Dumnonian sub-king, at Din Tagell. He asks them to remove the pirate Bellinios from his island fortress at St. Michael’s Island in Armorica, so that Bellatus’s men can seize it. They go there, and Lugh challenges Bellinios to a duel while Peredur and Bedwyr sneak around back, ready to attack in case things turn sour. However, Bellinios honorably agrees to the duel. Lugh does severe damage to his leg, but convinces him to peacefully abandon the fortress. The knights thus earn the loyalty of Dumnonia, but don’t feel very good about it.

When they return, they visit Petiacos and ask him about the Mantle. To prove that they are truly the friends of the Dumnonii, he tasks them with serving Bellinios for one month.

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Francia

Before the triumph, Myrddin seeks out Peredur to ask him to ask Arthur to spare the life of his father, Vorcunos. He tells Peredur that since Arthur destroyed the head of Bran the Blessed, the island is now unprotected. Myrddin believes he can change that — if he can gather the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. He knows the location of seven of them, but one is known only by Vorcunos. If he’s executed, all hope of gathering the treasures dies with him, and Britain will fall to the Saxons. Peredur agrees, and asks Arthur to spare his life.

After the triumph, Arthur prepares his army for war with Icel. Lugh Striking-Hand must travel to Dommoc to begin organizing his forces along the Saxon Shore. Arthur entrusts his brother Caius with handling Camulod’s first diplomatic mission to the continent, and to get back his family. As king of Ceint, Bedwyr comes along to see to his country’s own interests. Though of common birth, Arthur sends Peredur with Caius and Bedwyr on this mission, so he can learn (and, hopefully, keep Caius from causing too much damage).

Caius seeks information about the Franks and their leader, Clovis, from merchants in Londinium. He hears that last Christmas Clovis was baptized, though the merchants disagree on whether he became a Nicene Christian or an Arian. They tell him that Clovis’s pagan army has deserted him because of it. Caius goes to Myrddin to see if he knows anything. He admits he focuses mostly on Britain, and can only jokingly advise Caius not to give away the entire island.

The three knights plan to depart from Dubris, a Saxon Shore fort on the coast of Ceint. But Bedwyr’s talk back in Londinium has gotten back to his Frankish soldiers. Convinced that their king plots to kill them all, the Frankish crew of their ship attacks the knights before they even get on board. Caius, Bedwyr, and Peredur kill the mutinous crewmen, but are left without anyone to man the ship. They try to recruit Jutish fishermen from along the coast, but Frankish soldiers intimidate them. Caius goes into the fort and tells Alaric that if the Frankish soldiers hurt their families, he will call his entire warband to Dubris. Alaric seems cowed.

They finally depart for Francia with a crew of Jutish fishermen. The diplomatic mission is welcomed to the court of Clovis. He has strong ties to Britain: Ambrosius Aurelianus fought against the Visigoths alongside Clovis’s father, Childeric. Aurelianus’s son, Quintus Ambrosius Aurelianus, now serves Clovis as legate. And the rumors are true: Clovis just converted to Christianity a few months ago, not as an Arian but as a Nicene. He’s lost a few men because of his conversion, but nothing close to the total abandonment the merchants in Londinium talked about.

Clovis immediately reunites Caius with his family. They tell him they were treated well. But Quintus Ambrosius Aurelianus accuses Arthur and all his men of disloyalty, because of their rebellion against his brother, Ambrosius Aurelianus Brittanicus. He and Caius exchange harsh words before Clovis puts a stop to it. To smooth things over, Bedwyr offers as a gift a chest of Cantiaci iron. Clovis then calls for a feast, to entertain the mission as his guests.

At the feast, Lucius Tiberius Fortunatus, a wealthy Gallo-Roman merchant, approaches Bedwyr to ask about trade with Ceint, but Bedwyr is depressed from the mutiny earlier and tells him he does not have the country under control. Meanwhile, Caius continues his earlier argument with Aurelianus, which escalates into a duel. Caius wins the duel, hitting Aurelianus on the head with the butt of his sword instead of killing him. Caius congratulates Aurelianus on fighting for his brother’s honor and offers him a drink. They bond over wine and talk about the trouble their brothers get them into. Bishop Remigius, Clovis’s confidante, speaks with Peredur and makes it clear that he thinks Palagianism is a revolting heresy primarily because it challenges class distinctions. A little later, Bedwyr approaches Clovis to ask his advice, king to king, on how best to lead Frankish subjects. Clovis tells him to “keep only your own nobility.” He also gives the impression of caring little about Christianity, having been pressured into it by his wife, Clothilde, and the bishop Remigius.

The next day, talks begin in earnest. Clovis declares that he wants to take Armorica from Marcus Cunomorus. The knights are stunned by this, and can’t possibly accept. Cunomorus is a major supporter of Arthur, and Dumnonia is the source of most of Britain’s wealth and trade. Caius asks a lot of questions to stall for time. When the day’s talks end, he, Bedwyr, and Peredur try to figure out a counter-offer before tomorrow. They put together that Clovis’s main concern is the Visigoths to the south, and his interest in Armorica is preparatory for that fight. If they can offer a trade relationship with Clovis, perhaps they can provide material support for his war in the south without giving up any territory.

However, when they arrive for the next day’s talks, Clovis and Clothilde are gone, and their representatives are dressed in black. They are informed that Clovis’s sister, Alboflæd, has died. Peredur goes with Fortunatus to buy mourning clothes for the diplomats. Caius suspects that, mere months after Clovis’s conversion, his sister’s death is no coincidence. He brings these suspicions up with Aurelianus, who instantly agrees and adds that he suspects Lienhard, the king’s warden. Caius and Bedwyr speak to Lienhard at the funeral, trying to suss out his real feelings about Christianity and Clovis’s family, but Lienhard seems to have genuinely loved Alboflæd, and Peredur sees no evidence of foul play on her body. Aurelianus is still paranoid, but Caius manages to talk him down.

After the funeral, when talks resume, Caius suggests that conquering Armorica would cause resentment among the Britons living there, which would just create a new front for Clovis to worry about. He suggests material support for Clovis’s army instead, and though Remigius complains, Clovis agrees. Caius asks for Clovis’s vocal support for Arthur, explaining that it would help Arthur’s standing with the church. Clovis is confused: is Arthur not a Christian? Caius and Bedwyr try to dance around Arthur’s Palagianism, but Remigius immediately recognizes what’s going on and is outraged. Clovis, however, cares little for doctrinal disputes. He sees Britain and Francia in similar positions, trying to find a new way that balances Roman and other traditions, and declares that he stands by his brother Arthur.

Peredur convinces Fortunatus that Bedwyr was just pessimistic when he said he didn’t have his country under control. Fortunatus insists on returning to Britain with the knights to see the situation for himself, but also reveals his ugly feelings about “Goths, baucaudae, and other barbarians.” They arrive back in Dubris to find things under control and the Jutish peasants unharmed. Bedwyr holds a feast for Fortunatus and issues a proclamation declaring friendship between the Britons and the Franks, denouncing the recent, slanderous rumors, and underscoring his commitment to the well-being of all his people — Franks, Jutes, and Cantiaci alike. That smooths things over with the Franks, and Fortunatus is impressed enough to set up the trade route. Peredur takes revenge on Fortunatus subtly, by slandering the wares he intends to ship to Britain, and hopefully ruining his business.

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Triumph

Ambrosius Aurelianus spent a generation pouring much of Britain’s considerable resources into fortifying Londinium against the Saxons. Arthur Pendragon may have defeated the Saxons at Badon, but those soldiers remain loyal to Ambrosius’s son, Ambrosius Aurelianus Britannicus, and they are now fighting off Arthur’s army as he closes in, slowly, on the capital.

Bedwyr is leading the Saxons from Ceint to attack Ambrosius from the south, opening up a second front and dividing the enemy’s forces. Anticipating that his forces will need to fight his own former countrymen living in Londinium, Bedwyr offers right of return to the exiled Cantiaci, offering free land to any who return home. Britannicus tells them that Bedwyr has betrayed them to the Saxons, and now, not content with seeing their homeland overrun, leads the pagans in an invasion of their new home. Bedwyr ends up leading a Saxon invasion, and fighting against largely Cantiaci forces.

Once Arthur’s army reaches Londinium, he sends the bulk of it to seige the fort while Bedwyr, Caius Hectorius, and Lugh Striking-Hand infiltrate the city. Londinium has walls on three sides, but no wall on the Thames, so the three knights paddle a small boat down the Thames under cover of darkness and hide near the front gate until dawn.

At dawn, Arthur’s army attacks the fort. Caius poses as a high-ranking soldier of Britannicus and orders the archers above the gate to go to the fort. Then he, Bedwyr, and Lugh kill the guards and open the gate. Once the gate is opened, the army pours in, quickly surrounding the fort’s garrison. The commander surrenders.

At the praetorium, they discover that Britannicus has fled the city with Osgar Ravenshield, to seek refuge from Icel in Icenia.

Gwenhwyfar and Myrddin agree that with Londinium taken, they should prepare a triumph in the Roman tradition to mark the end of the war. But Arthur doesn’t feel comfortable doing that until he’s gained the support of the town’s leaders and they’ve accepted him as more than a simple conquering warlord.

Lugh speaks to Servius Menius Libo, the bishop of Londinium. The bishop initially objects to lending his support to an open Palagian, but Lugh suggests holding an ecumenical council in Londinium, under the bishop’s leadership. This appeals to Libo’s pride, and he agrees to support Arthur.

Most of the soldiers remaining in the city listen to Lucius Vesnius Serranus, the fort’s commander. He’s bitter about Ambrosius Aurelianus Britannicus fleeing the city, and willing to listen, but he’s also bitter at Arthur for allowing his pride to drive the country to civil war. He’s familiar with Caius, though. Caius describes the round table and Arthur’s vision of a king that serves the ordinary people. Serranus is inspired, and convinced that Arthur really is worthy of his loyalty.

Meanwhile, Bedwyr turns his attention to the leaders of Londinium’s three most powerful collegia. Gallio Rusonius Scipio tries to convince the king to commit his Saxons to attacking Dumnonia, hoping it will drive more trade to Londinium, but Bedwyr will not agree to such a thing. Instead, he convinces Scipio that Arthur’s reign will be good for business.

Lucius Statius Catonius is Cantiaci, like many of the people in his neighborhood. Bedwyr receives a chilly welcome. He argues with Catonius, pointing out that the Jutes in Ceint are simple farmers who have lived and worked on that land for generations now, while the Franks are the barbarian warrior aristocracy that oppresses them. He says the exiled Cantiaci have more in common with the Jutes than not, and if they returned to their ancestral land, Bedwyr could unite Cantiaci and Jute against the Franks and create a kingdom of peace and equality. His argument resonates with the denizens of Catonius’s hall, forcing Catonius to agree or lose face in front of his men.

Lugh speaks to the last prominent collegia leader, Arruns Lusius Liberalis. In the basement of his hall, he holds gladiatorial fights between slaves, on which people bet. Lugh convinces him that non-deadly fights between skilled fighters are far more entertaining, and to prove it, challenges the toughest brute in the hall to single combat. He wins, of course, and Liberalis realizes that he can make more money bribing fighters to take a fall, which was significantly harder when “take a fall” meant “die.” Lugh wins Liberalis’s support for Arthur as well as ending the illegal slave fighting.

Having won the support of Londinium’s civil, military, and religious leaders, Arthur holds a triumph in the city. The festivities begin with his wedding to Gwenhwyfar, followed by the parade to the amphitheater, where Arthur addressed the people and laid out his vision for Camulod.

“Camulod’s strength is the strength of free people who understand the need for each of us to serve one another,” Arthur told them. “Kingship does not give one power, but calls us to serve others. As High King, I serve the kings of Britain, to help them preserve peace and justice among their people. To all of you here, kings and queens of Britain, whether you wear a crown, whether you live in a palace or a hovel: You have strength to protect the weak. You have tongues to speak the truth. You have courage to stand up for one another. No man is born better than another. God calls all of us to make his kingdom real on earth. Nothing less than heroism will do. This is the message of Camulod. These are the ideals of the Round Table.”

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Badon

Arthur Pendragon and his army arrive at Aquamann as Ælle’s vast Saxon horde begins to close in. They move quickly to seize a hill just outside the city, called Badon.

With the vast force arrayed against them, Arthur and his knights decide to attack the flanks to concentrate the Saxons, so that they can break them with one massive charge.

They attack the western flank on the first day, commanded by Ælle’s son, Cissa. Cissa is a berserker, and commands several others like him, but the knights defeat him, breaking Ælle’s western flank and killing his son in battle.

On the second day, they attack the eastern flank, commanded by Ælle’s last remaining son, Wlencing. Wlencing has a greater reputation for cunning and strategy, and he does not disappoint, as he uses the Roman road to deploy Hun horse archers against Arthur’s knights. Despite the surprise, though, the knights still manage to win the day, breaking the eastern flank and killing Wlencing.

In the night, Arthur’s forces smuggle a shipment to the hill from Aquamann: clibinarii armor imported from Byzantium. Arthur had prepared for this moment even before they had left Camulod, and made sure that this would be prepared for them here. He has only enough armor for his own warband, but in it, they are veritable living tanks. The armor is heavy, though; if the fighting goes on too long, they’ll become exhausted. But if they can win quickly, it could give them what they need to break the Saxon threat once and for all.

A terrible storm rages that day. Arthur and his knights meet Ælle on the field.

“I should thank you,” Ælle tells Arthur. “Without the threat you pose, I never could have united all the Saxons under my banner.” Arthur can’t help but smile, and that sets Ælle on edge. “What is so amusing?” he asks.

“That was my plan,” Arthur says. “The problem was that you Saxons were striking and raiding all across the isle. There was no end to you, and no way to fight you off. So I gambled everything on this. I created you because I needed you. I needed someone who could bring them all together, so that you could all be defeated at once — in one battle, in one charge. Whatever else may happen, the war ends today.”

In the middle of the storm, Arthur led his warband in a mighty charge down the slope of Badon Hill, directly into Ælle’s line. Titus Drustanus beat Ælle into the whirlwind, but was himself swept into it and dashed against some rocks, breaking his legs irrevocably. Caius avenged his father by delivering the killing blow against Ælle. The battle was brutal, but in the end, the Bretwalda was dead, the Saxon threat broken, the war ended, and Arthur, High King of the Britons, was victorious.

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Dobunnia

One of Caius’ men finds a wax tablet left by Titus Martinianus Valerius Maximus, addressed to him and warning him about Myrddin. It relates a story that Myrddin is the son of the devil, the antichrist. Caius disregards it as the ravings of a religious zealot.

Modron offers help to Caius to find his family, preparing a potion that will bring him to the brink of death, so that he can learn things otherwise unknowable. He has a vision of a hill sprouting a town.

A local named Melisos seeks Peredur’s help, asking that the women rescued from the legion be put to death. It is revealed that they offered human sacrifices to their pagan gods. In ancient days, criminals were sacrificed. Modron and her sisters continued this practice, sacrificing those who were not held accountable by Roman law, primarily rapists and wife-beaters.

In Glevum, the three magistrates of Dobunnia each hide behind the others to refuse help to Arthur, so the knight trick them into a meeting, where they can all be forced to cooperate.

The situation in Glevum forces Badiovirus to choose between a Roman model of virtus, a British ideal of manhood, or pursuing his own path. He chooses the latter, beginning to formulate his own, personal code of chivalry, based largely on Pelagian ideals.

As the army turns south on the final road to meet Ælle, they’re met by three druids, guardians of the grove of Bran the Blessed. They tell Arthur that they bring him good news: he will triumph in the battle to come. Arthur asks them how they know this; they tell him that they sacrificed a man, giving him the three-fold death: feeding him mistletoe, drowning him in the sacred cauldron, and slitting his throat. They foretold the future in his dying convulsions, and how the blood spread in the water. Incensed at this murder committed in his name, Arthur commands his men to kill the druids, then find their grove and bring him to it.

Myrddin turns to his apprentice, Owain Rheged, to help smuggle the Cauldron of Bran out of the grove before Arthur finds it. He brings it to the shore, where there is a small boat waiting for him to spirit it away.

When Arthur finds the grove, he destroys the head of Bran the Blessed. The druids are horrified, sure that Arthur has destroyed the island’s supernatural protection. Arthur has no tolerance for the gruesome rites of human sacrifice that he has seen displayed, and says that the Britons must now band together to defend the island, without the intervention of whatever bloodthirsty, demonic powers that would demand such sacrifices.

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Tribruit

The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit.

Caius Hectorius Moderatus and Ualcos Magesos return from their mission to Londinium. Moderatus tells his father that Ælle has had their family’s villa sacked, and their family has been sent to some of his allies in Gaul — precisely where has been kept a secret. As word of this spreads among the other commanders, Lugh Striking-Hand, Quintus Badiovirus, and Peredur hatch a plan to capture Æthelflæd — who is following them, according to the Saxon raider they captured in the mountains on the way to Deva Victrix — and try to exchange her for Caius’s family, or at the very least assurance of their well-being. Caius resists the plan, believing that Ælle cannot be trusted to hold up his end of the deal, but Peredur, having already been ambushed by his own father once, goes out on his own, hoping to be captured. He is, and brought to the ruins of an old villa, where Æthelflæd throws him in a pit, and begins trying to turn him the same way she did his father. The other knights arrive to rescue him, and take Æthelflæd prisoner. She scoffs at their plan, saying that they do not understand a warrior’s spirit; her father is perfectly willing to sacrifice her.

Though captured, Æthelflæd’s plans still create a problem for Arthur and his army: she has gathered bandits and mercenaries from across the island to stop Arthur before he reaches Viroconium. Arthur sees this as an opportunity, though: victory would mean crushing a significant portion of the island’s lawless elements in one fell swoop, adding legitimacy to his claim to the High Kingship. On the eve of battle, Nennios approaches Arthur’s camp to speak with his old comrade, Caius Hectorius, and plead with him to turn away. He tells Caius that many of the old veterans have become mercenaries, and if Arthur’s army continues, he will have to face many of his old brothers-in-arms in battle, and none of them want that.

In the battle, Arthur’s army fends off the brigands, while Caius Hectorius charges into battle against the mercenaries. Vorcunos and his pack of werewolves dive into the ford, eager to kill Arthur’s warriors. Badiovirus unleashes his polybolos, then leaves his warband to prepare another volley while he personally rides up to the ford to duel Vorcunos alone. Vorcunos proves a powerful opponent, however. His werewolves bite and claw at Badiovirus, and Vorcunos breaks his ribs and hacks off his left hand with a hatchet, leaving the knight with his head bashed against a rock and presumed dead. Lugh beseeches the mercenaries to help them defeat Vorcunos, finally offering them an honorable way out of their contract with Ælle. The warriors spend the remainder of the gold from the hoards recovered around Eboracum to pay the mercenary bands to join their army.

Peredur notices that Badiovirus is actually still alive, so he is taken to Myrddin. Peredur asks Arthur for the right to execute his father personally, which he grants, but he wants to keep him alive until after the war, so that he can execute him in Londinium amidst the proceedings that will follow. When Badiovirus awakens in Myrddin’s tent, Myrddin challenges his foolish concepts of Roman virtus which led him to this condition, and promises an education to follow.

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City of the Legion

The ninth battle was fought in the City of the Legion.

Word from Owain Whitetooth reaches Eboracum that a force of Irish and Saxons have breached the walls of Deva Victrix, the City of the Legion. Arthur realizes that this puts his new claim to the title of High King to the test. He sends Titus Drustanus ahead of the army, relying on his ability to pass unnoticed among the Irish to scout out the area. They discover that the Irish follow Crimthann, an Uí Liatháin prince whose family once controlled colonies in Britannia Prima, before Cunedda — Owain’s father, Lot’s older brother, and Lugh Striking-Hand’s uncle — pushed them out, at Vortigernos’s invitation. He has made a deal with Ælle to split the island between them once Arthur has been defeated. Crimthann isn’t stupid enough to really believe it, of course — he expects Ælle to go back on his word — he just sees an opportunity to grab some loot and place himself in a better position to regain his kingdom when the Bretwalda does betray him.

As the army crosses the mountains, they come under attack from a band of Saxon raiders. They take one of them hostage, who tells them that he follows Æthelflæd, and that both she and Vorcunos are following the army closely.

The army rendezvous with Titus and Owain at a small village north of Deva Victrix, with command of the city’s aqueduct. Quintus Badiovirus leads his men through the aqueduct into the heart of the city, while Titus’s men position themselves in the fort’s fabricum to save Owain’s capacity to manufacture otherwise-lost pieces of Roman military equipment and siege engines, including Badiovirus’s new flame-thrower and polybolos. Meanwhile, Arthur moves into position on the parade grounds outside the fort, while Lugh and Peredur ride into the city to gather up the raiders and drive them towards Arthur. Caius Hectorius finds himself engaged with Cymen, Ælle’s son and commander of the Saxons here, in a desperate fight — until the other warbands finish their tasks and are able to join him in the fight at the fort’s gates. They slay Cymen in battle, and drive the Irish out of the city, recapturing it for Owain Whitetooth.

Lucius Drustanus arrives on behalf of his lord, Marcus Cunomorus, telling Arthur of the enormous horde that Ælle has assembled, and its drive across southern Britain towards the Severn, threatening to divide Dumnonia from the rest of the island. This puts Arthur in an awkward position; he admits to his knights that he’s been in communication with Gerontius, the leader of the rebels seeking to overthrow Cunomorus and replace him with a Dumnonian king. He leaves the decision to his knights, who agree that they can’t afford to take on another fight right now, so they must back Cunomorus.

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Eboracum

On the way to Eboracum, Aulus Hectorius sends Caius Hectorius, Quintus Badiovirus, Lugh Striking-Hand, and Peredur into a valley to recover as many buried coin hoards from the ruins of old villas as they can, to help pay for the campaign. They manage to recover four.

When the army reaches Eboracum, there is much debate about what Aulus Hectorius should be acclaimed as. At stake is the nature of his kingdom, and what the army is fighting for. Should he be declared Emperor Aulus Hectorius, leader of the last bastion of Rome in the west — and possibly the next Restitutor Orbis? Or should he be acclaimed as Arthur Pendragon, High King of the Britons — the leader of a new nation? Lugh becomes the foremost leader of the Nationalist faction; Caius, of the Imperialist faction. Early on, when Lugh tries to champion his cause among the men, Caius takes offense, interpreting it as an attempt to manipulate and strong-arm his brother. The confrontation leads to a private duel in the woods, which Caius wins.

While the debate continues in the city, with each of his commanders offering their advice to Aulus, Sextus Blossius Martianus arranges a secret meeting with Peredur, where he tells him the story of Firactus’s treachery, and how Æthelflæd turned his father, Vorcunos, into the monster he is today. Peredur made Martianus one of his Outriders.

Meanwhile, Bishop Auspex spoke to Caius of his concern over Aulus’s Pelagian heresy, and having an Enemy of God like Badiovirus so close to him. He told Caius that if he cares for his brother, he should do more to save him from the infection of heresy. Caius took offense at this, and cowed the bishop by threatening him.

When Peredur went to Gwenhwyfar to advise her to help Aulus make a decision, she explained how she had tried to push him into taking the title of High King, but Aulus listens to his brother’s advice, too, which had led to an impasse. She decided that for his own good, she should try to drive a wedge between the brothers. She sent Lugh to advise that Aulus be anointed by a Pelagian bishop, hoping to provoke a response from Caius. Caius advised against it simply because it was divisive. Aulus pointed out that whether the bishop was Catholic or Pelagian, it would be a divisive move that alienated some on the other side. Caius pointed out that if he, a known Pelagian, were anointed by a Catholic bishop, it would send a powerful message of unity. Aulus agreed, and sent Caius and Badiovirus to Bishop Auspex. The guard would not admit Badiovirus, who grew angry and slew him. They then intimidated the bishop into agreeing to anoint Aulus. In the process, Caius was angry enough that he slipped, and told the bishop, “You will anoint Arthur High King.”

Lugh had clearly overestimated Caius’s devotion to his faith, and underestimated his commitment to his family. Caius is no deep theologian; he accepts the Catholic faith because it’s part of being a Roman. But he’s devoted to being a Roman because he sees pietas, devotion to family, as one of the core principles that define romanitas. Lugh asked Aulus why he would be anointed by a bishop he does not agree with? Will he not need God’s blessing to rule justly? Aulus told Lugh that every man has equal access to God. He does not need a bishop to bless him. God will bless him, or not, based on what he does — and no priest can change that. Lugh found this shocking, and more than a little bit arrogant.

When he returned, Caius explained his slip with the bishop to Aulus, and admitted that even he found it natural. He advised his brother not to abandon the dream of Rome entirely, but that perhaps it was time to begin something new. Aulus promised that his vision was to unite the Roman and the British to find a new way forward, guided by principles and ideals.

In a huge gathering in the city, where over a hundred years before Constantine had been first acclaimed emperor, Caius leads the troops in acclaiming his brother as Arthur Pendragon, High King of the Britons.

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