Friday, January 15, 2010

Exclusive US Preview: Arthur and Excalibur - Chapter 12!

Chapter 12





THE SAXONS SEEK REVENGE







ARTHUR SURVEYED THE GATHERING, he could still feel the excitement in the air as everyone discussed what they had witnessed, all had a different story about that special something that they had noticed that others hadn’t. It was surprising that consumption of mead and wine had increased at the same pace as the conversation, how they managed it he was not sure but the servants were topping up goblets as fast as they could. Arthur turned to Berius and suggested that they excused themselves and sought the cool night air, where they could talk without having to raise their voices. Again nobody noticed them leave, they were too busy with their vivid descriptions of the earlier events, the one time when the King was not the centre of attraction, and he found it a pleasant relief.

Arthur indicated that he would like to know more about the Lady, Excalibur and the role that Berius had as a guardian of the sword, he was interested to know why he had been chosen to be the bearer at this time. Berius explained that he was not at liberty to disclose much as it was a decision that rested with the Council of Elders. They might at some point in the future decide that the King was worthy of a fuller explanation of their role, and that of the sword Excalibur. The world was changing and the Elders were here to help with that transition, and had been for many years, the sword was part of that, as it contained much ancient wisdom and the light was to show the way forward, but only if used for the greater good. It would help the King make wise decisions, if asked, and its light would put fear into the hearts of enemies, so that they would become confused and falter. Only the bearer could wield the sword, no others could even unsheathe it, not even Merlin or the other Elders, except for the Lady and himself as guardians and keepers of the sword. Such was the power that was blended into it when it was originally forged in ancient times. The Elders themselves were guided as to who, if any, was worthy of being the bearer and many generations had passed on occasions before one was found, and that could be anywhere in this world of his, not just in this land. He had been chosen because it was foretold, he had already proven himself, even from a very young age, and had been guided and instructed along the way, he had learnt well. There was much work for him to accomplish to help move this world of his forward again, in peace and prosperity. The Elders had faith in him, he had continued to surprise them with his wisdom and actions for one still young in years that they did not feel the need to intervene, but would always be there to guide him, if he so requested. Arthur inquired how many Elders there were in this land, to which Berius answered that there were only seven. Five that looked to the needs of the people, the Lady who was the guardian of water creatures, lakes and rivers whilst he was responsible for the land, trees and animals. He explained that the Elders were here to help all living creatures in their quest for survival and to evolve to a greater and richer life, not in a material way, but to experience the joy of living together in harmony and peace, where the needs of all were catered for.

“My apologies sire, but that is all that I am at liberty to tell you at this time, other things you will discover for yourself along the way. I am here to guide you, if I am able, and so are the other Elders, ask in your mind and you will often hear the answer, you are connected to all of us. I am not here just as the keeper and guardian of the sword my lord, but as a trusted counsellor as well.” Berius said as he concluded his explanation.

Arthur thanked him for his honesty and openness then asked him what his views were on the Saxons intent and where he felt trouble would arise next. Berius replied that Arthur already had the answer to that and should waste no time in arranging for the signal beacons to be brought back into use, they would soon be needed. They talked for some while about how Berius helped the animals and how the Lady took care of the water creatures, during which Arthur related his encounter with the bears and the raven that he nursed back to health. Berius surprised him by saying that he had heard the tales told in the animal kingdom and for a mere human they had a lot of respect for the King, and if the chance arose they would help him in return.

“Animals know instinctively who is good and who to beware of, much the same as young children do, and they remember the ones worthy of help, even down through their generations, something the human population has long forgotten. Humans seek what is best for themselves whereas the animals and birds look to the well being of the herd or flock, first and foremost. It has always been their way, just like the ancient peoples of your world before they lost their direction in life and sought possessions and power over others. Now it is time to change that and remind people of their ancient heritage by helping them re-connect with the old wisdoms and way of life that brought peace, togetherness and abundance. That is the task before you my lord, not easy but certainly possible, that is why the Elders are here, to help make it possible. We needed a strong leader and in you my lord we have one, we cannot do it without you, we are not able to assume that role ourselves as we are not of your people. We have the power, but we are not allowed to use it, this is your world and you have to put it right yourselves and learn the lessons along the way. The Elders can only advise and guide, hoping that at some point in the distant future you reach that everlasting peace and prosperity that awaits you.”

Arthur was very thoughtful as he listened to Berius, he had felt this in his heart from a very early age but never fully understood the implications, or the enormity of the task that faced him now. He was here to start the process off and take it as far as he could in his lifetime. Hopefully others would then carry it on through the years into the future, until that point of transition was reached, when life was rich and rewarding in the true sense. No wonder his instincts and inner wisdom belied his young age, this was the mission in life that he had been prepared for and he could not have had any better teachers along the way than all those that had been involved in his education. Now it was up to him, but he was not alone in his task, the decisions were his, but help and good advice were still all around him whenever he needed it, and he sent out his silent thanks for that support.

They returned to the great hall and mingled with the guests until the early hours, during which Berius was plied with many questions about the Lady of the Lake and the King’s new sword. His replies were deliberately vague, saying a lot, but on reflection not saying very much, yet instilling an air of mystery surrounding them that satisfied most. Tell the people a little and let them add their own conclusions, stories that would keep them speculating and talking for a long while, so that in the end the truth would be immersed and lost in fantasy and myth, but they would be happy.

Next day Arthur despatched riders south towards the coast to arrange the setting up of signal beacons and Sir Bors and his men went with them as the King’s emissary, on a long circular route back to their residence at Pilsdon Pen. They were to see that the beacons were set up all the way from Harrow Hill westward along the coast to Blackberry Castle, so that each would be visible to the next in line and there was to be one inland at Cerne Giant that was visible from Cadbury Castle. This was Arthur’s link to all the rest and would be the first place that his army would make for, as it was only half a days ride south and there he would learn the direction of the trouble. Sir Bors would call in on Sir Kay and advise him of the signal beacons and what action to take if one was seen.

That taken care of Arthur took Berius on a tour of the Castle and introduced him properly to Greyfus, then sought out Legionus and his Sarmatian commanders. They were in a group watching a couple of the men trying to control a horse that had been roped as he had gone berserk, and was bucking and kicking at anything and anyone that got near him. When Arthur and Berius arrived the Sarmatians were discussing the fact that they would have to put him down if he didn’t calm down soon, as he was too dangerous to let loose, obviously suffering from some problem that was not apparent.

Berius surveyed the scene and asked the King what he would do, reminding him of the time he helped the bears. The horse obviously had a problem, but being an animal could not tell a human what it was, but it was always possible that he could show them if they could get his trust. Arthur smiled and agreed that they should give it a try, but Legionus warned that it was a dangerous and foolish thing to do with the horse that violent, but the King was determined that it was worth a try, so he and Berius slowly approached the animal. Arthur was talking very gently to the horse as he approached, in an effort to calm him down whilst Berius, unknown to Arthur, was sending his thoughts to the animal in a way that it would understand, to allay its fears and soothe its nerves.

To the onlookers surprise the horse began to respond, its bucking and kicking slowly subsided until it stood still, its whole body quivering slightly, with Arthur and Berius within touching distance, the King still talking gently. Arthur slowly extended his hand until he touched the horse's head and began to softly caress its face sending out feelings of affection and help with his thoughts and relaxing the quivering animal. Berius was running his hands over the horse's body towards its hind legs as his thoughts connected with the animal to locate the source of the trouble. As his hand neared the affected area he felt the nerves begin to tremble beneath his fingers. There it was, a small puncture mark on the leg that had been infected but was now healing, although there was something still in the wound. Berius took the dagger from his belt and whilst gently rubbing the skin a little way from the problem area made a small incision and removed the wriggling insect that had obviously been pressing against a nerve in the horse's leg in its endeavour to get out. The horse whinnied and stamped his leg as his head bobbed up and down in apparent approval as the pain had gone, Berius stepped back and Arthur rubbed its neck and whispered a last few words to the animal as the handlers lead it to the stables.

Legionus was amazed and admitted that if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes he wouldn’t have believed it possible, and that was from someone who knew a lot about horses, he asked what had caused the problem. Berius said that the horse had received a small wound recently that had gone bad but an insect had found its way in and cleaned it up by devouring the poisonous area, then laid an egg before departing. That egg became a chrysalis that lay dormant for awhile before hatching, but the tiny creature couldn’t get out because the wound had almost healed over. It began to move around seeking a way out but kept pressing against a nerve in the horse's leg, which became painful, causing it to kick and buck to try and get rid of it. Making a small nick in the horse's skin enabled the little creature to wriggle out and the pain ceased straight away. The horse was normal again with only a tiny scratch to show for it. Legionus and his commanders were clearly impressed, especially how Arthur and Berius had worked as a team to solve the problem in a calm and methodical way, despite the potential dangers of being badly injured or even killed by the horse in its frenzy.

That bit of excitement over Arthur properly introduced the Sarmatian commanders to Berius and indicating that Gelda was the one that saved his life when he broke the Sword of Britain. They wanted to know how Berius was so good with animals and he replied casually that he understood them as he had lived amongst them for many years when he was younger, but would not say more than that.

* * * * *

Several weeks passed before all the riders returned that had left with Sir Bors to arrange for the signal beacons to be set up. Each reported that it had been done and instructions understood, now it was just a waiting game. Life was relaxed, which was a pleasant change, with much coming and going at Cadbury and regular social events taking place. Even Merlin and Taliesin had managed to stop by in passing without being bearers of bad news, although they both warned that the calm would not last and to continue to be vigilant. As usual they were right and sooner than Arthur expected.

Not a week had gone by since their visit when a lookout sent for Greyfus as he could see what looked like smoke in the distance, but wasn’t totally sure as it was a bright sunny day and it could have been the haze playing tricks. Greyfus couldn’t be sure either but went in search of Arthur to check whether his young eyes could see any clearer and decide if it was smoke or not. Arthur and Berius quickly arrived at the lookout tower searching the area south towards Cerne Giant. To the King it looked like smoke in the distance and Berius confirmed that it was, also pointing out that there was another plume of smoke to the east of that one. Greyfus commented that the second one could be Hod Hill except they didn’t have a signal beacon there, Arthur could only just vaguely make it out, if that was a beacon as well it looked like they were needed in a hurry. Time to get moving. It still took two hours to gather the army and provisions for the journey. An army does not fight well on an empty stomach so although they would be travelling light, as speed was of the essence, it was essential for each man to take a supply of food to last several days. Greyfus as normal would remain at Cadbury, but this time with only a handful of men as Arthur felt that he would need all the men he could gather.

They made good time, arriving at Cerne Giant in less than four hours to discover that Sir Bors with a large body of men had passed that way some two hours before, heading for the next beacon. This was not in fact Hod Hill that Arthur and Berius had seen in the distance but the one at Bradbury Rings which was in the same line of sight but ten miles further away. That was where Sir Bors was heading, so after resting and watering the horses for a short while Arthur lead his army in the same direction, at a slightly slower pace to conserve the strength of the horses.

Arriving there late afternoon only to find that Sir Bors had pushed on to Rockbourne, where Sir Kay and Andulus were, as that beacon was also sending out a smoke signal. If we could only have seen that one from Cadbury we could have gone straight there, thought Arthur, instead of this roundabout route. Although the horses were now quite tired Arthur decided that he could not leave his friends exposed to whatever danger lay ahead, deciding that they must push on and would just make it before darkness closed in on them in a few hours time.

The light was fading as they arrived at the gates of the villa near the village of Forde to find them securely closed. Arthur hailed the guards and requested the gates be opened in the name of the King and his army. The welcoming answer indicated that they were certainly glad to see him arrive so quickly, as all the others were up at the villa and awaited his arrival. Arthur asked who was there and was told that Sir Kay was in residence, King Esla, Sir Bors and Lord Tryfig had already arrived with a good number of men and also two new knights, by all reports they would all be needed. The King conveyed his thanks and led his army up the paved road to the villa to join the others, giving his orders to set up camp near the villa and get plenty of rest as the following morning they would need to be ready to move out again. Arthur and his commanders dismounted and made their way into the villa to greet their friends and find out the extent of the trouble, which the King was sure was a major Saxon seaborne attack, just as predicted.

They were welcomed with a sense of relief by the others as the news was not good. The Saxons had indeed landed a large force, they had been spotted off the coast at Portus Adurni late in the day then lost sight of as the light faded. They appeared to have gone around the Isle of Vectis then doubled back towards the estuary leading to the old Roman town of Clausentum (Southampton), with some keels heading up the inlet at Bucklers Hard. When this was discovered the signal beacons were lit and more men were sent out to try and locate the Saxons who appeared to have landed and disappeared into the forest. None had been seen yet but their forces were probably divided with several hundred in each group as twenty keels had been counted when first spotted, each containing at least fifty men, and they didn’t all land in the same place.

“So at the moment,” Sir Kay concluded, “we know the area that they are in but not the exact location of the groups, but hopefully we will have more news before morning.”

Arthur considered this, it was worrying and posed a problem, they could be as close as ten miles away but as distant as thirty and split into several groups. They had changed their tactics but he felt sure that they would all join together at some point for a combined assault on their target, but what was it, he needed to think this through carefully.

Whilst he was deliberating a thought came in his head to consult his sword Excalibur, as the Lady of the Lake and Berius had indicated that it would give him guidance in time of need. He placed his hands on the hilt as they had instructed and quietly let the thoughts run through his head on the problem he faced. Sure enough he saw what the Saxons were up to, where they were headed and why. A smile passed across his face as he understood their intentions, sending a silent thank you for the guidance. Everyone was watching him as he turned to face them and explained that the Saxons wanted to secure a foothold at Clausentum [Southampton] so that they could safely land a larger force later without fear of attack. This would also isolate Port Adurni by cutting it off inland, making it ineffective, even if not taken by them. He expected them to come out of the forest to the north, unless they lost their way, then join up before they moved on the old town. Arthur said that they would wait until morning before he decided how to split his forces, in case they had new information from those searching for the Saxons, in the meantime he suggested that they got some much needed rest.

Before they dispersed Sir Kay introduced Arthur to the two knights that had arrived with Sir Bors, Sir Drustanus from Lyonesse and his companion Sir Sagremor. The King bade them welcome and hoped they were prepared for a good fight, if they required anything just to ask and with that he excused himself, going outside to take the cool night air, letting his thoughts come together on what had to be done the next morning.

The camp was alive with activity before dawn broke through the misty start to the day and the blood red sun began to climb reluctantly into the sky. Even the birds were subdued reflected Arthur, as he waited for his commanders to join him, it was going to be a difficult day. Finally they were all gathered and Arthur had Andulus mark out a map of the area on the dusty floor of the villa so that he could explain his thoughts and plan of action. Messengers had arrived during the night with information on the Saxons whereabouts, which unfortunately was very little, two had failed to return and the worst was expected, either they had been captured or killed. Arthur explained his theory that the Saxons having landed at various points along the coast had then moved into the safety of the forest to conceal their intended direction of attack. He believed that they would move northward in several groups, joining up when they left the main forest somewhere between the villages of Lyndhurst and Netley, then swinging around the estuary to attack Clausentum from inland, taking the town by surprise. Arthur proposed that they head for the former and search the area, as they moved towards Netley. They would travel in three groups with a mile between each to maintain contact with each other. He would lead the first group with King Esla, Legionus the second, with Sir Bors bringing up the rear with the third. Andulus, as he knew the area well, was given the task of taking fifty men and scouring the coastal area and inlets to find the Saxon keels and destroy them and those that guarded them. That would probably take him several days but if successful would cut off the means of escape for any Saxons that fled into the forest. Sir Drustanus volunteered to be Arthur’s guide for the main army as he had travelled much of the area and was familiar with the landscape, Sir Sagremor, equally knowledgeable would join with Legionus whilst Sir Kay had gained some local knowledge and would accompany Sir Bors. A token force of ten men would be left at the villa in case some of the Saxons penetrated this far, which was unlikely, not so much to defend it but to send word if it occurred. That concluded Arthur’s plan. Asking for any comments and receiving none he gave the command to gather the troops and prepare to move out to search out the Saxons and destroy them.

Not for many years had such a large army of Britons been seen in that area and those that they passed on the way stared in apprehension and wonder at such a sight. There was a feeling of tension in the air that seemed to permeate throughout the landscape, the birds and animals were still subdued and the atmosphere was heavy with anticipation under the hot red sun. The only sound being the horses hooves pounding the solid ground as the army moved at a fair pace towards its initial destination not twelve miles away, constantly on the alert for any sign of Saxon activity.

Nearing Lyndhurst Arthur sent two men ahead to scout the country, with instructions to keep going towards Netley if they didn’t find anything, but to stay within sight where possible and return forthwith should they spot any activity. He knew that the Saxons would not want to delay by burning and killing until they got close to Clausentum. The element of surprise would be lost as their aim was to secure a strong foothold that could be reinforced with more keels of men quickly, making it very difficult to contain them and push them back into the sea. This was a new tactic of theirs but one that he had foreseen, recognising the dangers of allowing this to happen. Today was going to be a bloody day, he thought, there was much at stake here, he needed to destroy them quickly and completely to deter them from similar actions.

They passed by Lyndhurst without incident, or any sign of the intruders and continued towards Netley, with Arthur wondering if he had read the situation correctly, as each moment that passed without contact increased the worry of being too late or in the wrong place. As these thoughts filtered through his mind he became aware that he could only see one of the scouts ahead and he appeared stationary, the other had disappeared from sight. Arthur despatched one of the men close to him to find out from the scout what was happening ahead. The man quickly returned with the news that the other scout thought he had seen movement in the distance to the south of Netley and gone on for a closer look but hadn’t yet returned and was not in view of the stationary one. Arthur spurred his troop on at a faster pace to quickly arrive at where the scout waited, who indicated the direction that the other had taken, suddenly disappearing from sight. Arthur turned to Berius and asked him if he could see or sense anything in that direction.

After a few moments studying the landscape Berius indicated that the birds and animals were disturbed and troubled. Arthur noticed that Berius was looking up into the sky at a flock of birds that were circling high up over the area and he seemed transfixed by them, as if in communication some way. Berius lowered his gaze and looked at Arthur informing him that there was a very large body of men on the move in that direction and they had disturbed the birds, no doubt the Saxons we were looking for he concluded. Arthur looked thoughtfully at Berius and asked him how many was very large according to the birds. Berius smiled at this, realising that Arthur was very astute indeed to realise what he was doing, and told him the count was well over a thousand, although it could be much higher as not all were in view. There must have been more keels than were spotted, thought Arthur, or they were larger and carried more men than usual, this is certainly going to be an interesting confrontation.

He summoned two of his men and sent them to the other troops to request that his commanders come ahead and join him and turning to Sir Drustanus asked him how the land lay in that direction.

“Mainly flat and undulating,” was the reply, “with some trees to the south as the forest comes to an end, the east is flanked by the water and northward two rivers join the estuary and there is Netley Marsh which it is necessary to navigate around to head towards Clausentum. The ground is higher here and extends about eight miles northward and back the way we have come, so we will catch them in the open with the water and marsh behind them and us in front of them, forcing them to go north or back south if they run.”

Legionus, Gelda and another Sarmatian commanded arrived, shortly followed by Sir Bors and Sir Kay. Arthur quickly explained the situation and his plan of action. He and King Esla would mount the attack, with Legionus coming in shortly after, while Sir Bors and his troop were to swing around and come at the Saxons from the south so that they could not escape back into the forest. But to beware their backs as they might not all be together yet. With that Arthur wished them luck and said it was time to teach the Saxons another painful lesson they would not forget.

Arthur waited for his commanders to rejoin their troops then led his army forward at a brisk pace to seek out and engage the enemy, not two miles distant. Following the undulating landscape they topped a small rise and there before them were the Saxons, moving swiftly on foot across the plain, much closer than he had anticipated and many more than a thousand. The Saxons were equally surprised at the sudden appearance of Arthur and his men and they faltered for a moment before continuing forward at a greater speed, as they were far superior in number. Arthur drew Excalibur and rode into the moving mass, his pennon fluttering in the gentle breeze that had sprung up, cutting and thrusting as he and his men bore down on the Saxon horde. They were closely grouped and this inhibited Arthur’s men and slowed them down as many got trampled on and the horses had to pick their footing carefully.

Some groups had stopped to engage Arthur’s army but others had kept on the move, so the Saxon force began to split into several factions, obviously determined to continue towards their destination. The Sarmatians had joined the battle and were encountering the same problems with mass of numbers. The Saxons had learnt some new tactics when dealing with mounted horsemen and they were bearing fruit. Finally Sir Bors and his troop arrived from the south and had more success coming at the Saxons from behind and catching them unawares.

The battle was continually moving northwards as the Saxons were not standing their ground, but fighting on the move with many not engaged in combat at all. Many Saxons were falling under the onslaught but Arthur was also losing men, although nowhere near as many, perhaps one to their ten, such was the advantage of cavalry against foot soldiers. Several Saxons fell foul of the Netley Marsh so the main body changed direction heading towards the village of Charford, and away from their destination of Clausentum. Arthur and King Esla fought side by side and many fell before them as their swords flashed relentlessly with Excalibur gleaming in the sunlight as the Saxons were forced towards the River Afon and across Cerdicesford, their numbers rapidly decreasing.

They were moving steadily towards the villa from whence they had started their journey and it was more densely populated there so Arthur decided it was time to change tactics and stop the Saxons and contain them. He shouted to King Esla that they should withdraw some men and get in front of the Saxons and bring them to a halt and wheeling around cut his way through the melee, gathering those men that he could on the way, and raced ahead of the moving armies. Legionus, seeing what Arthur was about and correctly reading his intention shouted to Gelda to gather as many men as she could and follow the King’s lead, whilst he remained in the thick of the battle. Despatching the two Saxons that she was engaged in combat with, she broke off, wheeled around, gathering those that were close to her and set off to join Arthur.

“Come my King,” she urged arriving by his side, “lets do battle together and stop these Saxons once and for all.”

With that she spurred her horse forward with the King, together with the group they had gathered and engaged the enemy. Arthur raised his sword and shouted ‘Excalibur,’ whereupon a brilliant white light burst forth from the blade and red fire poured from the serpent mouths of the guard, covering the whole area such was its intensity, taking everyone, including the King by surprise and instilling fear into the enemy.

The Saxon army faltered in disarray as fear gripped their hearts and had now split into two groups, those being attacked by Arthur and his troop and the main body that Sir Bors with Legionus were engaging. A Saxon leader shouted something intelligible to his troops and they fought with renewed vigour, determined to go down fighting to the last as they realised that there was only one end to this battle. An end that they had not expected, but was now a reality, as only a little over three hundred of them remained on their feet and able to fight, whereas Arthur still had well over five hundred of his cavalry still functioning. The end was not long coming, a few tried to escape but were chased and hunted down, then quickly despatched, one or two tried to surrender but Arthur’s men had lost friends too and no mercy was given.

The sounds of battle had ceased and Arthur surveyed the scene, something he was getting used to, but it still caused him anguish that this was necessary. Many good men had died to uphold what they thought was right and he was proud of them for laying down their lives serving him for the good of the country, but it was still painful. Why was he the one chosen to tread this pathway and lead men to their death?

“Because many others would have died had you not been their leader,” the voice of Berius answered from his side.

Arthur a little startled looked towards him unaware until then that he was there.

“Yes my Lord I read your thoughts, but that was not difficult, it was obvious what you were thinking by the look on your face. You were selected for this task because you were the best man for what needed to be done. It is good that you feel the pain of loss, you feel for others and your country and will always do your best no matter how you feel, sacrifices are often necessary to achieve the goals. Those that have fallen knew it could happen and accepted it as they strove to support you for the greater good of the country. Do not feel sad my Lord they gave their lives willingly, that others might benefit and they will continue their journey elsewhere knowing that they achieved what they set out to do and would have learnt much on their journey.”

“Thank you for those words of wisdom Berius, I do understand much of what you say but human emotion often clouds the wider issue, a gentle reminder is always welcome to put life into perspective. Now I think we should do what we have to here, take the short journey to the villa and unwind, celebrate and toast our fallen comrades with hope that all this has not been in vain.”

The wounded had been tended to and a cart would be sent to collect the serious cases, those that had fallen would be buried the following day, except the Saxons who would be gathered and burnt to stop the spread of disease. Arthur gathered his weary army for the short journey to the villa, men had already been sent there to make preparations for a feast which would help ease the tension of the day.

When Arthur arrived at the villa with his army he was surprised to find Merlin there waiting for him together with Taliesin. They said they had been chasing around the country trying to catch up with him, having gone to Cadbury and finding that he had already left. The King smiled and said they should have asked Berius then, in their strange way, it would have saved them the trouble of all the travelling. Merlin and Taliesin looked at each other in mock surprise, then grinned. Merlin said that they thought they would just drop in and see how things were, to which Arthur replied that they never just ‘dropped in,’ there was always a good reason behind it. Merlin smiled and said that whilst Arthur had been chasing the Saxons in the south other bands had been making a nuisance of themselves in the west. Persistent raiding in the land of the Cornovii and threatening the major stronghold of Viroconium Cornoviorum [Wroxeter] and Arthur’s assistance had been requested by King Cadell of Powys. Arthur wanted to know where that was as although he had heard of it did not know its whereabouts, so Merlin drew a map in the dust indicating its location saying that it was less than seven days ride from Cadbury Castle, reminding him that King Cadell had supported him at the King making council. Arthur said that they would leave within the week unless the matter was very urgent. Merlin agreed that it should be satisfactory according to his information, besides he would accompany him for most of the way, then suggested that now business had been concluded they should indulge in a little celebration to mark Arthur’s latest victory over the Saxons.

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