490-1 The Battle of Lindsey

The northern saxon kingdoms of Nohaut and Deira massed their warriors and were prepared to bring doom upon Lindsey and its Duke. The saxon kings had a fearsome force, swollen by men recently arrived from the continent and also calling upon mighty giants - an intimidating sight standing many feet taller even than the mighty saxons arrayed across the field from the valiant warriors of Logres. As banners rustled in the wind before battle, concerned voices rose from the cymri camp. How could they hope to fight such mighty foes? Was their presence not proof that Britain was doomed?

No, came the stubborn refutation! The heroes of sword lake had faced giants before, slaying them easily rather than being squashed like ants. Giants may be big, but they are slow and stupid - and fall to a lance charge the same as anyone else! So heartened, the men of Logres prepared for battle - Duke Gorlois and Earl Roderick taking command of the flanks of the army and King Uther standing proud in the centre.

Great trumpeting of horns rang out across the plains of Lindsey, and the armies rushed towards each other. War-whooping filled the air, rising even above the thundering hooves of the massed british knighthood.

Our heroes stormed straight into the Saxon flank on the right of the battlefield, and while Sir jacob aquitted himself competently, slaying a saxon warrior, it seemed as though Sir Maelfin and Sir Islwyn were possessed by the fury of the gods themselves, striking down seven men between them in the first moments of the battle. Islwyn’s spear sang a song of wanton brutality, and Maelfin’s sword whistled through the air to part saxon limbs from their bodies. A whirling dervish of gore surrounded the two - and while Jacob and Arpád soon had to withdraw, grievous injuries sapping their strength - the two remaining knights laid into the saxons again and again, determined to send the vile saxons back to their heathen war-god.

They faced simple saxon spearmen and smote them mightily. They ran into tremendously armoured saxon elites and threw them back. They even went head to head against a detatchment of zealous saxon pikemen, chanting their devotion to their cruel god Wotan and inspired by their fiece heathen fury.

It was one of these vicious pikes that struck Sir Maelfin a mortal blow - and his squire was forced to make a hasty retreat from the field as Maelfin’s very vitality seemed to seep from the wound in his side and the spear stuck there by a servant of Wotan.

Islwyn covered their retreat, and was left alone on the field. He went always to where the fighting was thickest, his spear thrusts turning many an engagement to the favour of the men of Logres - and eventually from across the field came the news that Duke Gorlois had broken the saxons! The opposing army was in full retreat, and the few remaining knights of Logres rode among the fleeing saxons. Islwyn in particular caught sight of the saxon banner-bearer fleeing the field, the honour-guard scattered to the four winds. With no mercy in his heart for the saxon foe he rode him down and scooped up the saxon banner, lifting it on high as the day was won!

The battlefield was awash with the fallen, and sombrely the wounded were retrieved, captives taken and panicked horses calmed. Sir Islwyn stopped to look in upon his allies, and the mendicants were convinced that Maelfin was doomed. “Our arts are not for the dead,” they said. “We must tend to those who may yet live.” A great sorrow washed over islwyn in that moment. Though Maelfin had dishonoured Islwyn’s sister and denied his nephew - the fact that Islwyn’s nephew was of this man’s blood could not be denied. They were family, like it or not, and when called before Uther to place the saxon banner at the king’s feet, Islwyn made an impassioned plea.

“My King, could you not get word to Merlin? A man who fought valiantly beside me lies dying as we speak, the father of my sister’s son. I would cast aside any reward if he could be saved, but the surgeons say his fate is sealed.”

King Uther’s brow creased at the young knight’s presumption, and sternly he told him that Merlin was not available. He granted Islwyn a great boon of silver for seizing the saxon banner, but then banished him from his sight.

In a great fit of worry, Sir Islwyn sought out the local druids, and went begging to them on sir Maelfin’s behalf. He would do anything they asked of them if they could intercede with the gods to save him - and while they were reluctant to show a Christian to their holy places, they blindfolded the dying figure and took him deep into the woods, where he was wrenched from death’s cold grip - on condition that he be told the source of his renewed life, and that if he did not appreciate the gift of the gods - this gift of new life - that Islwyn would be called upon to settle Maelfin’s debt to them, some time in the future.

Maelfin’s refusal to honour the ancient pagan gods would become a source of animosity between him and Sir Islwyn in the future, but for now he simply lay recovering in the medicine tents, the priests and monks describing his recovery as “Miraculous” and only a handful of men knowing the truth.

Later that evening, a feast was underway - Sir Jacob had recovered enough to totter unsteadily about the camp, and he and Islwyn were drinking together when a messenger from Duke Lindsey came upon them. He told them that Sir Islwyn was invited to the feast at the great hall rather than amongst the men of the army - but the proud pagan was determined to stay with those who had fought beside him, and if they were not also invited then he would stay where he was.

Some time later, an impressive personage strode through the camp. Duke Lindsey himself came to ask why Islwyn had denied his hospitality, and Islwyn answered that the Duke’s messenger had failed to mention that Islwyn’s companions - those who fought beside him for years - were also invited. After a frustrated pause, Lindsey extended his invitation and showed the knights to his rich abode, giving them a short tour of his holding and bringing them to his richly appointed hall - where the great lords of the land feasted together, along with a small, select collection of honoured guests.

This feast was where the knights first witnessed the beauty of the wife of Duke Gorlois - Igraine. She was truly stunning, and enraptured all who beheld her: even those who were far below her station.

Some knights were not held captive by her beauty, but Sir Islwyn certainly was, and as the night closed on this fateful evening those knights that had kept their wits would notice that another soul smitted by Igraine’s peerless beauty was the very King of Logres himself: Uther Pendragon.