Events: The 7th Annal
 

Annals of the Seventh Mercenary Wars

As told originally by Ser Owen Godwinesson in the Red Book of Years

In those days, The Black Falcon Mercenary Company and The Company of the White Wolves jointly inhabited the mountainous regions of the far-flung lands of sun and snow.  They lived still for love of the fight and adventure.  The Black Falcons had no quarrel with the White Wolves and often traveled in concert with them on forays.

As was tradition, the two merry companies planned to meet in the Rædstan Weald after midsummer for tests of arms.  Many a year had passed since the grim specter of war had haunted those two bands. 

And principle amongst the numbers of the Black Falcons were Ser Mælgrim Crouthur, Lady Cynara deWakeley of Thorncomb, Herr Lance of the True Winds, Thomas Phinney, Robert the Italian, Gregory the Brewer, and Bertrand the Pious.

And principle amongst those of the White Wolves Were Sir Ralamean of Ramsey, Sir Flynn the Swift of Knightshire, Lady Faelan, Demian the Smith, Ceolmhor an Lochard, Paul, Rowena, Haarold, and Aaron.

In the waning days of winter, while rime still blanketed the Earth, a wisp of rumor began to echo across the hills and glades of the far-flung land of sun and snow and word reached the ears of the mercenaries. Owen Cwiran was said to have been living in exile in the dull, featureless wastes of the east; Stirrings were that he was planning a return to Rædstan Weald to reclaim the captaincy of the Company of the Mists, now known as the White Wolves. 

Doubt spread throughout the numbers of the two companies as to the accuracy of these reports; it was believed that lions in the realm of Gottland had fallen upon Owen and devoured him.  Naught came of the rumors though and many moons passed without incident as spring passed into summer and the festivities drew nigh.

When midsummer arrived, the Black Falcons set out for the Rædstan Weald in order to honor the traditions of their forbearers with tournament and merry-making.  The cohort took rest at the Inn of the Golden Crescents, as was typical of their yearly pilgrimage. There they found, already settled at the mead-bench, the Company of the White Wolves captained by Ralamean of Ramsey.  Mælgrim embraced Ralamean at the glad reunion and after they had supped, together they traveled along their path. 

As they journeyed, Ralamean told Mælgrim of tidings he received while at the inn.  Once again word had come to him that Owen Cwiran was come to the area and had been seen but days earlier at that very inn. 

The comrades-in-arms dispositions quickly changed from merry to morose, for the company had no idea as to Owen's countenance or of his intentions.  Fear was that Owen held still some anger in his heart for members of the group whom he blamed for his exile; many believed that Owen would gather his own band of war-hardened fighters to wreak his vengeance against them.

"Let us not be in low spirits," spake Mælgrim, "for we are a hearty band of warriors and surely a match for any that Owen could muster."

The company was heartened by Mælgrim's words, but even he himself was wary of any glade they passed through where they could be set upon in ambush.  Still, the company arrived in the Rædstan Weald without incident and the fellowship lightened their spirits once again.

Upon their arrival, the two companies set up camp, but as the White Wolves began to break out their pavilions Mælgrim spoke, "Prithy, good fellows, while we have no quarrel with you, might we still honor our traditions and set ourselves in two different encampments so that we may re-enact the battles of old?" 

"But you have surely chosen the finer location for your camp," argued Ralamean.

"Your company shall be welcome here at our encampment whenever we are at peace and we will all feast here on the morrow," answered Mælgrim.  "Raise your camp and then return to this place and we shall hold the first tourney."

Satisfied, the Company of the White Wolves went off to set up their camp in a secret location.  Once finished, they gathered their rebated weapons for the tourney and returned to the Black Falcon's encampment. When they arrived the tournament of sword was begun; the warriors chose their favored weapons and met each other, one at a time, on the field. 

The sword-kindred fought with great skill and all proved themselves truly worthy of the mercenaries' reputation for greatness with blades.  In one battle Thomas brought down mighty blows upon Rob and caused a break to his nose.  However, as the radiating sun settled in the west, only three weary warriors remained; those three were Ralamean, Flynn, and Mælgrim.   

"The sky grows dark," spake Flynn, "and I fear injury if we dare to continue this contest into the night.  We should retire for the evening and continue this when the sun is full in the sky again."  The other entrants agreed and the two groups acquitted themselves to their lodgings.

That night wolves were heard on the hunt as most of the merry band slept in their beds; Mælgrim, who stayed up late into the night planning events for the following day, knew this to be a tiding of uncommon happenings in the area, and as dawn drew near a hot wind blew in from the east.   The day broke clear and bright and, as the sun rose further overhead, the two groups came together again to discuss the day's proceedings.

When the issue of the unfinished tournament was brought up, Mælgrim spoke, "I did not sleep well last night.  I was hoping that we might instead engage in our planed melees and postpone the completion of the tournament until tomorrow."  The other two finalists agreed, and plans for the forest battle were begun.   

Just as the two bands were about to layout the rules of battle, one of the mercenaries arose, pointed east and shouted, "Look, a rider!"

The company turned to see a solitary figure upon a red steed; the man was clothed in blue and carrying a spear supporting a blue banner emblazoned with a white lion.  The man's face was weather worn and he wore a beard thick and dark.  As he approached many of the group drew weapons as Mælgrim stepped forward, hand on his sword pommel.  As the man drew near, Mælgrim sensed some recognition in the back of his mind, as did some of the other mercenaries who had been with the two companies for long years.

"Hold," commanded Mælgrim, "and name yourself and your purpose.  For this weald is for the Mercenaries of Shadow and Light at this time and has been for many a year."

To that challenge the stranger replied, "Do you not recognize your sword-kindred?"

"Nay, I do not, for all of my kindred you see here, gathered behind me."

Then the stranger stepped down off of his horse and strode over to Mælgrim, "Well, I recognize you Mælgrim Crouthur; the years have been kind and your face is not scarred by time."

Mælgrim took a hard look into the eyes of the stranger and the glimmer of recognition grew in his mind, "Owen Cwiran!  It is you!  Five years has it been since last I set eyes upon you.  I had heard that you were devoured by lions in Gottland."

"I have wandered in the east for many years and I was set upon by wild beasts, but not of the kind you think.  The wastes of the east are a harsh climb and men are forced to take what they can when they can.  I was attacked by robbers who called themselves the Lions; they wished to take me for all I had.  I was nearly overcome, but I gave the whelps a taste of my steel that left a bitterness on their tongues they shall not soon forget."   

"It is well and good," responded Mælgrim.  "I have also heard that you return to seek revenge on our band of mercenaries . . . though you do not come with a company of your own."

"I am glad to say that you have received false tidings in that regard," chuckled Owen.  "As you can see I have come alone; although my years in the wastes of the east have granted me great skill in the arts of battle I am certainly no match for such a band of war-worthy mercenaries."

"Then you mean to return to our company?  It is a joyous day indeed!  Come and fill your tankard and we will drink a toast," exclaimed Mælgrim, and he embraced Owen as a brother, led him to the mead barrel, and both companies drank a toast in Owen's honor.

When they had finished, Mælgrim again spoke, "It is truly a great day that Ser Owen Cwiran returns to our numbers."

"I do not go by that name any longer," interrupted Owen.  "While I was away in the wastes, I learned of my true heritage and have taken the name Owen Godwinesson."

"Then hail and well met Owen Godwinesson," laughed Mælgrim.  "Come and join my band of warriors and fight alongside me as my brother-in-arms once again." And with that, Owen was returned to his status as a Black Falcon.

Then talk turned back to the business of the melees.  Mælgrim stood on the table and issued a charter containing the rules that were to be followed.  The text of this charter can be found in the appendixes of the Red Book of Years.

After the Charter had been signed, Cynara arose and explained that she had hidden a treasure somewhere in Rædstan Weald and that a series of five clues would reveal a map, which would lead to the treasure.  All the warriors grew excited at the prospect of a treasure hunt and were anxious to start the search.  When Cynara passed out the clues Owen, Thomas, and Bertrand went right to work on the riddles. 

The cohort quickly deciphered several of the clues and went off to gather the map pieces.  While searching out the map pieces they were joined by Rob, who told them that Mælgrim had been captured in an engagement with the White Wolves. 

The group decided to first collect the next clue, which was along the way, and then to attempt a rescue of their captain.  As they were returning to camp to mount an offensive against the White Wolves, they stumbled upon the enemy encampment.  A scout of the White Wolves espied them as they crept by and went to gather his companions to assault the four but when the Wolves returned they found that the lot had slipped through their fingers. 

When the treasure seekers returned to camp they found that Mælgrim had worked out his own ransom and no rescue attempt was necessary.  They told each other of their exploits and were heartened to learn they were leading in the quest for the treasure.

It was then that a messenger arrived bringing ill tidings.  Raiders had sacked the village where Rob had been born and he was needed straight away to see after his aging parents.  The company was saddened to see such a worthy fighter lost, for now they were two men short of the other cohort.  Even though they lost a comrade, the Black Falcons went off to pursue their quarry for the sport of battle.  They found the White Wolves waiting for them in the thick forest flanked by juniper and crowded behind a wall of shields.  

The beating of sword on shield was so loud the clamor could be heard far and wide; Mars himself wondered at the titanic clash.  Blows rained in from all sides upon the White Wolves until their captain Ralamean called out, "HOLD!  You have given us a goodly and true fight and my soldiers are soundly defeated."  And he offered his sword to his opponent.  With that, the Black Falcons rejoiced in their victory and returned to camp.

After the battle, both groups returned to the main encampment as dark and foreboding clouds gathered in the west.  Soon the sky let loose with a torrent that could drown a muskrat and the fellowship decided to make their way to the Inn of the Red Haired Maiden to take their repast in a dry environ.  While there, the two groups made plans for the upcoming battles and discussed the clues that they had not yet unraveled.

Upon returning, they gathered themselves together for the next purposed melee, the standard-bearer battle.  Lance was chosen to carry the red banner of the Black Falcons and Faelan was chosen to bear the standard of the White Wolves.  The Wolves, however, had lost their banner and were forced to use a brown rag as their banner.  When the two met at the appointed battleground the Falcons made mockery of the lack-luster banner of the Wolves.  The ridicule presented to the White Wolves hardened their resolve and when battle ensued they hewed a path through the Falcons and forced Lance to surrender the banner.  A bold cheer arose from the victors as the Falcons despairingly slinked back to their encampment.

When they returned, the Falcons set their minds back to the task of solving the clues that would lead to the treasure.  They reexamined the three remaining riddles and discovered that they had misread one and accidentally had found the map piece from another clue.  When they looked again at the clue they had misread the answer became clear; within moments the Black Falcons had the third clue. 

While they were copying down the map, Owen noticed some features that seemed to match locations named in one of the remaining clues.  They went and searched the area where Owen believed the final piece to be, but found naught.  While they were searching they heard the warning bell from their camp; the White Wolves had gathered for an onslaught. 

The pack quickly returned to camp to defend the palisade that had been erected to protect the banner.  When the White Wolves moved in on the camp they bombarded the Black Falcons with spears and arrows.  The Falcons responded in kind but so fierce was the assault that the Falcons were soon brought down and the palisade fell. 

After the engagement, the mercenaries gathered all in the Falcons camp to take rest as they might.  During that time, Cynarra decided that the search for the treasure was taking too many hours and she offered help equally to a representative of each faction.  Each group asked two questions and soon the groups were in pursuit of the map pieces once again.  Thomas and Gregory went off to find one clue and the rest of the group, having confirmed that Owen's assumption about the map was correct, set back to searching for the final piece. 

After much searching, it was discovered that the Falcon's simply had not gone far enough down the path and Mælgrim discovered the final piece in a hollow stump.  Just then, three of the White Wolves emerged from a thicket and set themselves upon Mælgrim.

Flynn spoke first, "We are three and you are one, surely you are outmatched.  Surrender now and save yourself a sound thrashing."

"Pah," spat Mælgrim, fully aware that if he were captured he would have to give up the final piece.  "I would not surrender, I live for the fight.  That beside, we fight with rebated weapons and I have no fear of death."

With that, Mælgrim swung madly with his sword and then turned and ran.  In pursuit were Flynn, Faelan, and Dameon.  Flynn the Swift lived up to his name as he quickly closed the gap on Mælgrim.  Mælgrim felt Flynn hot on his heels, stretched out his arm to grasp a small tree, swiveled around and smote Flynn as he tried to adjust to the fleet actions of Mælgrim.  He then led the trio to Bertrand and Owen who readily helped dispatch of them. 

They then pieced together the map pieces and revealed the location of the treasure.  The entire group armed themselves for battle and went off to retrieve the treasure.  Swiftly and silently they moved through the underbrush until they found the treasure hanging high in the boughs of a tree.  When they returned to camp they divided the spoils and celebrated their victory.

Unbeknownst to the Falcons, Faelan had been hiding in the shadows when the Falcons set off to retrieve the treasure. When she saw that the camp had been left unattended she crept in and began to rummage for any piece of intelligence that might gain her company an advantage. Attached to the underside of a table she discovered a map, which contained plans for an assault of the White Wolf encampment. So as not to be discovered, she copied down the information and replaced the document in the same fashion in which she discovered it. She then quickly fled that camp, unaware that the Falcons were returning, the treasure in their possession.

Then a break in the melee was called and the mercenaries, dressed in their finest clothes, joined for a feast. That evening roasted turkey legs, beef in rich gravy, roasted potatoes, and all manor of delicacies were lain at the table.  Mead overflowed in their trenchers and joy overflowed in their hearts.  Adversaries from the day sat side by side and shared tales of battles long since past and deeds done.  Many a joke was told that began, "So this fellow walks in to a pub."

Once the Feast table was cleared the happy group moved to the fire circle where a bardic was held.  Pipes were played, lutes strummed, stories told, and voices raised in song.  More tales of brave feats were shared that evening and when all was finished the pale moon had been in the sky for many hours. 

At the end of the merry making it was agreed that to honor the traditions of the Mercenary Wars that a night battle should be staged.  All agreed and the White Wolves vanished into the night to make plans for the inevitable battle. 

It was then that Owen, Gregory, Thomas, and Bertrand left to make an attempt at capturing the standard of the White Wolves before they were prepared.  They crept through the woods as quietly as leaves in the wind.  As they drew near to the encampment Thomas stepped on a twig and gave away his hiding place.  Then Owen and Gregory leapt out of hiding to aid their comrade but were met by the entire force of White Wolves.  The three fought boldly but to no avail, the numerous blades that swept down about their head and shoulders felled them.  Bertrand stayed hidden in the shadows however and crept ever closer to the standard where eventually he was found out and, being alone, defeated.

Gregory returned to the encampment to tell the others of what had happened and to gather reinforcements while Owen and Thomas stayed behind to attempt an approach from a different direction.  Little did they know that before they had even arrived at the White Wolves camp the group had already overwhelmed Mælgrim, Cynarra, and Lance and taken the banner of the Black Falcons.  With nothing left to guard, the entire Black Falcon group assaulted the White Wolves encampment.  As the engagement continued Thomas and Owen crept closer and closer.  They arrived at the camp as the melee was ending and Thomas immediately leapt into the just ended battle, where he was almost instantly slain.

Owen lay still in the dark merely fifteen feet from the encampment waiting for the numbers of the White Wolves to waver in their watch, still not aware that the banner of the Black Falcons had already been stolen.  He stayed unmoving for nearly an hour.  Many times he was certain he was caught, once even a member of the Wolves came out to examine the perimeter, he stopped and poked at Owen with his spear but Owen's cloak held true and kept him concealed, even under such close scrutiny. 

After a time it became evident to Owen that the White Wolves had no intention of slacking in their watchfulness.  His leg and arm were now completely numb and he decided to stand and face the enemy on his own.  "If you will allow me the chance of single combat, I will take each of you one at a time."

"If you are truly alone then it is well and good," replied Flynn. 

"I shall have the first go at him," exclaimed Faelan and she approached for the clash.

And then from the shadows emerged Lance who said, "Very well, I see that you are vigilant in your watch and there is no advantage to lurking in the shadows."

At that the Wolves feared that more Falcons would soon emerge and went back on their word as they all attacked Owen and Lance in concert.  Lance was defeated by Dameon as Flynn was felled while he and Faelan dispatched Owen.  From Flynn, Owen learned that the White Wolves had captured the banners and thus Owen understood why they didn't seem to leave the camp.  So Lance and Owen returned to retire for the night and let the White Wolves stare into the dark to protect their trophies. 

In the minutes before dawn the Black Falcons mustered themselves for a final, all-out assault to regain their standard.  They approached not in silence but with weapons clamoring against armor and shield.  The Wolves quickly assumed positions around the banners as the clash began.  Certainly there would have been fatalities had not blunted weapons been employed.  The Falcons lost many of their number but managed to break through the lines, waylay their opponents, and steal away with the banners.   

Back at the Falcon camp, all knew that the Wolves would attempt to retrieve the standards before the sun broke the horizon, the predetermined ending of the night battle.  The comrades at the camp quickly formed up inside the palisade.  The White Wolves rolled in like the tide onto the shore, massed for battle.  Owen had grabbed a bow and loosed several arrows.  They bit into the enemy as several of the number dropped; then they were upon the Palisade.  It was not long before the stinging swords and spears had dwindled the numbers of the Black Falcons.  Fittingly, Mælgrim and Owen alone were left holding back the onslaught; Owen threw aside his bow and drew his sword.  Standing side-by-side the estranged compatriots mightily swung their bright blades, gnawing flesh and breaking shield; but the assault proved too much for them, they fell at the end of bitter spear and the Wolves reclaimed their prize.

As they scuttled away with their loot in tow, the sun burst out from behind a layer of clouds resting on the horizon; the night battle had ended.

"The clouds concealed the true dawn," shouted one of the Falcons.  "The battle is ours!  It was agreed that we would conclude as the sun peaked the horizon and that must have been several minutes ago."

"Yes, that was the contract," said another.

Then spake Mælgrim, "Who is to say when the dawn was when the mountains are shrouded in cloud?"

"I agree.  Besides, we lead in the contests to this point," chimed in Owen.  "We may yet still hold out hope of victory in the overall count."

"I have worked the tally," replied Mælgrim, "and by my count we are locked in a tie, and a tie it shall be.  The Black Falcons and the White Wolves shall share in the glory on the field this day; a fitting end to a well played contest."

Then a conference was called between the two assemblies to bring an official end to hostilities.  The two bands greeted each other as friends again and sat side by side at the mead benches with trenchers full of mead.  Tales of boldness and glory during the night grew as they passed among the company until all had slain forty giants and seven dragons.

Then the call was raised among the number to complete the unfinished business of the tournament of sword.  At that, Mælgrim rose to duel Ralamean.  The clash was thunderous, likened unto Hercules battling the great hydra.  In the end it was Mælgrim who proved the better.

And then Flynn strode forward saying, "Your task is not yet done.  First you must face me and then I, Ralamean."

And the two charged at each other, clashing their sour steel and gnashing their teeth.  It was as though the Titans had returned to do battle for Mount Olympus.  Then misfortune struck it discords in the clash as Mælgrim smote Flynn upon the hand and opened up a most grievous wound.  Flynn was forced to withdraw and, due to Mælgrim's previous defeat of Ralamean, he was granted the victory by default.

Then Owen stood and strung his old Yew stave and spake, "Long has it been since I have stretched the bow against this cohort.  I would have a chance to reclaim my championship."

And those who brought bow and had the want partook in the archery contest.  First shot Mælgrim, "A fine flock I shall place in the target."  And he set to work loosing his quiver at the mark; a fine score was achieved. 

He was bested however by Flynn, who placed more arrows within the scoring areas of the target.  Several more archers attempted to best Flynn's fine score but none could until Cynarra stepped to the line with only herself and Owen to shoot.  "I have practiced for this day.  Long have I waited to teach a lesson to Owen."  And she placed her flight with such skill that Flynn's mark was surpassed with ease.

"I see you have all improved since last we faced off at bows," belted Owen with confidence, "but I have had much practice in my absence and am more skilled now than ever."  And he strode to the line and placed all of his arrows within the scoring zone of the target and bested all others.

Last came the Champion's tournament, where the combatants had their choice of three champions to duel.  The Champions were those who had prevailed in the previous year's contest; those three were Ralamean, Lance, and Flynn. However, since Flynn was unable to fight, Faelan was chosen to stand in his place.  Many a battle of great repute was fought in those morning hours.  In the end it was Ralamean and Mælgrim left to fight each other.  They competed for time unending, it seemed to the lookers on, until Ralamean proved his mettle the better and obtained the victory.

Then a ceremony was held to signify the closing of the Seventh Mercenary Wars.  Mælgrim stood and addressed the group, "as a gift to the fighter who proved to be both great in skill and valor I offer this token." and he produced a silver ring with an intricate design and handed it to Adam.

"To the victor of the archery competition goes a fine quiver of arrows," said Mælgrim and he held up a bunch of gray fletched arrows.  "Owen, come and claim your prize." 

"I have already received my prize in that I have claimed victory in the competition," responded Owen.  "And I already have a quiver overflowing with fine arrows.  Therefore, I would grant my prize to second place."  And Mælgrim handed the arrows to Cynarra, who accepted them graciously.

"And to the victor of the Champion's tourney you may take your pick of these two," and Mælgrim held up in one hand a green and yellow cloak of silk with gold sewn in at the hem; in the other hand he displayed a finely knitted woolen blanket of midnight blue. 

Of the two Ralamean chose the blanket, "This shall keep me warm through the hard winters of this land."

And Mælgrim was left to claim the cloak, but instead of taking it for his own he turned to Owen, "Since I did not truly win this prize, and you have offered yours to my wife, I would that you should claim this excellent cloak for yours.  That beside, I expect I shall make as much use of the arrows as she, for my quiver grows thin." 

And Owen Gladly accepted the gracious offering, "Now I shall need to have a tunic to match; it is a fine garment that you give up."

And Ceolmhor was asked to present herself in front of the company and Mælgrim addressed her, "There are many attributes that make up a person worthy of knighthood; chief amongst those is skill in battle.  But skill in battle is not all that makes up a knight; there is also valor, knowledge, and dedication.  In these last three Ceolmhor is truly rich and although her skill in battle is not that of many in our brotherhood she is certainly most deserving of the rank.  For these reasons the brotherhood has determined to bestow upon you a Knighthood of the Scroll.  Kneel Ceolmhor an Lochard," and she did.

And Mælgrim drew his sword and tapped her upon each shoulder.  Then those that were present of the order each gave Ceolmhor a buffet upon the head before Mælgrim spoke again, "Now rise Lady Ceolmhor an Lochard, Knight of the Scroll."

And there was much rejoicing.  

So it was that the Seventh Mercenary Wars was ended.  Hearken well and be content, for my tale is well and truly done.

(here endeth the story)

 
 
     
   

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