The Adventure of Uthold
(Editor's Note: This chapter of the write-up is the result of Brian's amazing memory, more than a year after the game session took place, and he deserves the credit for it; I just did some touching up to what he wrote.)
Richard and Elffin, knights and beloved cousins, ride north from Richard's lands at Steeple Langford in search of adventure. They ride for some time without incident, until they reach the County of Uthold, ruled by Earl Ewan. There the cousins hear rumors of a foul ghost haunting the castle and of a band of brigands harassing the countryside. The pair accept the hospitality of Uthold and set out to determine what is happening.
At the earl's castle Elffin and Richard meet Rupert, the second son of Ewan, a fine and valorousif somewhat unschooled and provincialyoung man (at that point, still a squire). The three become friends, despite Rupert's feeling overawed by the more cosmopolitan cousins.
The other inhabitants of the keep are Ewan himself, a man beset with troubles, including the loss of several wives through strange and fey circumstances and his own illness; the Earl's current wife, a charming, quiet young woman; the eldest son Arthur, who is a portly, rude knight with little to redeem him; Ruth, the Earl's comely unwed daughter; Toad, the Earl's jester; and Father Mark, the village priest, who is on hand to tend to the Earl's illness and see to the haunting, which he believes are related.
The Earl is on his fourth wife. By his accounts, the first, mother of his two sons, was carried away by a giant falcon. The second, mother of his daughter, was pushed into the lake by a magical boar. The third was bitten by a magical snake and turned to mist over several days, leaving no body or bones to bury. Elffin questions the household concerning this and discovers that the second and third wives merely drowned and died of snakebite. The shock of the first loss, for which the early account seems true, followed by the other deaths, has left the Earl somewhat unhinged on the topic of his wives' demises.
On their first night in the keep, the Earl's daughter seems quite attentive to Elffinto the point of arriving in the cousin's room in the middle of the night! There she extolls the handsome knight to love her, despite her endless recitation of her own flaws (gaps in her teeth, flat-chested, farting in bed, and others too numerous to mention). These events leave Elffin confused and Richard in hysterics.
During dinner, Elffin, whose father's voyages to Rome have left him with a love of Latin and a passing familiarity with it, realizes that Father Mark's blessing is not Latin at allit is merely gibberish. The priest denies this when confronted, and calls Elffin a servant of dark forces. The cousins learn that Mark arrived shortly after the death of the old priest, carrying orders that made him the new priest of the area. Of course, no one could read these missives, but since he looked and acted the part he was accepted without question. The priest's true ally at court is the eldest son. While Elffin reveals this information in their room after supper, Richard hears someone at the door. When opened, the eavesdropper had fled.
Late that night, Rupert rouses them to witness the haunting in the kitchena glowing, shapeless form floating in the air, wailing and moaning. The apparition vanishes as the knights steel their courage to approach it.
The next day the travelling knights and the Earl's sons go hunting. Arthur becomes separated from the rest of the party in the woods, and the others come across a wild boar that injures Elffin's leg. The boar is slain, but before returning to the keep the three are met by a strange woods woman, who performs chirurgery on Elffin, healing his wounds. The three notice that the woods woman has a necklace nearly identical to one the Earl wears. When questioned, she becomes incoherent with stories of the Fey.
Finally, the three come across the bandits on their return. The 'horde of bandits' are in fact the mercenary knight Simon, who had once been employed by the Earl and had asked for Ruth's hand. The Earl, furious at the thought of an unlanded knight marrying his daughter, drove Simon and his retainers off, commanding them never to return. Since then Simon and his squires have been living off the land, unwilling to leave the home of his true love. Their presence in the woods and occasional admitted poaching led to the peasants' tales of a horde.
Elffin is much relieved by this information, and Rupert confirms that Ruth's actions were calculated to ensure that neither Elffin nor Richard would attempt to woo her and drive a further wedge between Simon and the Earl. (Richard, we should note, still finds the situation quite funny.) Despondent, Simon asks the knights if they could help him. The knights counsel patience and arrange a meeting between them again the next day; Elffin is developing a plan but it will take until the morrow to mature.
That night the knights stake out the kitchen and confront he ghost when it arrives. It immediately flees, but does not avoid capture, and is revealed to be Toad, the jester, who has hit upon this method to scare the other servants away from the day's leftover food, increasing his own food supply. The trio prepares to hand Toad over to the Earl, but the wretch begs mercy, and is willing to trade information. He has made a habit of listening about the castle, and knows of a plan between the priest and eldest son.
Toad claims the Earl is not sick at all, that Mark and Arthur are slowly poisoning him, so that Arthur will inherit the lands within the year, with no queries into the death of the ill and failing Earl. When further pressed, he reveals a sample of the poison and other corroborating evidence that he has stolen from the Earl's room over time. The three are convinced of his sincerity, and their plans for the morrow are modified to deal with this new information. The squires are sent to bury the fabric 'ghost' in the woods, and they comply with little grumbling.
On the following morning Richard, Elffin, Rupert and his brother all go hunting for the bandits. Along the way they again encounter the woods woman, with whom the eldest is quite rude, but the others discover more information to further their suspicions that this mysterious madwoman is the missing first wife, kidnapped by the Fey for several years.
Finally, once they are far enough from the keep, the other knights turn on Arthur and confront him with the proof of his treachery. The heir scoffs at them, all but admitting his plans and taunting them with their inability to stop him. Rupert challenges Arthur to combat mortal to protect his father's life. The brothers engage, and the close battle is decided when the elder loses his grip on his weapon and young Rupert, in the heat of his love and loyalty to his father, smites his brother dead.
Shortly thereafter Simon and his men arrive, where the mercenary knight is dumbstruck by the presence of the dead heir. Elffin counsels the other knights to caution and reveals his plan: they will return, bearing the body with honors. There they will recount with little ceremony and much grief that they encountered the bandits in the wood, but with the aid of the noble Simon, the bandits are gone and will never return. This is of course, true, since with Simon in the keep there are no more 'bandits' to plague the county. In the course of this expedition, the heir fell in noble combat, dying to protect the life of his father. This is also true, since had he lived, he would have treacherously killed his father. The eldest son's death is accepted, and Simon returns a hero for dealing with the banditsgiving him the position he needs to again sue for Ruth's hand.
Richard is dubious to the chivalry of Elffin's plan, but acquiesces. Rupert is stunned from the battle, and raises no objections. Simon is thick as a brick, and keeps trying to figure out where the other bandits came from, and how he drove them off. Elffin makes Simon swear to stick to the story, and let him do the talking.
The knights return with the body, and things go much as Elffin predicted. Rupert hopes to pass along the woods woman's amulet to Father Mark, so that the fey curse she is predicting will shortly befall its owner will strike the second of the conspirators to his father's life. Before this can come to pass, another priest appearsthe actual assigned cleric to the area, who apologizes for the delay, but it seems someone murdered the last priest sent and stole his papers and clothes. The false priest flees at this revelation, and manages to lose the knights in the woods, disappearing forever.
Sir Bedevere, who happens to be passing through the area, does Rupert the signal honor of naming him a knight. Richard and Elffin stay for the marriage of Simon and Ruth, and then head south, as the adventuring season is over. Rupert begs leave to travel with them and see the courts near Camelot. The trio bring the woods woman along to act as the chirurgen at Steeple Langford, since revelations of her identity would disrupt the court at Uthold.
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© 1999 David Twiddy