Session Twenty Five (3rd February 2016): The Winter Council
[OOC: this first event is a back-track; Mike — Brian's player — wasn't at the previous session. This scene happened between the Council and Merlin's unveiling of his plans for the characters]
As the Great Hall is cleared to prepare the feast, Brian spots a familiar face in the crowd, one he had not expected to see. His father is amongst the Deheubarth warband. Brian hasn't seen Driscoll for over ten years, when as a boy Brian was dispatched to Dumnonia with his sister as part of a truce settlement with Deheubarth. When the fosterage was over Driscoll didn't want Brian back, and when Brian's sister Dierdre married Cwlhedric, Driscoll did not come to the wedding. Already resentful at his family for being abandoned by his Irish family, Brian settled down with his British one instead.
Brian remembered his father as a warm, friendly man but this not who he encountered today in Caer Wynd. He expressed no interest in what Brian had been up to in the intervening decade, and delivered the news of his mother's death in the same tone as describing the loss of his favourite fishing net. Seeing him amongst Deheubarth's warriors was also out of place, since he remembers that when he was a boy the Irish families in Britain had lived in fear of Silures raids on their settlements. Brian comes away thoroughly dissatisfied with his reunion, and wonders what has caused this change.
[OOC: Merlin then says his piece as detailed in the previous play report]
Their minds full of the portentous change in circumstances due to Merlin's actions, the characters return to their camp. They find that all their belongings are gone, and the Dumnonians are once more occupying the choice spots of the shelter. Cwlhedric is most anxious about his missing horse. The Dumnonians tell them that a man (who they identify as Bors the Younger) came by and had it all moved. They track down Bors, and find their stuff now occupies bunks in the roundhouse commandeered by Arthur's warband. Bors introduces his six companions: Arthur's cousin Culhwch, Bedwyr Bedrydant, Geraint of the South, Peredur, Menw, and Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr. They find them a friendly group who give them a bit of insight into life in the warband. There is some spare arms and armour for them to help themselves to, and Peredur offers to paint a bear — Arthur's standard — onto their shields. Cwlhedric takes a new shield already with the bear and asks him to add his father's fish. He then carefully scrapes his father's symbol off his old shield and then burns it, taking a certain pleasure in seeing Custennin's lion-head sigil going up in flames.
A horn blow signifies the commencement of the Imbolc feast. The whole oxen and pigs have been roasting all day, and servants now carry around trenchers loaded with the meat, along with mead and ale. At sunset, a Christian priest leads off the most devout to celebrate the life of Saint Bride. Cwlhedric and Drem take part in a riddle contest before the rounds of Badger-in-the-bag begin. Brian specifically seeks out an Irishman to go up against; and lets out a few repressed feelings by sweeping Ahern's feet from under him with a swipe of his stick and knocking his opponent's stick several metres away [OOC: Brian attacked his opponent rather than the bag, and with a Critical blow got a trip and disarm]. While his opponent recovered Brian got the bag half away down the court, but then decided to hang the contest and propelled the bag directly at his opponent, hitting him with it in the groin. As Drem drolly remarked, "nothing slows a man down like a badger to the testicles!" As the match dissolves into a brawl, the two are pulled off each other. Ahern and his drinking buddies are looking for a bit of revenge, but Glewlwyd's massive presence in front of Brian dissuades them. Brian continues to hurl insults at the retreating Irish from his safe position behind Glewlwyd's back.
As Ban's match begins, Drem slips away. He has surmised that the druids' gorsedd will take place by the river as the constellation of Ogmios rises, and he is correct. The High Druids are arranged into four circles each originally with five members: the northern British tribes, the western tribes, the southern tribes, and the eastern tribes. However, many of the seats are vacant (including all of the eastern High Druids), and there are just 10 extant. Drem sits with the southern druids as the representative of the Durotriges. Ceidmon represents the Belgae, Wynne represents the Dobunni, and Wella of Kernow speaks for the Dumnonii (the Atrebates tribe has been exterminated by the Saxons). Each circle must agree on a single vote, and if all three circles agree then action will be taken. Drem is exasperated with Wella, who votes contrary to the rest of the southern druids thus forcing the southern vote to abstain, ruining any chance of the gorsedd ever coming to a consensus. He begins to vote in the opposite manner to the Kernovian druid out of protest. The issues discussed include: whether the Thirteen Treasures should be sought for (despite Merlin's pre-emptive action on this score); whether the druids should give unilateral support to Arthur's alliance; whether Morgana should be commanded to cease her war against Arawn; whether Mithras should be adopted as a British god; and who could be the next High King. On the latter issue, Elliw, Cyngen, and Lend are all suggested and rejected. A hypothetical King of Dumnonia might be suited, but not any of the current candidates (Custennin is Christian, neither Havgan nor Natanleod have the royal pedigree, and Arthur is too young). The gorsedd ends with a long ceremony honouring the gods with praise and sacrifices.
Ban fights a hard match of badger-in-the-bag against his opponent, but is victorious. Cwlhedric manages to beat all other contenders at fire-jumping. Newlyn has also had a successful night betting on his friends and raking in his winnings. To the surprise of everyone, the characters are invited to the private area of the Great Hall, where the members of the alliance are feasting with their named men. Newlyn can't take his eyes of Gwenhafhyr as she flirts with Achaius, and manages to snatch a few moments with her during the formal dance. After the dance, Cwyryd has an announcement to make: his daughter Gwenhafhyr and King Achaius of Deiwr are to be married. The betrothal ceremony will take place in a month's time at Caer Pedwyr in Deiwr, and everyone at the high table is invited.
Drem returns from the gorsedd around dawn. He gets a front-row seat when an Elmetian rides into camp carrying a sodden green dress that he fished out of the river. King Mark confirms it is Iseult's and orders his men out in search for her. Drem also hears that there is an Irish woman looking for him, who he recognises as Niamh. When Brian decides to have another confrontation with his father and heads for the Deheubarth camp, the druid decides to accompany him, as does Cwlhedric who wants to meet his father-in-law. The king and his retainers have left already (to Drem's relief), but Driscoll and the rest of the warband are still here packing up the king's belongings. As they approach, Drem detects the faint presence of a spirit, but when he slips his sight to the otherworld, there is nothing to be seen. Cwlhedric has an unsatisfactory conversation with Driscoll, who seems disinterested in his daughter or her family. Brian does get the opportunity to speak with Driscoll's companions, and hears a rumour that the Silures attacked his home village about ten years ago, and Brian's mother Ana ended up in one of Taddg's Death Pits, sacrificed to Crawch the death god.
Over the rest of the day the gathered dignitaries depart Caer Wynd, leaving the characters kicking their heels until Merlin summons them. No-one from the Baddan contingent seeks them out, so Cwlhedric arranges for Gwawl and Boyd to return to Caer Penrhyn with them and let his father know the situation. Gwawl promises to make sure that Irven is aware of Cwlhedric's deeds. Cwlhedric also bids goodbye to Cahal and Reu Hen.
While they wait, the characters discuss what they can do. They have heard a number of rumours and opportunities for adventure and glory.
- There is a nest of ddraiggau (dragons) near Caer Sws that have been plaguing the locals
- Gloedd of Caer Rig has offered a substantial reward for anyone who can bring him a live lynx before Beltane.
- Coell of Caer Daun is looking for help retrieving some family property stolen from him by the Saxons
- The druid Varden is looking for a hero who will enter the barrow of the champion Gwernach and retrieve one of his bones.
For the moment, Culhwch suggests that they go on a ride, just to blow away the cobwebs of three straight days of feasting. Perhaps they'll pick up the trail of that Irish lass...