26th September 2020
Saturday evening in the living room. Logged into Google Meeting.
Time for Matakishi's Merry Outlaws campaign to continue.
Location: The Badger Set.
In the few days since Sir Clugney had met his end, much had come to pass.
In the battle for Wenham, Conrad had been felled. His mutilated corpse was hanging on a wooden pole along the road into Wenham at the bridge.
Our minds drifted back to the words of the old woman from weeks ago: "I see an early death for you, beneath a tree.".
Lacking a clear leader, The Peasant's Army had crumbled and dispersed. They had scattered and fled north, harried still by the knights that had been in pursuit of them.
Hexham was besieged by Sir Gaston and a newcomer 'Sir Philippe Phillope'. It was said that behind the closed gates and walls of Hexham, the streets were stalked by plague!
'Thorbjorn Neilson, leader of The Black Company had assumed Clugney's seat of power and now ruled in Wedgemore.
Consequently, One of The Black Company knights; 'Matterson the Cruel' now ruled over Billige, along with sixteen men-at-arms.
Sir Gaston had received reinforcements.
It was said that Osric could still be found at Wedgemore.
Finally; it was rumoured that The Crow Folk were planning something, something big?
We discussed our next step at length. Liberating Billige was a priority, but doing so might provoke a retaliatory response from Neilson and we wished to keep the villagers and refugees out of harm's way.
In the end, it was decided that we should strike at Gaston and Neilson's forces. It was likely that the Dumclog Moss Road which ran through The Forest of Caucy would be used to resupply the besieging soldiers at Hexham.
We would harass these supply convoys with hit-and-run attacks, retreating into the safety of the forest whenever needed. It was time that our mettle as outlaws was shown.
With our foresters and Welshmen in tow, we travelled to the road a little way from the Knavesmire ruins, we hid and waited for a suitable target to pass.
Other than a mild breeze sighing though the branches and the birdsong, the forest was quiet. With the destruction of the town, this part of the forest had become uninhabited.
We did not have to wait long: An ox-drawn cart, escorted by four mounted men-at-arms soon came along the road. The perfect target.
Before the cart approached, Randulf positioned himself in the centre of the road, directly in their path.
There he stood, facing them with feet planted wide and sinewy hands resting upon his mace's haft.
"Stand and deliver. Your money or your life!" he yelled.
The convoy halted, from our hiding spot we could see that they did not understand Randulf's threats.
They seemed to grasp his meaning however, as one of the soldiers charged Randulf in reply.
Calder loosed an arrow at the rider, the foresters followed suite and he was toppled off his horse. The horse slowed to a canter and was stopped by Randulf.
The rest of us leapt into action.
A second rider charged at Randulf while the other two started barking orders at the drivers to turn the wagon around.
We quickly dealt with the second charger and turned our attention on the remaining two men-at-arms.
There hadn't been much success moving the wagon, it appeared the drivers didn't seem to understand the orders.
The two men-at-arms realised they were in trouble, turned and fled, abandoning the cart. We fired a volley at them, killing one. The other we allowed to escape, someone needed to spread the word: The Merry Badgers of Billige now ruled this road.
The cart, it contained food, weapons and surprisingly, number of 'lares'.
We had decided to take the wagon to The Badger Set when all hell broke loose!
A volley of black-feathered arrows rained down on us, we were sent reeling. It could only be The Crow Folk.
There was a score of them, dressed entirely in black and they were on us before we could gain our bearings. At the rear of were two in crow masks, the two last Crow Brothers
The Crow Folk outnumbered us had the momentum, we were put on to the back foot. Blows were exchanged and we struck down several of their number. But we did not escape injury and most of the foresters and Welshmen were forced to retreat into the cover of the forest. I too was driven into the trees.
This had left an opening in the melee, Mopsa and Randulf charged the Crow Brothers, Calder followed them in.
Most of The Crow Folk stopped to witness this fight. Meanwhile I had managed to lose my attackers.
I returned to the tree line and returned to the fight.
In the end, we prevailed against the Crow Brothers, both were slain.
A silence fell upon the forest, punctuated only by the breathing from our exertions, the fighting was over.
Eight Crow Folk remained. Their leaders were dead and they were hesitant, we could see it in their posture.
Mopsa seized the moment and told them that if they forswore their old ways, they could join The Merry Badgers. They would have to help the needy yes, but they would never be under the yoke of a sheriff or a lord.
Her oratory was impressive and convinced them to join with us, our numbers had grown by eight.
Before leaving, we searched the fallen Crow Folk and were most surprised to find Phillip the 'simpleton' from The Three Stoats and a Weasel inn among the dead.
Long had we suspected that The Crow Folk had a spy at the inn, at one time we had even suspected Phillip.
Now we had a macabre confirmation.
Since Phillip had been to our camp, it meant that The Crow Folk also new its location.
With the last two Crow Brothers defeated, we hoped that their strength was broken and now leaderless, they would disband and disperse. Hopefully it was an end to their threat.
The return to The Badger Set was uneventful, we noticed that our new recruits already knew the way...
After our arrival, we spoke to Leopold and Edith, they were quite upset to learn of Phillip's demise. We told them that they should not feel too bad, he was after all a member of a gang of pitiless killers.
They did not seem very consoled, Edith stated that she would offer up a prayer for him.
After arming everyone as best as possible, it was decided that the remaining weapons should be taken to The Drumclog Few.
When last we had seen them, they were armed with pitiful blunt wooden weapons, making their slim chances of defeating professional soldiers even slimmer.
On the following day, we rose in the early morning coolness, a thin mist hung low over the hazy, silent landscape.
Eschewing the cart, we hid the weapons in bundles of sticks before heading off cross country, over the dewy fields towards Drumclog Moss.
For the first leg of our journey we did not encounter a single soul until we reached the Drumclog Moss road.
The road was no longer a safe place for outlaws, we had to be cautious, the forest lay on the other side of the road and crossing it could be a risk.
Our concerns were well founded. The road was heavily patrolled by soldiers bearing Sir Philippe's colours. They were spaced out to cover as much of the road as possible without losing sight of one another. They must have been part of the besieging forces.
Patiently, we had to bide our time until we could safely cross.
Crossing over safely and soon after entering the Drumclog Moss, the road was lost from sight behind layers of tangled bushes and foliage. Tall gnarled oaks loomed over us as sunlight dimly flittered through the swaying branches above.
The location of The Drumclog Few's camp was not known to us, but no doubt they had been watching the patrols and had also watched us cross. no doubt they were watching us at this very moment.
We did not have to wait long to be proven correct. Emerging from shadows came a small, limping man. He introduced himself and we exchanged pleasantries. He told us that he remembered seeing us in the forest a while ago and complimented Randulf on his quarterstaff skills.
We explained that we were here to see Hugh the Silent. The limping man led us deeper into Drumclog Moss, along faint trails, under ancient boughs and through forgotten hollows.
Eventually the forest opened up somewhat into a clearing of sorts. This was the camp of The Drumclog Few; it was a messy, filthy place and was filled with the sick and the infirm. Nobody here had escaped disfigurement or disease.
As we entered the camp, Hugh and Leaking Sam approached us.
Sam greeted us while Hugh stared at us inexpressively.
"Hugh is very pleased to see you," claimed Sam.
They were also very pleased to receive the weapons we gifted them. They said that they had attacked Philippe's soldiers several times and had been driven back at every attempt, hopefully these weapons would help.
Finally we explained that we were planning to move against Gaston et al. and there may come a time when we call upon The Drumclog Few for aid.
"Call and we will come," replied Sam.
There was nothing left to do; so we returned to The Badger Set. Once again avoiding the roads and marching cross country.
The next day came. We now numbered twenty and it was high time to take fight back against our enemies.
Our first targets were Drumclog Castle and Billige, our intention was to free them from beneath the fist of The Black Company.
We would start with the castle, we had heard that Matterson was camped there, along with eight French soldiers.
As the sun was beginning to sink into the west, we set out for Drumclog Castle. Entering the same copse we had hidden ourselves in during our first escapade.
From our hiding spot we watched: Work was under way in restoring the castle, but progress would be slow. There were however, several differences here.
Two black-and-white tents had been set up, as well as another large tent. There were also several wooden huts here, constructed by the workmen.
Finally, we spied two lookouts on the castle's single surviving tower.
The black-and-white tents would be for Matterson and his retinue, but who was in which tent we could not tell. The larger tent would be for the Frenchmen.
Under the cover of darkness, we quickly concocted a plan.
Firstly, we sent the four Welshmen a quarter-mile down the path that led to Billige. They had instructions to finding a hiding spot and wait. If anyone from the castle managed to slip past us, the Welshmen would ambush them. Conversely, if anyone came up the path from Billige, they could warn us.
Next were the lookouts, a volley of a dozen arrows dealt with them.
The foresters and the crows numbered twelve, that should be enough to handle the six remaining French soldiers.
Calder and Mopsa would handle one black-and-white tent, Randulf and I would deal with the other one.
Calder sneaked into a tent slyly, fortune was not with him though and in the darkness he blundered and kicked a bucket over.
This tent contained Matterson's two young squires, the noise they awoke and desperately reached for weapons. It was too late for them though, Calder managed to dispatch the pair of them before they could mount a defence.
Meanwhile in the other tent, Randulf and I quietly approached, as we entered the occupants woke up. Matterson was here, along with two women who began screaming.
Matterson leapt to his feet, grasping a dagger.
Randulf squared off against Matterson for a moment, before charging him, yelling loudly.
I stood back and watched.
Randulf wrestled Matterson to the ground, attempting to subdue him. Matterson in response, lashed out with his dagger. Randulf managed to fend off the blade, but this gave Matterson the opportunity to break free from Randulf's grip.
Randulf was staggered, Matterson slashed a cut in the tent and forced his way out. He did not get far though, I tackled him and we crashed to the ground, the struggle with Randulf had left Matterson wearied and I managed to pummel him into unconsciousness.
At the same time, we heard a long note being blown on a forester's horn! What the blazes were they doing?
We went to the tent, it was a bloody mess, the foresters and crows had made short work of the soldiers within.
The foresters had blown their horn to signify their victory, they explained! They had also cheerfully adorned themselves with the armour, weapons and helmets of the dead soldiers.
To absolutely no one's surprise, once the foresters were loaded down with loot, they cheerfully wandered off back to their home, leaving us to it.
The two women and the workers were no threat and we left them to their own business.
Matterson was now our prisoner, he was trussed up like a chicken and we bought him along with us to Billige.
It was the dead of night when we arrived, along one side of the village was a swathe of sprawling tents inhabited by the Knavesmire refugees. Villagers displaced by The Black Company had swelled their numbers even further.
Billige was a dark and silent place. It's few small streets deserted, doors closed and windows shuttered. Dim wavering candlelight betrayed activity in a few homes.
Ensuring Matterson was gagged, we entered the village centre and tied him to the maypole.
The villagers had told us that there were sixteen Teuton soldiers here, each had taken a house for themselves. The previous occupants forced to find shelter elsewhere.
Their numbers equalled ours, but we had no interest in a fair fight.
Instead we came up with a simple plan. We paired off into eight small teams, each pair would creep into houses containing a Teuton soldier and hopefully kill him in his sleep.
It was a gruesome, cold blooded task, but it was effective. By the time we had visited all sixteen houses, we had managed to quietly kill nine of them. We could not reach the remaining seven, either their doors were locked or they were still awake.
Nevertheless, the odds now greatly favoured us. A pair of us hid outside the door of every remaining Teuton and waited.
Randulf went into the village centre and made a great racket, threatening them by roaring. "Stand and deliver. Your money or your lives,".
As the seven remaining Teutons came out to investigate, they were ambushed. Five were immediately slain, the last two tried to flee into the village centre but they too were cut down.
The Teutons were all dead, Billige had been liberated. There might be repercussions in the future, but for now, the people were free.
Scant minutes ago Billige had been oppressively quiet and empty, now cheering people filled the village centre.
The foresters had reappeared, they were talking about instigating a militia to protect Billige and has luck would have it: The foresters just happened to have some equipment they would happily sell to the villagers for a reasonable price...
For the folk of Billige it was the hour for celebration, for The Merry Badgers, it was the hour for rest, it had been a taxing night.
As we left Billige for The Badger Set, we left Matterson the Cruel tied to the maypole, left to the villager's tender mercies...
So ended the seventh adventure of The Merry Badgers of Billige.
The Ballard of Calder Winterbourne 'Mouse Eater'
It is unclear where or when the ‘Ballad of Calder Winterbourne’ originated. No copy exists with provenance earlier than the mid-fifteenth century (and that only a fragment). It is likely that early versions have been adapted by others over the centuries and sections re-written or entirely new text added, perhaps to add contemporary references, incorporate unrelated fragments or cover situations likely to be familiar to new, later readers. There is, for example, an oblique reference to a possible act of enclosure in the prologue, which must either be a poor transcription or later addition to a supposedly ‘medieval’ text. No reference to Calder Winterbourne exists in the historical record and it is therefore likely that, if he ever existed, his story has been greatly embellished or his tale is a combination of several stories combined in a convenient narrative thread.’‘It is unclear where or when the ‘Ballad of Calder Winterbourne’ originated. No copy exists with provenance earlier than the mid-fifteenth century (and that only a fragment). It is likely that early versions have been adapted by others over the centuries and sections re-written or entirely new text added, perhaps to add contemporary references, incorporate unrelated fragments or cover situations likely to be familiar to new, later readers. There is, for example, an oblique reference to a possible act of enclosure in the prologue, which must either be a poor transcription or later addition to a supposedly ‘medieval’ text. No reference to Calder Winterbourne exists in the historical record and it is therefore likely that, if he ever existed, his story has been greatly embellished or his tale is a combination of several stories combined in a convenient narrative thread.’
The Ballard of Mopsa Hiems 'Mopsacle'
Rumble rumble in the village
The Ballard of Randulf The Red
Stand and listen gentlefolk
The Ballard of Black Stan
Fine Alice from Billige, accused.
I play, I paint.