The spring of 485 found our young squires, Jayden, Tristian, and Morah, in the court at Vagon Castle, where they had wintered with their knights and were continuing their martial training under the tutelage of Sir Elad, the Marshal of Salisbury and Castellan of Vagon Castle.
Sir Elad had heard that the squires, having reached the age of 21, were soon to be knighted, and not a moment too soon. King Uther had called up all able knights to battle the Saxon King Aelle. All eligible squires were to report immediately to their liege, Earl Roderick, and receive their sword and spurs. Sir Elad had but one task for them left: The dreaded Grinder!
The Grinder is a steeple chase of sorts, mixing horsemanship with combat arms in a gruelling and dangerous course. Many a young squire has failed to complete the Grinder, much to their life-long shame. The famous Knight, Sir Osbert, is among those who failed to complete the course.
Morah was the first knight on the course, astride his trusty charger. He completed all the jumping tasks along the course, but failed to strike the quintain and failed the “footman’s ambush” task. He finished the course with a score of 46.
Tristian was next on the course. He also failed the “footman’s ambush” as well as the solitary lance target and the ditch jump. His final score was 48.
Finally, Jayden ran the course. He also failed to strike the stationary lance target, but partially completed the “footman’s ambush”, the only squire to do so on the day. He won the course with a total score of 42 (the lower the better). He received 20 glory, while the others received 10 for having completed the course.
Sir Elad and the squires left for Sarum immediately, leaving their knights to follow along later with the supply trains. Elad was anxious to get the squires to the Earl, not knowing exactly how quickly he wanted to knight them. On the road to Sarum, the squires and Sir Elad encountered a few bandits harassing a farmer on his cart. The squires sprang into action and routed the bandits, killing two and taking one prisoner.
At Sarum, the Earl was impressed by their actions on the road and took time to congratulate and speak with each of the squires. The squires spent the rest of that evening in prayer with Father Tewi at the Church of Salisbury and playing chess in the Earl’s Great Hall with the rest of the squires and pages.
The next day, the squires were treated to witnessing the arrival of Prince Madoc, who brought news of a second Saxon force marshalling at Caercolun. Prince Madoc declared openly that all eligible squires were to be knighted on the marrow by order of his father, the King, and called for a feast to celebrate. The knights from Vagon finally arrived and the squires were put to work arranging their kits for battle and seeing to their horses. Sir Osbert swore that he would not nominate young squire Tritian for knighthood.
At the feast that night, the squires were able to meet and introduce themselves to many ladies of the court, including the beautiful Lady Elaine, Lady Gwiona, Lady Adwen, and the dowager Lady Indeg. Sir Amaury was his usual charming self, and was confronted by Sir Walter after he spent some time flirting with Lady Elaine. Calmer heads prevailed, however, and Sir Walter was pulled aside and calmed down. Sir Osbert, as usual, drank himself under a table…literally. He managed to embarrass himself and his squire, Tristian, a situation that Tristian is all too familiar with.
Toward the end of the evening, Sir Jaradan, known as the finest swordsman in all of Salisbury, challenged Jayden to a duel. Jaradan struck the first blow, a light tap upon Jayden’s shoulder. It was obvious to the court that he was merely toying with the young squire. Jayden, however, would have none of it and knocked Jaradan off his feet with a staggering blow, causing the Earl himself to rise and exclaim, “Good Lord!” For his part, Sir Jaradan took the loss in stride, but promised to see Jayden upon the field of honor again. Much money changed hands that night, including a large wager between the Earl and Sir Elad.
The next morning, Jayden and Morah were nominated by their knights, but Sir Osbert, true to his word, refused to nominate Tristian. Tristian, before the entire assembled court, launched into a stirring oration and was able to sway the recalcitrant knight. Sir Osbert finally conceded and offered Tristian for knighthood. After the ceremony, all but Sir Morah made the leap. Morah, much to the delight of the court, stumbled and planted himself face-first into his horse’s ass.
The Earl’s entourage set forth immediately for Silchester to rendezvous with King Uther and bring battle to the hated Saxons.