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Old Ways meet New Ways

Spoilers follow as this adventure is "The Adventure Of The White Horse" from the Pendragon 4th Edition core rulebook.

Date: October 30, 2005
Teaser:

A party at Earl Robert's! The perfect place for wooing women... and for starting an adventure!
Bits 'n pieces: Choose Arthur. Choose Christianity, or choose the Old Ways. Choose a woman. Choose abstinence, or choose indulgence. Choose the hunt, or choose the chase.
Choose life.
System: Pendragon!
Soundtrack: Nope.

The festival of Eponnah

This one-shot took place October 30, 2005 and was GM-ed by Jake. Matthijs and Hugo had played Pendragon before, and had brought their previous characters along. The rest of the gang created new characters from the templates. To differentiate between the characters, each was given three points to spend on anything listed under "personal traits", "passions" and "stats" and 6 points to upgrade skills. There were some sensible caps to the upgrading :)

Note from Jake: we pretty much followed the rules for "The Winter Phase".

The cast

The cast consisted of slightly upgraded versions of the character templates, i.e. "De Falt man", "Berserker", "Courtier", "Master of the Tourney". They all started as knights, loyal vassals of Earl Robert.

Actor Name Template Other characteristics
Matthijs sir John de Falt De Falt man Occasional leader of the pack
Xavier sir Brad Winterborn-Gunnet Courtier Better accustomed to life at court then the life outdoors. Enjoys the company of ladies - and they his.
Jeroen sir William Pryce Master of the Tourney Christian to the core, believes the Old Ways are bollocks
Ferry sir Eric Wilten ? Raised as a Christian, unfamiliar with the old ways
Hugo sir Richard Burcombe Berserker Scarred, has got feelings for Miranda (Earl Robert's 3rd daughter) but is woefully inept to express this

Session log (as written by Sir Richard Burcombe)

Aah, but it was a fine year to remember. My little brother, getting of and marrying - and a fine woman he has found himself! I owe Garadan (the earl's master trainer of squires) a debt of gratitude. Were it not for his suggestion, I would have been at a loss as to how to organise his stag party without mortally offending his wife. His idea to take the term literally was sheer brilliance! It took quite some doing, but in the end we even maneuvered events so, that little Duncan could finish the magnificent beast off.

Aye, his Brenna didn't seem too pleased with the idea, but she was delighted by his succes! My dear father too seemed to appreciate the turnout of events.
Needless to say, the wedding feast was quite exuberant. Garadan attended on behalf of Earl Robert, and it was a great honour to house the Earl's Master of Arms and foremost Trainer of Knights. My brother seemed taken aback a bit by this unexpected gesture of the Earl, but then he once again looked into Brenna's eyes and seemed lost again in a world of bliss.

There was something familiar about his look, and it suddenly struck me that I myself might not appear that different in the presence of the Lady Miranda. The thought of her stirred me into action, and I accosted Garadan and besought him to bring my greetings to Lady Miranda, and my sincerest apologies for my prolonged, but necessary, absence for her fathers court.

The mention of her father thankfully brought enough of my head out of the clouds so as to enquire to his health and request that greetings would also be addressed to him. Garadan had a slight smile playing around his lips, I imagine my feelings might have gotten the better of me again. However, as my old mentor knew me quite well, he was hardly surprised. He even saw fit to mention a feast, Earl Robert had planned later this year. And indeed, when the expected invitation came in early spring, Father send for me and instructed me to hold up the family honour.

The seating arrangements alone were evidence of the honour bestowed on our families by the Earl. I found myself just one table removed from the main table(!). At first, I gazed longingly at the ever-beautiful Lady Miranda, but then I got poked by my old training companion John and I took notice of my table companions. There were a couple of guys from my traineeship, who all had since been knighted: good old John de Falt, Brad Winterborn-Gunnet, William Pryce and Eric Wilten. Eric's family traditionally made a living by breeding fine horses, and for those of noble blood it does well to be on the good side of this heir.

There was also another knight at our table, whose age easily surpassed that of Earl Robert - he seemed over 40! By no means, however, did this great age seem to hamper this knight. This strange knight was involved in a conversation with the somewhat infamous Lady Madule - known for having attended the same convent as Morgana le Fay, and expelled from the order with that woman on charges of witchcraft. Her ladyship asked the knight a direct question concerning his personal views on religion. His marvelous answer left little to be guessed about the man's faculties, and it was about time to make my acquaintance.

He introduced himself as "The Knight of the Old Ways". This strange and alluring distinction raised an eyebrow here and there amongst my former training companions. He proceeded to query sir Wilten as to the nature of his fathers religious feelings - was he still enamored of the Old Ways?

I indicated that I felt the question was somewhat inappropriate. Eric responded by indicating he had been raised as a Christian and had no idea to what the Knight allured to. The Knight explained, that the next full moon would herald the feast of Eponnah - Goddess of the Horses. Anyone who was present when the full moon was riding the sky at the White Horse near Uffington, would be blessed by the horsegoddess. As this event only occurred once every ten years, the Knight had determined to venture out there himself.

This promise of adventure by itself was enough to entice us all. We agreed to meet the next day at dawn and ride towards Uffington. Later at the evening I ran into Miranda and was again left speechless by her delicate beauty. I managed to mumble something about our impending journey, and was overjoyed to receive her best wishes on this journey!

On the morrow I still felt lightheaded by this unexpectedly bestowed blessing. Looking at the faces of my travelling companions, it almost felt like old times again. Sir Eric Wilten, sir William Pryce and myself had stood many a morning on the field. Sir Pryce seemed as awake as he had always done at dawn. Eric seemed to stifle a yawn - as did I. It was an early hour for the splendid party that we had enjoyed.

A bit late, and hastily fastening his armour, sir Winterborn-Gunnet came smiling from a peculiar direction. I could only presume he had once again found his way into the good graces of certain maidens of the staff. His arrival completed our party, and my good friend John de Falt signalled departure.

During the journey, to while away the time, I rode my horse up to the horse carrying the Knight of the Old Ways. It was a magnificent steed, and it seemed to be of a breed foreign to England. The Knight confirmed that it was not of an indigenous stock, but a gift to him from a dear friend in Bretagne. He spun a fine tale of the horse's origins, which he claimed involved Powers not of This World. It was a fine tale, and upon observing the horse, one could not be faulted for adhering some credence to it.

The next day I rode up to the Knight of the Old Ways once more and prevailed upon him to recount to us more of the event we were heading towards. His magnificent account was told so superbly, that any rewording by me would do injustice to it. It was evident that this intriguing Knight had an extensive knowledge of fairy lore (as commoners call it).

When the sun colored the sky red, our little group arrived at the White Horse of Uffington. Protruding from the entire side of one hill, there were white lines of the chalky rock. Upon closer inspection is became evident that the ground had been removed, thus clearing the view for the white chalk to form the semblance of a horse on the hillside. We rode towards a lone figure who seemed to be holding watch over the depiction.

He came and greeted us, introducing himself as Father Laurens. After bestowing the Lord's blessings upon each of us, he directed his attentions once again to his prayers. It struck me as odd that a man of the cloth had brought a statue with him to pray to, although perhaps I misunderstood this.

We waited patiently for the moon to rise. As a silver glow became apparent over the horizon, a sudden hush fell. But even as the moon climbed higher and higher, nothing happened. Father Laurens turned to us as if only now truly taking notice of us, and enquired of us what good Christian knights were doing at the expected place of a heathen ritual. I cared little for his tone, especially considering that he, as a man of the cloth, had brought an idol with him. My disposition towards him further soured as he began to speak badly on a certain Lady Polleth. This noble Lady had, according to Father Laurens, sought to make a festival out of this occasion. He only could not fathom why they weren't here at the moment of its inception.

Suddenly, the Knight of the Old Ways spake. He proposed that we had, in fact, ventured to the wrong White Horse. The look on my compatriots' faces professed their amazement, which was no less than mine. The Knight continued by explaining that there was another such structure as the one before us in this area. Given the time, we might just be able to make it before the moon would set. To improve our chances, he advised us to lighten our loads. As said, was done and soon each of us sat in his saddle wearing not his iron armour, but merely a studded leather vest. We instructed our squires to escort Father Laurens to safety, and went our ways.

At full gallop we sped through the night. The forest streaked by us at an amazing speed, the bright moon illuminating everything in a peculiar white-greyish shade. After a few hours of hard riding, the warm glow of fires could be made out in front of us. In a few swift minutes we came upon a veritable party. There were eagerly shouted invitations, and some of the young maidens were very profound in their allurement. John was taken in by this, but we remembered our quest and turned our horses and sped on.

Another hour into the night, with the moon slowly but steadily descending, an enormous, powerful built red stag crossed our path. I saluted it, and when it had cantered off, prevailed upon the Knight of the Old Ways the meaning of what had just transpired. He explained that the Red Stag, when hunted down, would ensure strong and prodigious offspring for the successful hunter. I wheeled my horse about and urged it after the Stag.

It took me a while before noticing that my comrades had not joined me upon this excursion, which made the prospect of hunting the Stag down somewhat more of a challenge. I rode upon an open spot in the woods, overflowing with the pale moonlight, and remembered the original quest. The Stag stood proudly upon a rock protruding from the land - to which there was no easy path. I made my mind up, saluted the magnificent beast once more with a silent vow to seek him out another time, and urged my poor horse on to catch up with the others.

It took quite some time for me to catch up with them again, and when I found them, they had engaged in a friendly contest of jousting with several other knights. Sir Wilten had already unseated his opponent and ridden on, while Sir Winterborn-Gunnet was lying on the forest ground, his wounds a silent reminder of the lesser protection we were wearing.

Naturally, I was challenged also. I apologised in advance to the rival knights that I had only brought one lance, but they assured me not to think less of me for this and offered their own lances, should mine break.

It did not.
At the first pass, I needed to get used to the greater mobility and lesser stiffness of the leather armour. Its greater range of motion allowed me to score a hit on my opponent, but the lack of stiffness resulted in a less forceful hit than I had expected. On the second pass, I paid more attention to this and scored a superb hit, unseating my opponent forcefully.

The moon was sinking beneath the horizon, and it was with pain in our hearts that we were forced to leave sir Winterborn-Gunnet, who was unable to ride further, in the care of the rival knights. We drove on, and had to drive our pitiable horses hard to have any hope of arriving on time at the presumed feast.

Finally, we saw a bonfire upon a hill and charged upwards. This proved too be to much to ask our faithful steeds and as we received our first view of the other White Horse, they sank to the ground. We dismounted and they rose again, shakily. I began rubbing my horse down, and felt remorse at what I had made him endure. A beautiful Lady came up to us and asked us if we would like to join the Wild Ride. Although this was what we had come to do, I could not, nay would not force my beleaguered horse through more efforts this day - although I keenly felt the loss of this marvelous opportunity. The rest of my companions followed suit, barring sir Pryce. He seemed eager to see this adventure through to the end. Since, as I had understood it, this ritual would conclude the blessings for the horse, I asked William if he would lead my horse with him on the wild ride. He agreed, and I began to unsaddle my steed so as to lessen the load upon him.

The Lady nodded, laid her delicate fingers across each horse (which calmed them down noticeably) and whispered into the ear of William's horse. She then ventured forward, to the foot of the hill and the front of the gathered folk. There she lifted her hands high above her head. A silver moonbeam struck them and a brilliant, white light glowed over the fields and encompassed us all. Suddenly, all of our horses whinnied and seemed well rested. The Lady shouted "Come! Join us! Join the Wild Ride!". And so we all did!

William tossed me the reigns, and I jumped onto my horse and rode bareback in a ride that was indeed Wild. Racing down from the hill, there was a peculiar view at the outer edges of my field of vision. The lands became a blur, and we rode onwards into some half-magical variant of the landscape we had just seen before. I hardly noticed the people that were tossed from their horses. Finally, up the hill Sir Wilten and I came upon an old, magical farm. We dismounted, and took our horses to the trough. The trough was filled with remarkably clear water. Eric drank himself too from this trough, and though it may now sound strange, it felt like the natural thing to do and so I drank too. There was a chest some ways further down, of which we had little interest. The others who caught up with us proceeded to open it and found it filled with silver coins, marked with an elegant unicorn on one side. I took one, which in my mind was a perfect gift for Lady Miranda.

Somewhere we must have fallen asleep, for we both came round with the sun high in the sky, the farm nor the Knight of the Old Ways nowhere in sight. We hardly could believe our memories, but each had a coin as living testimony to our adventure.

And that concludes the Story of Eponnah's festival.

— Page by Hugo


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