Luguvalium¹ (Cumberland, north-west England)
376 miles to Ethling² (Hampshire, southern England)
Sir Jaime of Calunis³ strode quickly through the streets of the town, eager to get out of the driving rain even if he doubted the news he was going to hear would be good. He had just learned that his son Gerard had been kidnapped while visiting King Arthur's court at Camelot which was why he was going to see the local wise-man Talon who, he knew, was a friend of Arthur's court mage Merlin.
Jaime suspected that Talon was no mean magician himself, mainly from his small tumbledown hut along the road between the town and the wall fort just north of it. Set down a little side-track there seemed nothing to stop wild animals from straying into it or people from helping themselves to his well-kept vegetable and herb gardens, yet from the pristine nature of the place very clearly none ever did. He hoped that the fellow had at least some abilities; he needed his son alive!
The door to the hut opened when Jaime was barely two foot away from it, and Talon appeared looking even more care-worn than usual. He yawned as he beckoned the knight inside.
“Communicating over three hundred miles takes it out of you”, he sighed. “Yes, I have news. Your boy is safe enough but.... that is pretty much where the good news ends. Sit you down, boy.”
Jaime was twenty-six years of age but did not correct him. He sat and waited anxiously.
“I had better start with your half-sister Cersei”, Talon began.
The knight winced. That woman – she was no lady that was for sure - was insatiable and had once got him so drunk that he had ended up in her bed. The son that she had had nine months later, Geoffrey, was most likely his but any hopes she might have had of anything more had been blown to the four winds; Jaime had not been able to get far enough away from her fast enough. She had followed Sir Lancelot, Jaime's first cousin, south to Camelot and.....
His eyes widened in horror.
“My son!” he exclaimed.
“Not that!” Talon reassured him. “Hell the boy is only ten years of age, too young even for that bitch. And as for Lancelot, he knows full well what she is like. No, she discovered that a son of Joyous Gard would create a dynasty that would rule in these islands. She knew it could never be Lancelot's boy; Galahad is too pure and chaste to know a woman in any sense of the word, so it had to be either Geoffrey or Gerard.”
Gerard, Jaime's (other) son from a woman he had met while fleeing from Cersei. May had died giving birth to the boy and Lancelot had insisted on raising him as a full family member. That, unfortunately, had led to Gerard recently having to travel to Camelot in order to explain why Sir Lancelot was not really hiding out from a Queen Guinevere who had made his time there so uncomfortable that keeping the ravaging Picts the other side of the wall had seemed a much more attractive option. Jaime had wanted to go with his son but there had just been another major raid so he could not.
“They were receiving a delegation of the Jutish gewisse⁴ who have ensconced themselves at the western edge of the Shore⁵”, Talon said. “Cersei used her friendship with Guinevere – a tarts' alliance, one might cruelly if accurately say – to use the son as surety, allowing the Jutes to take him with them.”
Jaime put his head in his hands.
“I have to go and get him back”, he said. “Can it be done?”
The knight stared at the fellow. That presaged a definite 'but' in someone's immediate future.
”However”, Talon said, “you will need help. Only one man can aid you in this quest and his aid will not be easy to secure.”
Even as he said it Jaime could feel his heart sinking.
“Bronn?” he asked. Talon nodded.
“Sir Bronn of the Black Water”, he said. “I do not know what his price will be but I rather suspect that it will be a high one. Although the Jutes will not harm the fellow; they know it would bring Arthur's wrath upon them if they did especially with things the way they are just now⁶.”
“Thank you”, he said dully.
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“Well?” Merlin asked anxiously, his voice buzzing slightly over the magical connection.
“I did not like lying to him”, Talon said coolly, “but yes. He took the bait.”
“Sorry you had to do that”, Merlin said. “You had better start arranging the 'supplies' that his friend will need for their journey.”
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1. Carlisle. It had originally been Caer Luguwaljon, the fortress of the Celtic messenger-god Lugus. A town adapted by the Romans to serve the Hadrian's Wall fortress across the River Eden, now the suburb of Stanwix.
2. Jaime Lannister's destination. More when he gets there but it is on the Hampshire coast near modern Southampton.
3. Lancaster, Lancashire. Both modern and Latin names feature the local river, the Lune, itself likely named from a Celtic god Ialonius whose functions are unknown. Lancaster was one of many towns to be later used as a fortified place by the Saxons hence the addition of the suffix -castra, Latin for fort.
4. Basically sellswords who worked on longer-term contracts. Provided they got paid, otherwise they might start working for themselves, as these had done.
5. The Saxon Shore, a coastal strip established by the Romans after Britannia twice broke away from Imperial rule in the late third century A.D. Germanic settlers, mostly Saxons, were allowed to settle between the Isle of Wight and the Wash Estuary in return for defending their lands against other incomers. Despite the name several different Germanic tribes had been settled along it; the Jutes as their name suggests came from Jutland in modern Denmark.
6. 501 was the year after Arthur's forces had crushed a combined army of Saxons and Jutes from the two new kingdoms at the Battle of Badon (possibly Badbury, Wiltshire). Sussex would never really recover from this defeat and Kent would be severely weakened for some time.
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