20 December 2012 @ 11:07 pm
*NaNo Project* Part the Fourth - Section the First - Camelot - 953AD  
I would be lying if I did not admit that there were many times on the journey to Camelot that I considered abandoning the entire plan. My eighteenth birthday for example would be occurring while I was on the road and although my birthdays had never been anything too special, they had at least been acknowledged and beyond that this one was quite an important one, but instead of being able to mark the occasion with Mother and Father I would have to do so by myself, unless I wished to take some of the soldiers I was travelling with into my confidence. Which, I could do, they weren’t a bad bunch, if I had been worried about them treating me the way the Prince did I was certainly proved wrong there. On the other hand, I was currently on my way out of the kingdom to avoid being pressed into service and they were the ones who could do it!

So my birthday passed unremarked, unless the fact that we arrived at the border to Camelot counted as remarkable…which I supposed it did, in its way.
This was it, the head soldier, Hywel told me that if I entered Camelot unarmed and announced my intent at the border town I would, in all probability be admitted.

“All probability?” I had to question that, it seemed to be a rather important point.

“Well, there’s no official treaty with Camelot,” Hywel explained in what I found to be an entirely too casual manner. “So while we’re hardly in a state of war, you can’t really say we’re allies.”

“No-one told me about this,” I spluttered, staring at him in complete disbelief. Did he think I was mad? That I would just walk across the border with my hands held up in surrender when there was the smallest possibility I might not make it?

“I would have thought you knew,” Hywel gave a shrug. “It’s common enough knowledge, among us at least.”

“Well, I am not one of you,” I grumbled.

Hywel shook his head. “You’ll be fine, no-one in their right mind would be threatened by you.” He gave a laugh.

“Oh, well, thank you.” I rolled my eyes.

Hywel clapped a hand rather roughly on my shoulder, almost knocking me off my feet. “You’re all right, Geoff, for a bookworm.”

I sighed. I supposed risks had to be taken if one was to get anywhere in life and I’d come this far.

The border town was really more of a village and it was about two miles over the border, so the fact that I even reached it either meant I wasn’t viewed with suspicion or that there just weren’t any patrols about at the time.

Much like the trip into Mercia it was hard to really see that I was in a new kingdom, my surrounds were not any noticibly different, at least things didn’t seem much different until I entered the border village. At first I couldn’t quite explain what it seemed so different, it was not as if they buildings were constructed all that differently from the ones in Caerleon and the people weren’t even dressed markedly differently, but as I passed through the town looking for the watch house, which Hywel said would be a tower, I realised what the difference was. There was no church or even a chapel. I was so used to towns with open signs of Christianity within them, that the absence of such was enough to throw me off.

Although it seemed I didn’t make myself too obvious as a stranger because no-one stopped me and asked what my business was, at least not until I reached the watch tower where quite suddenly I was told to halt.

I did and looked up to see someone leaning over the side of the balcony that surrounded the top of the tower.

“Who are you, what business do you have here?”

I wondered briefly if he actually knew that I wasn’t from Camelot or if this was just the question they always asked anyone who passed by. I decided it must be the latter, Camelot’s population wasn’t small enough for that to be possible.

“My name is Geoffrey, sir,” I called out in a tentative tone. “I…I’m from Caerleon, I’m travelling to the capital here to see Cedas the Archivist.”

The guard put up his hand. “All right, all right, don’t need your life story,” he shook his head at me. “And you want to see Cedas? Brave lad. Hold on, I have to check you over personally.”

I supposed if I was here to cause trouble this would have been the time to run, but since I was not I waited for the guard to emerge from the door to the tower.

When he came through the door I discovered on very big difference between the clothing of Caerleon and Camelot, and that was in the military. The guard was dressed in chain mail and wore a long billowing red cloak.

“Right, Geoffrey from Caerleon, I have to inspect you any weapons or secret messages or things of that nature.” The soldier shook his head and looked very amused, I suppose as Hywel had said I was not a particularly dangerous looking person. Still I found it rather undignified been forced to hold out my arms while the guard patted me down.

“You’re fine.” He finally announced and took a step back looking at if he was about to return to his post.



“Is there some sort of…patrol group I can travel with, I mean…I’m not sure how to hunt or defend myself.” It was somewhat embarrassing having to admit that, but better than coming to grief in the forests.

“Not for a few more days, yet,” the soldier looked sour faced, “unfortunately for me, since I’m the one getting relieved.”

“Oh,” I was disappointed, I had hoped I would be able to go directly through to the capital, but I supposed there was nothing for it.

I did not have very much with me, just a few rucksacks that held my books, I hadn’t brought many clothes since I figured that the method of dressing would be different here and I hadn’t wanted to have to bring a cart, that would have just slowed me down.

But I had quite a bit of money, so it was not as if I couldn’t afford to stay for a few days, it was just the waiting that was difficult.

Still, I supposed it would give me time to adjust to life in the kingdom, there were many things that could be different and it was probably best to know of them before I attempted to become Cedas’s apprentice, especially if he was as cantankerous and particular as it seemed.

I thanked the soldier, whose name I learned was Bran, and headed back into the village hoping to find an inn. As it transpired, Camelot was not a kingdom famous for inns, there was however a tavern at least and the propertier there offered me a room for the next three nights for only ten copper coins, so at least I was getting a very good deal.

Once I had set my rucksacks down in the room and making sure the door was locked and I headed back out into the village and went looking around to see what else was there.

There were the buildings you’d expect, the smithy, an apothecary, a meat seller, but there were also some that I had never seen before, although a few questions cleared things up. They were small shrines to the various Old Religion groups, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of them, I didn’t want to gawk at them too much because that would have been rude, but I was curious. What did all the symbols etched in stone and painted on wood mean? How often were the Old Religion Gods prayed to? And was there really that much magic in the kingdom? These were all questions I wished to ask, but as unsure of the etiquette in doing so, some people were particularly defensive of their religions, and I didn’t want to offend anyone.

That evening as I sat in the tavern eating my dinner – which consisted of rather rough mutton and vegetables – I was approached by a young man who had the tanned look of a farmer, who tapped me on the shoulder.

“I heard you’re new here,” he began, but he had a friendly smile on his face, so I didn’t fear for my life. “From Caerleon.”

I nodded. “Yes, Geoffrey, from Monmouth.”

“Aldric of here,” he gave a laugh. “Although I have family in Caerleon, at least I did ten years ago, haven’t really heard from them in a while.”

“Are they from near Monmouth? Or Abertawe?” I asked. “Those are really the only two towns I know of well.”

Aldric shook his head. “No they were in – But that’s not why I’ve decided to grace you with my presence, no, it’s more I’m curious, you came all the way down here for some books or something?”

I invited him to take the seat beside me and went on to explain. “Not exactly, I’m hoping to become an apprentice, in the archives. I heard you keep meticulous archives here.”

Aldric pursed his lips. “Can’t really tell you if that’s true or not, I can’t even read. But I do know that a couple of years ago, that old archivist passed through here, he was taking a census or something, you know, the thing where they take down everyone’s name in the kingdom. So somewhere in those archives at Camelot is my name, Aldric of Stonewall.”

Well, we’d never had a census taken in Caerleon, at least not that I knew of, so this sounded very promising indeed!

“Have you ever been to the capital?” I asked, remember what Deacon Maxim had said about that.

“Can’t say I have actually,” Aldric looked disappointed by this fact. “I almost got there once, but the river flooded and I had to turn back. Not only a lost opportunity but a complete waste of grain. That wasn’t a good harvest season for me.”

“I’m sorry,” I sympathised, not that I knew anything about harvesting.

Aldric waved a hand. “Not your fault,” he then got a sly look upon his face. “You could treat me to some ale, though, if you really feel bad.”

I laughed at his cheek, but since the ale was so cheap I decided I may as well.

We fell into talk about our relative kingdoms and I found out a few things more about the Old Religions, although since Aldric didn’t follow any in particular I didn’t find out anything too detailed.

“Personally I don’t put much stock in most of it, but there a few interesting ones out there,” Aldric said between sips of his ale. “The ones with the priestesses especially, but then I’m often called a leach.” He laughed clearly amused rather than offended by the name.

I though remembered what Dylis had said all those years ago about the naked dances that used to take place during the Midsummer’s Eve festival, I wondered if here in Camelot that still happened and if so what I would do! I suppose I could just stay in my home – when I got a home that is – and keep my eyes averted.

Aldric and I talked long into the night until eventually my eyelids were so heavy I almost fell asleep on the table! Aldric poked me in the shoulder to wake me up and said that if I wanted to get more of a feel for the place, I could come and visit his farm tomorrow. I told him I was more than happy to do so – having never been on one before - and the next morning, I walked about half a mile out of Stonewall where a rather small house stood not far from the road but was surrounded by a huge expanse of field.

On my arrival I was greeted by Aldric, who despite having stayed up later than I had and drinking far more had obviously been up for hours and he seemed quite clear headed.

“You get used to the life,” he told me, “and working all day long in the sun seems to have the benefit of allowing one to avoid the horrors of a hangover. I hope your head is all right?”

I assured him it was fine and so it was, I was just surprised that he was fairing so well!

My introduction to the wonders of farm life proved to be an interesting one, I had read about the farming practices of the Romans in books, but that really wasn’t the same as actually seeing it being done - though you would be hard pressed to get me to admit that being a lover of books as I am.

However the benefits of books are that you don’t get exhausted and dirty from studying them in detail…by the end of the day I was covered in mud and some unidentifiable plant matter and my body was aching from all the walking and the brief time I spent baling hay just to see what it was like.

Aldric seemed to think that was very amusing and spent a great deal of time laughing at me. But at the end of the day he said I had done quite a good job for a beginner, but if I didn’t want to get into farming he could more than understand that.

I thanked him and said that I hoped I would see him about the tavern, before I returned to it myself and availed the use of the bathtub, where I spent a good hour cleaning off all the dirt, I started to think I would never be clean again!

If I had learnt nothing else from this experience it was that the rural life was most certainly not for me!
Current Mood: curious