The Royal Progress
Elemmhir’s Diary, Autumn 1099
We set off at noon on the most glorious September afternoon, all were in fine fettle; except perhaps for Brother Michael who I think was wondering exactly what he had taken on.
The plan was for the Royal Party to only travel for a short time this afternoon. Following the country lanes we passed a few farms and the hamlet of Netherbourne, a few of the locals turned out to see what was happening and some were clearly confused as to what the Queen was doing. One of the guards was asked if there were problems with the ritual circles again. I was left to explain what was happening and why. The comment that the Queen thought it was about time that she toured the country and allowed everyone to come and speak to her went down well. One farmer promised to follow us to the camp and ask her Majesty to ask the best way to deal with his wayward son, I’m sure she’ll be able to do this! And so the day passed well, that is until we reached that evening’s camp.
There was a great amount of confusion when the party arrived. Apparently the staff sent on ahead to make the camp had decided that since Brother Michael, who was travelling with the Queen, was in charge of the camp arrangements they had better not do too much in case it was wrong! Poor Brother Michael was almost at a loss; we were all having visions of the Queen receiving petitioners on a field and most of the party sleeping out doors as well. However Prince Cadarn saved much embarrassment by offering most of the guard to help, and organising himself, Ancelyn and Jaspar to pitch his and the Queen’s personal tents. They tried to get me to assist until I drew their attention to the perfectly beautiful oak tree nearby and my thick cloak.
Incidentally the Farmer with the recalcitrant son was advised to allow the boy to discover what he wanted to do, and if need be to be sent to serve in Winchester Castle for a year to widen his horizons.
The day dawned fine again; a slight hint of Autumn on the air but it is hard to believe that summer should be over. After breakfast the Royal party set off again, leaving the staff trying to remember how they were supposed to pack the tents.
Mid- morning we paused at the mill near the village of Gorton. Word, by this time had spread, and many people were gathered on the miller’s lawn. They were delighted when her majesty stopped to admire the herb garden of the miller’s wife. Continuing beyond noon we stopped at the “Winchester Way” Inn for the luncheon, I do not think I have ever seen such a jittery landlord, and it was Brother Michael’s staff who provided and prepared the food.
Continuing north we were met by many more locals on the road. Stopping for an hour at Petersfield, in the late afternoon, we took tea and Prince Cadarn was asked to give the Headman of the Village some advise, what, I do not know. Having just set off again we were hit by a summer storm, but I do not think that anybody minded much. It was still warm and the rain soon passed. However, we then reached the evening camp to discover that they too had been hit by the storm.
Most of the Queen’s clothing had been soaked, due to being packaged carelessly, luckily two dresses were still dry, having been packed separately in case the weather had changed dramatically en-route. Her Majesty was a little annoyed, but nothing was ruined, they would dry out soon, however that was before we realised how careless the camp attendants had been, Prince Cadarn was changing in his pavilion when a gust of wind nearly took it off the ground! Sir Ancelyn was out for somebody’s blood, until Jaspar calmed him down and Anatasia found a steaming Brother Michael to take charge. Well nobody was hurt, but I think that when we reach Londinium there may well be a change in staff.
We had only been travelling for an hour when the Walls of Londinium hove into view. Great many farms surround this fine city and many of the workers had stopped to line the Queen’s route. Prince Cadarn was not acting in his usual calm manner and when I asked why Ancelyn told me that it was because he was not sure what his brother, Corax, had planned as a welcome.
But there was no need to worry, about one hour before noon the Royal Entourage entered the South Gate of Londinium. It seemed that the entire City had turned out to welcome their Queen and her Prince. It brought a tear even to the most world-weary Elves’ eye (I saw you Celadore, despite my own teary vision).
And later on what a Party! After the formal banquet Corax had laid on a stunning entertainment. He really does know how to throw a bash. Corax insisted that everybody eat (although they had just finished a lavish feast), drink and be merry. Believe me, most did not hesitate. I noticed that the Queen had managed to sneak away early, no doubt at the insistence of the very protective Lady Katerina, but it is a good thing that we do not have to rise too early in the morning.
Several of the party failed to appear for breakfast. As usual her Majesty was bright and fresh in the morning, as was the Prince, even Jaspar was a little bleary eyed though. There was more for Brother Michael to organise now, as more people were going to be travelling on with the Court. Lady Katerina offered her assistance, which was gratefully received.
Once all was ready we set out for the docks where her Majesty was to launch a ship. On the way we paused to visit a resting MASH unit and although far less crowded than yesterday many of the populace had turned out to greet their Queen.
It was with a, not quite hidden, lump in her throat that Her Majesty launched the good ship “Prince Elias”. I am not sure that she will ever really be able to talk of him without the remembrance of the loss rather than the joy. With this duty done, we boarded the Royal Barge, the “Albion Fair” and slipped out of the Londinium dock to head up the river to Selby.
Arriving at noon, Jaspar having insisted that with the wraiths’ attacks we were not staying there beyond mid afternoon, the party disembarked and attended the opening of the new Armourers’ Guild House. Her Majesty clearly less than fascinated by the explanation of a new technique to forge breastplates, left Cadarn to hear the rest and with a few people sought the quiet sanctity of the Abbey. She stayed there for some time, talking with the Abbot and the Mayors’ wife, and then she went onto to town where she addressed the crowed now gathered in the Market place.
Speaking of her sorrow at their losses the Queen praised the townsfolk for their fortitude; she introduced Earl Marshall Cai to them, and said that he would do all that he could to aid them. She said knew that the town could withstand further attacks and that soon Cai and his men would have the foes defeated and their patterns corrected.
As Cai stood there with many of his young Marchwood elves, I did not doubt that he would soon have the situation under control.
Then the Royal Party embarked on the Albion Fair and continued up river to Oxford.
Arriving rather later that scheduled the Queen was greeted by the anxious Mayor and other Oxford notables. The first thing her majesty did was to usher the cold crowd off the quay and into the nearby Guildhall, which was being prepared for the evening’s banquet. Katerina and Michael quickly had the place cleared and the welcoming speeches were heard there. Then with apologies to the staff for the disturbance in their preparations the Queen calmly invited the flustered Mayor to escort her and her Consort to their chambers, that they might prepare for dinner.
This was another fine banquet, laid on by the people of Oxford. The Mayor gave a fine speech and then we were entertained by a group of five singers. They even coerced her Majesty into joining in, on the excuse of not having enough sopranos to give a good rendition of Albion Forever. I sense Kat’s work there. And so we retired once more for the night. Some to the Royal Barge and the rest scattered in handfuls to the larger houses or finer inns throughout Oxford.
I think I had better find more paper and ink before we set out tomorrow!
Leaving Oxford amid glorious autumn sunshine we boarded the Albion Fair and headed up river to Buckingham.
Stopping there for luncheon Her Majesty was asked to open the New Town Hall. This would have been completed last year except that many of the town’s craftsmen had added their labours to the rebuilding of Hereford during the winter. The Mayor asked permission to dedicate the Hall to the Queen herself, this given, the “Queen’s Hall” is now the Town Hall in Buckingham.
Back aboard the Albion Fair we continued to Edwinstowe. The town has the most beautiful market place and this now contains a statue of Zircon of the Hunters. She was at one time Baroness of Edwinstowe and the townsfolk were good friends of hers. They decided that the statue would be raised in her memory. The Queen was visibly moved when she unveiled this, startlingly accurate, image of Zircon: standing proud with sword in hand.
Today we have left the Albion Fair behind and set out overland towards Ellenbrook, my home. The Forest seemed to grow around us as we progressed into the edges of the Greatest Woodland of Albion.
There are few villages on the edges of the Greenwood but still a large crowd joined us for the luncheon. An elderly lady berated her Majesty for being too thin and “strapped in”. Katerina stepped in and kindly steered the crone away, promising to pay attention to what was said. The menfolk of the partly were rather more embarrassed than the Queen, I think.
Soon we headed into the Heart of the Greenwood.
The Forest is so lovely during the late summer that the journey became a pleasant stroll. A number of the Court had never been to Ellenbrooke before and their amazement at the first glimpse of the Elven City was obvious to all around. I suppose it does look strange, but none the less beautiful for that, to eyes used to stone and brick.
The place has changed so much since I was young. There are many ground dwellings now, even some inns and taverns which have only arrived in the last half century. I am surprised that I can still find my way around. Anyway, the Hunters came out in force to greet the Queen and her Consort.
The woods were bedecked in garlands and lanterns; soft light shone around the Elven City. A canopy had been erected for her Majesty to dine under. Queen Elspeth obviously had some warning of the splendour to greet her; after changing for the evening, she appeared in the most glorious shimmering gown. I think I recognise the skill of the Marchwood Elves in the weave.
Lord Calin, favoured of the Hunter, was resplendent in Elven robes. It made a pleasant change to see him out of his armour and since, for a change, there was neither dispute nor danger he was his old charming self. Not the dour image that most of Albion is used to. After a stunning repast Malik, having asked the Prince’s permission, requested a dance from the Queen, she accepted and the party began in earnest.
The Heart of the Greenwood rang with laughter and music, as it has not in many years. The people of Ellenbrooke will be recounting the tales of that party for decades to come. But of what happen I shall say no more, I’m not entirely sure I remember all aright!
We are not travelling today. The Queen and her staff have business to discuss with the Elders of Ellenbrooke and so a day of relaxation under the boughs of the Greenwood is in store for the others. Unfortunately there is not to be any rest for me, after all, somebody has to take down the decisions made at the meeting!
The members of the Hunters and Bacchus’ Bastards who had been off enjoying themselves all day returned to announce that there would be another party that night. This was far less formal than the previous days. Silly games were played and the minstrels must have broken many a string, trying to keep up with the demand for music to dance to. After the food was served Queen Elspeth took great delight in encouraging the dancing, by asking those sitting on the sidelines to join her and not taking “no” for an answer. Jac, I think has two left feet!
At what time the party ended I could not say, but the music and laughter lulled me to sleep some time before the dawn.
I think we were expected to leave the Elven City shortly after first light. Well even her Majesty was slow to rise this morning. According to Celadore she was barely abed before dawn, having spent the night in discussion with, amongst others, Malik, Calin and Hugo. He said he had rarely seen her so animated in what appeared to be a primarily military discussion.
Anyway we reached the forest glen ritual circle not too long after mid morning and in stages the Royal Party was transported to Iver. Brother Michael, his efficiency becoming more obvious daily, had already rearranged the day’s schedule.
The reception awaiting us at Iver was kept informal and reasonably short, we were offered a light luncheon; which I expect was breakfast to many and it was not too far into the afternoon that we once more boarded the Albion Fair and set off for Colchester.
After a pleasant trip down river we disembarked in the evening sunshine to be met on the quay by the dignitaries of Colchester. We proceeded to the Mayor’s house, where after a short time to meet informally, the Queen attended another formal banquet.
I do not believe that anything important happened at the banquet. I spent the evening helping Brother Michael, Ancelyn and Anatasia organise the forward party for the next day. Brother Michael was to travel with them with the intention of ensuring the camp would be set up correctly this time.
The Royal party departed Colchester early in the morning and headed north, up the coast road.
Before long we came to a memorial to a large number of fishermen who were lost in a dreadful storm in 1087. The few who survived related their tale to the Queen and told her of the hardship faced by the families of the dead. They said that the others in the community usually looked to the welfare of widows and orphans, but when so many were lost at once, it was very hard. Her Majesty promised to have Earl Marshall Ranulf, the Lord High Chamberlain, arrange provision for similar circumstances in the future.
Since the weather remained so fair, we stopped in a cove near the village of Cloughton for a late luncheon. Again the people from the area joined us, some must have travelled overnight they were so far from home. Everyone was delighted when the Prince tried his hand at “crabbing” in the rock pools with the children.
Then we were off again. The coast road wanders a mile or so inland here, just too far away to hear the crashing of the waves, but not too far to escape the incessant wailing of the gulls. It was early in the evening, the air was beginning to chill that we crested a rise to be greeted by a happy, and much relieved, Brother Michael. The supper was being prepared in a beautifully set up camp. Ancelyn was relaxing, yes it does happen, with the rest of the forward party and there was not a badly pitched tent in sight.
The Queen and Prince took a quiet supper and retired early.
With another full day travelling ahead, we rose early, breakfasted and made a good start. As we travel north the air becomes almost imperceptibly colder, but the weather is being so kind to us that I barely believe that this really is autumn, not still summer. It cannot last.
Two villages en route today. The first, Whitethorne, so large as to almost be a town, laid on a fine luncheon in the Market Square. They hold the bimonthly market for the locality and specialise in concocting a special type of smoked fish. I thought it awful but the Queen liked it so much that she placed a regular order for the Court.
Quite late into the afternoon we came to the second village. This was very new, so new that it did not have a name even. This village had sprung up around the fire used to warn ships off the rocks below. The family who traditionally tended the fire had grown so large that they had added another house. Then more of the children married and started farming the land nearby. A local brewer decided that the stream there was just what he needed for his dark beer, with him, his brother and family came, and they built a tavern to sell the brew. Thus the community grew, some twenty years ago. It was now a thriving village.
Whilst the Royal Party took refreshments, the Headman respectfully asked whether the Queen would consent to give the village a name. She requested that the village council join her and after discussions over tea, the name of Beacon Point was settled upon. The villagers seemed pleased with the name, they offered to send a keg of their best ale to the cartographers, who would now need to put it on the Albion maps.
After a longer than planned stop at Beacon Point, it was beginning to get dark when we reached camp. Brother Michael’s staff seem to have sorted themselves out now, again the camp was properly set up and we all retired after a pleasant, if a little over cooked, supper.
Another early start, those of us who have been with the Progress from the start are now getting used to the routine, so we got moving in good order. I think that Prince Cadarn may even have lost a little weight.
The aim was to reach Chelmsford by noon; so there were no planned stops until then. Unfortunately, for the schedule, the brief rest at mid morning saw the local populace out in force, all wanting to greet their Queen. By the time her Majesty and the Prince had spoken to most of the crowd it was noon. Ever willing Ancelyn was sent ahead to warn the reception party in Chelmsford of the delay.
It must have been two hours passed noon when the walls of Chelmsford hove into view. The citizens of the thriving town had turned out in force to welcome Queen Elspeth, this was her first visit to the place.
Her Majesty had been due to give her blessing to a Shrine to the Mother at one hour after noon and it was a somewhat flustered Town Council that tried to hurry the Royal Party through the Town. Her Majesty, refusing to be rushed stopped to talk to the people lining the streets, which they appreciated greatly. It must have been mid afternoon before the blessing was given.
That done we adjourned to the Keep where a light tea was taken while Jac, the High Sheriff of Albion, arranged for the case of a alleged murderer to be heard. Martini Bianco, the Earl Marshall of York was to hear the man’s case, with two local nobles. Lord Martini found that the man had not deliberately slain his business partner, but had lost his temper and lashed out. The man was committed to serve in the Chelmsford defence force, or Militia, for five years. In addition he would pay the stipend he would receive for the Militia service to the widow of his victim, ensure that she continued to receive half the profits from his brewery and allow her eldest son to join the firm, if he so wished. The notables of Chelmsford were apparently impressed with the judgement, I think that Lord Martini will be a popular Earl Marshall here.
I had been fully expecting another formal dinner and was surprised to find that an informal supper had been arranged for the Royal Party. They were joined by the Aldermen of Chelmsford and a pleasant evening was had by all, and an early night by most.
After a fine breakfast we left the protective walls of Chelmsford and headed north-west. For luncheon we stopped near the ritual circle at Fryston, there we were honoured by a visit from Minister Arcane, Kelvin. He had the inevitable bunch of papers from Lord Ranulf, and said he would stay with the party for a few days.
The weather was somewhat more threatening than it has been, but it still held fine. So it was in good spirits that we reached the market town of Ely at mid afternoon. The arrangements were that the Queen would entertain the town’s Ladies to afternoon tea, while the Prince when to the harbour to survey the fishing fleet. I think that Katerina insisted upon this, as she could not see any possible interest that her Majesty would have “in a load of smelly old boats”.
Later in the evening, at the inevitable banquet, Prince Cadarn surprised many by remembering details of the weekly catches. Somebody at the table said that he must have notes up his sleeve, but I shall not say who as, Puc
knows he is normally in enough trouble!
Early in the morning her Majesty left the Keep to visit a school for the children of the harbour workers. A lady called Carlin had made a schoolroom from what was her late husband’s workroom. She had then engaged an elderly, but sprightly, mage to teach the children their letters and numbers. Carlin was very proud that one of the recent attendees had been taken as apprentice to the Healer of Ely Keep. The rest of the party joined us to say farewell to Ely as, once more aboard the Albion Fair, we crossed the tranquil lake and headed up river to Warwick
There was a noticeable tension amongst the Court as we pulled alongside at Warwick. This was once the stronghold of the “Demon” Roxanne, concubine of Lord General Corvus. I know that The Queen had not been there since that time and I would be surprised to find that Prince Cadarn had. However the nerves were without good reason, a very warm welcome awaited us at the quay. A few familiar faces were amongst the town notables. Lord Ranulf and his good Lady Constance, as well as the Queen’s twin brother, Lord Edward Charenten.
The evening’s entertainment thus became somewhat of a family affair. The Mayor and Aldermen of the city had engaged a troop of players to entertain the Court. They presented “the Battle of Flodden” a well known recounting of a long ago battle, which drove the Caledonians out of the North of Albion. The evening passed well, and the Royal Party enjoyed themselves.
Today sees the first onerous duty required of the Queen and her consort. Since the “Demon” Roxanne fled Albion’s shores her private chambers in the Castle of Warwick had remained sealed. With the Royal Couple in attendance the chambers are to be re-opened.
Well that was something of an anti-climax.
The Seneschal of Warwick Castle formally intoned “since the person whose chambers these had been, has been missing presumed lost for a twelve month or more. With the permission of the Lord and the blessing of the Crown, it is my solemn duty to open them and pass the contents on to those with legal claim”. I think I saw Jac making notes at this point, but he says he was polishing his vambrace.
As the doors were then opened, by some magical means; all held their breath, I assume some half expected an explosion or lots of demonkin to poor out. This is not Marchwood though. Inside was…a lady’s chamber, would you believe? A few clothes, some personal ornaments, a board game in fact, nothing at all out of the ordinary.
After that non-event, we all made our way to the Ritual Circle and in small groups were transported to Bishop Auckland.
Since Kelvin was off again the next day, I took some time away from the Court and missed the formal dinner. I am assured that I missed nothing of importance or note though!
The Queen and various Court members had meetings with several people over breakfast. These included Bishop Auckland’s newly appointed Sheriff, Planeath. He had been put in place to deal with a significant amount of, what has to be called, bandit raids. By all accounts this area of Albion sees more criminal activity than any other. People had been reluctant to move into the region after the days of Corvus then Jaddvor and so it had become quite sparsely populated. Also there is mistrust amongst the inhabitants of the area, many are accused of disloyalty to the Crown, for having previously followed Corvus, this means that many of the Nobles do not work well together. It was on the suggestion of Prince Cadarn that Jac put a “new Man” into the area, in the hopes that he will be seen as neutral in the squabbles and be able to make the region safer. In time people will be more encouraged to live in the North East of Albion.
The breakfast conference over with the Royal Party set out in a northerly direction under skies laden with rain. We stopped for a brief luncheon at a large Inn called the Newcastle Road. Fewer locals than usual were there, Jaspar was the only person happy about this. The reason given by an old Grandmother was that there was a fine storm heading in, and “nobody with sense wanted to be caught in it”.
She was right. It was a rather bedraggled and cold Royal Couple who were welcomed into the Keep at Durham in the late afternoon. Quite what had been planned for that evening I do not know, as Lady Katerina, who upon stepping through the gates was ordering hot baths and warm stew for all, peremptorily cancelled it.