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Andrzej I

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Westminster: 1066
"Hwæt!" called out the venerable Archbishop of York, beating the base of his crosier against the ground in a repeated dull thud as he sought to call the lords of England to order. At once, that primate of England had the attention of all the earls, bishops, and thegns, gathered within the great halls of Westminster, as once used by the late King Edward, only the cackling flames of the hearth and torches resonating. Again, Ealdred spoke, "We Saxons know full well the noble deeds of our forefathers, of those heroes who sailed the seas to unfamiliar shores, who made subject the towns and great halls of this isle, who spread to all corners of our green and blessèd land."

Cloudy, hazel eyes glazed over the crowd, the aged Archbishop taking a deep breath as he continued, "We know of Alfred, King, who defended the southern shires from the ravages of war, brought so furiously upon by the heathen Danes…" At this, a few nobles present seemed stung by the quip, their families either benefactors or victims in years past under the reign of the Danish King Canute, "Of his son's son, Æthelstan, who united the Angles and Saxons in all England under common law and saw to the establishment of so many an abbey, so many a church. Those were good kings."

Ealdred made the sign of the cross, concluding, "And most recently, of Edward, King, second of his name, who restored England to its native rule, who has passed from this world into the arms of Christ, our Lord and Savior, but yestereve in the presence of his loyal thegns and kin…" Bowing his head in pious reverence, the Archbishop of York concluded, "He leaves behind no chosen heir, no ætheling that should succeed him. Thus it is to us, we gathered men of wisdom, to elect for us a King of the English, of the Angles and Saxons, to see to the safety of our fair kingdom…" In a grandiose gesture, Ealdred motioned out to the assembly, all having gathered in Westminster for Epiphany only to find a dying king.


A great number amongst the throng of thegns belonged to the kinsmen and huscarls of Godwine, the late Earl of Wessex. His second son, Harold, towered over the common man, holding great renown for both his eloquence and feats of strength. At the age of but twenty-three, he had been made the Earl of East Anglia, and from there his merits only increased. Many of the men present owed their position to his words and deeds, and it was by his valour that the Welsh King Griffith had been brought to heel, his raids to torment the western shires of England no more. The only quality that this Earl of Wessex lacked was, like his father, a love of honour, for there was little that could sate his ambitions.


Near him sat his two younger brothers: the eldest of the two, Gyrth, was a man of far nobler stature, brave and true, if given to a serious disposition. He had succeeded to the earldom of East Anglia after the exile of Earl Ælfgar, son of Leofric of Mercia and Lady Godgifu. The younger of the two, Leofwine, was of a far more lighthearted attitude, given the rich lands of Kent and Essex to rule over. Together, these sons of Godwine ruled over nearly all of southeastern Britain, though it was clear their ambitions did not end there. In a bid to win over the earls of the north, Harold had wed Edith of Mercia, the daughter of Ælfgar and sister of Edwin and Morcar. Off to the side sat the beautiful Edith Swannesha, Harold's common law wife, unrecognized by the church.


Inseparable as ever, the sons of Ælfgar stood at the other end of the assembly. Taller and more esteemed than his brother, Morcar grinned cockily across to his brother, neither one stepping forth just yet. It had been merely a few months ago that he had deposed Tostig, the third son of Godwine, taking advantage of the cruel and heavy yoke that he had placed upon the Northumbrians. Of a northern house himself, Morcar had secured the loyalty of the Northumbrians by returning the lands north of the River Tyne to the ancient house of Uhtred the Bold. Though Morcar had been elected the leader of the movement, doubtlessly it had been Edwin, Earl of Mercia, that had masterminded it, ever the devious schemer. Together, they ruled full the north of England, commanding a host that nearly equalled that of the sons of Godwine.


Seeing neither of the grandsons of Leofric propose themselves as worthy candidates to the throne, Harold Godwinson grinned behind his stein, drinking deep the rich ale he had been served. Setting it aside, he rose up to his full stature, an imposing warrior amongst lesser men, and strode towards the base of the raised dais. In a loud voice, one perfectly formed for commanding men, the Earl of Wessex announced, "Hail to thee, wise men of England, you earls and thegns, bishops and abbots, to indeed the witanagemot as a whole. I am Harold, Godwine's son, Earl of Wessex and Hereford. I have seen to the security of these lands for the past thirteen years, from the shores of East Anglia, guarding vigilantly against the Danes, to the moors of Gwynedd, where I bested Griffith, King of the Welsh, and saw an end to his depredations. Surely there is no man more able than I to answer to the threats to the realm."

To this, Leofwine raised his stein, and with a pointed smile, he chimed in with that lilting, pleasant tone of his, "My brother does speak true. Who amongst us can claim to be so brave a soldier? Who amongst us can claim to have seen and fought so many battles as he?" And indeed, it was so, for the great earls of yore were long since past. The distinguished Siward of Northumbria had given up his spirit ten years ago, leaving behind a timid youth by the name of Waltheof. Leofric of Mercia had scarcely outlived him, his legacy as the 'Hammer of the Welsh' diminished by the exile of his son Ælfgar, his grandsons left to restore their grandfather's honour. Several of the young thegns chafed beneath the weight of this accusation.


Silence filled the great hall, but one man stood apart, unmoved by the honeyed words of the Earl of Kent. The wizened Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand. Though condemned by the Bishop of Rome, and wearing the pallium of Robert of Jumièges, his outlawed predecessor, Stigand still held significant sway within the court of Edward, late King of the Angles and the Saxons. Running a hand across that meticulously-trimmed stubble of white that began his beard, Stigand retorted, "Is it not by nobility of blood and of character that we elect our kings, not by strength of arms? Is it not written 'Blessed art thou, o land, when thy king is the son of nobles'?"

Seeing the words of Stigand begin to sway the hearts of men away from him, Harold spat out, "Who, then, would you claim is ætheling? Who is worthy to be King of the Angles and of the Saxons?" Towering over most men, including the gaunt Archbishop of Canterbury, Harold glared down, his face a vibrant red behind that bushy moustache he had cultivated since his youth.

With the base of his crosier, Stigand nudged forward a solemn young man, bearing the beginnings of stubble upon his face. Softly clearing his throat, Stigand raised his voice to declare, "My lords of England, I present to you Edgar Ætheling, son of Edward, son of Edmund, King of the Angles and of the Saxons and kinsman of our lately departed King." A murmur went up throughout the crowd, many having dismissed the progeny of Edward the Exile after his untimely demise, mere days after his return to England. Had they not been mere infants at his death? Yet, there before them now stood before them one who was almost a man.


While his eldest brother bristled at the interruption, Leofwine took a swig of his ale, then gesturing with that half-full tankard as he let loose another barb, "You think that child is ætheling?" The Earl of Kent let out a bark of a laugh, continuing, "Even were it so, you expect that boy to defend our kingdom, to defend the Angles and the Saxons, against the Dane?" Making sure he had the attention of all those present, Leofwine loudly declared, "For the Danes will seek to return, my lords of England! Even now, William, that bastard of Normandy, claims that our late King vowed our people to him!" The Earl of Kent then looked pointedly to Stigand, and with a mocking laugh, asked, "Tell us, old man, how will this boy defend against so mighty a threat to our kingdom?"

Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury was unmoved by this contempt, the subject of such great distrust and infamy already. With a narrow, kindly smile, Stigand replied, "It is not my expectation that he would see to the defense of the kingdom until he comes of age, that he would fight so renowned a warrior as William of Normandy. It is my expectation that he would give these such a man pause, for who can question that he is our late king's grand-nephew? And acknowledging that, how can they claim that he is not ætheling, and worthy for the throne?"

Again, a murmur went up throughout the crowd, discussing what that Archbishop of ill repute had said. One who kept himself apart from all the discussions, however, was Edwin, Earl of Mercia, whose gaze was upon one member of the Archbishop's companions. Curls of fiery red cascading down to her shoulders, Christina was a beauty to behold, though rumored to be possessed of a temper to match the vibrancy of her hair. Beside her stood her elder sister, Margaret, who though outshone by her younger sister, was beloved for her modesty and compassion, all with a piety that matched - if not surpassed - her sister's own. Together, these two were the sisters of Edgar of Wessex, daughters of Edward the Exile.


Allowing the witanagemot a few more passing moments to debate the merits of Stigand's proposal, Edwin then looks across to his brother and nods. The time for their plans to come to fruition was now. Stepping forward, Morcar cried out, his voice like a roll of thunder, sudden as a lightning bolt, splitting through the myriad hushed conversations that filled the great hall, "I will have the boy as my king!" Immediately, all eyes were upon that Earl of Northumbria, who grinned cockily at the chaos he was certain to create. Immediately, the great hall of Westminster erupted in an uproar, once quiet opinions now loudly declared. Steins and fists pounded upon the wooden tables before the many wise men of England, the once civilized witanagemot beginning to resemble those fabled pagan meetings of yore.

Rising up to his feet now, his passions enflamed, Leofwine cried out at Stigand again, "If not this boy, then whom, old man? Do you truly think that the Danes will not come for our land again? The sons of Harald Sigurdsson have already visited these shores in years past, stoking the fires of unrest in aiding the Welsh against our land! Tell me, o nobles of England, why would one such as this boy, blood to our late king or no, give Harald Sigurdsson pause for a conquest he has sought for years?!" That Earl of Kent swept out his arm, gesturing to the many nobles of England, "Stigand, Archbishop, would sell us as thrall to the Dane again!" Immediately another uproar went up amongst the southern Saxons, who had been hard oppressed by the reign of Canute and his successors.

"Do you think us so weak as to not repel the Dane a third time?" Stigand bellowed out, rising up to an almost imposing height, if not for his slender frame, the years having ate away at his frame. Ramming the base of his crossier against the ground to call attention once again, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke again, "And as I have said before, Leofwine, Earl of Kent, should these ravens seek to invade our blessed land again, I would have one of our number made a Protector of the realm, to answer to any threat that our rightful king might be forced to address."

"And Harold Godwinson is our rightful king!" declared Ealdred in an impassioned voice, standing against his fellow Archbishop. Several of the witan were astounded at this turn of events, the church of England divided against itself. Others, more wise, knew of the loyalties of the Archbishop of York to the family of Godwine, the portly, soft man having failed to arrest Godwine and his sons in the year of our Lord 1051 after they were declared outlaws. "He was oath-sworn to succeed Edward, King of the Angles and of the Saxons, sworn upon our blessèd King's deathbed to safeguard the kingdom!"


"Then let him serve as Protector!" declared Stigand in retort, motioning broadly with both arms. "Should you noble lords of England have him, I can think of no man more suited to so distinguished a role."

This proposal silenced the supporters of Harold Godwinson for the time, the man himself still simmering with indignation that the Archbishop of Canterbury had undermined him so. Taking advantage of the lull within the witanagemot, the reticent young Earl of Huntingdon spoke up, "It… it sounds as though this would be… agreeable - would it not, my lords?" As he gazed about for any reaction, receiving none, he carried forth with that decision that had formed within his mind, "I shall have Edgar Edwardsson as my king, and… and Harold Godwinsson as our Protector!" The Earl of Huntingdon gave a nod he sought to be firm, confident, but instead only furthered his perpetual image of uncertainty. All the same, this declaration from young Waltheof Siwardsson went largely without notice, far overshadowed by whom would speak next.


"As will I," came the rumbling of another voice, and when those gathered looked to see who it belonged to, they found none other than Gyrth, Earl of East Anglia and brother of Harold Godwinson, as the speaker. Many were shocked to see that taciturn brother of Harold Godwinson to support his only rival at the witanagemot. Seeing so many eyes upon him, the stern Earl of East Anglia gave a low rumbling noise deep within his throat, finding himself coaxed to explain, "The boy is Edward's son, and Edward was our late king's nephew. It is his birthright that he ascend the throne, and I shall not deny him that which is his by blood."

With the Earls of Wessex and Kent astounded by their brother's 'betrayal', it was then that Edwin, Earl of Mercia, moved to deliver the killing blow. With that sly smile, he spoke in that soft tone of his, "And I, too, shall see Edgar Edwardsson as my king." And with those few words, the Earl of Mercia decided the fate of the witanagemot, with all the north declared for the young prince. Thus it was that the hall was filled with the chants of 'Edgar, King!', echoing out into the night, the stars bearing witness to the election of the new King of the Angles and Saxons - a youth yet unrenowned in deeds, having come across the seas from distant Pannonia, unknowing of what the future held before him. He was ætheling.

 
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Saxon125

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Nice to see you starting another AAR my friend. Good fortune with this AAR, I shall be keeping a eye on this.
 
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Will follow this one.
 

Knightofhonnor

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Oh, I know I'm gonna enjoy this!
 

Asantahene

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This is an excellent start and I will certainly be following closely. Love the characterisation and the dialogue

Also love the character pics though they are not particularly accurate in portraying age I note haha
 

Andrzej I

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Nice to see you starting another AAR my friend. Good fortune with this AAR, I shall be keeping a eye on this.
Will follow this one.
Oh, I know I'm gonna enjoy this!
Glad to have you all along :)
This is an excellent start and I will certainly be following closely. Love the characterisation and the dialogue
Very kind of you to say so. Thank you :)
Also love the character pics though they are not particularly accurate in portraying age I note haha
You just wish you were as pretty as the bishy bishop of York :p
But jokes aside, yeah, some of the pictures seem a little off. Several changed drastically from their vanilla version - Ealdred being the most notable change, going from a fairly rotund older man to... well, what you see above, haha.
 
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Andrzej I

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Stamford Bridge: 1066
Months had passed since the Archbishop of Canterbury crowned Edgar Edwardsson in Westminster Abbey, and since the marriage of Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and Cristina, and the predictions of the Earl of Kent had proven true. Not only the Duke of Normandy began to take counsel with his lords in strategizing the invasion of England, but there too was the harassing raids of Tostig Godwinson, the exiled former Earl of Northumbria and brother of the illustrious Protector, Harold Godwinson. Sailing from Flanders, the outlaw had taken to the Isle of Wight in May, the year of our Lord 1066, fleeing east when the Earl of Wessex called up the fyrd to repel the brigand back into the sea. After failing to convince Gyrth, Earl of East Anglia, to join in his depredations, Tostig had raided as far north as Lincolnshire, where the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria bested him, sending him into flight. It would be from the lands of the Scots that this outlaw would bring a more dangerous foe into the fray.

It was upon the eighth of September that the Protector of England finally released the fyrd from their service, having lingered on the Isle of Wight for months in ready expectation of the fleet of William the Bastard. Rumours flew from the continent that the Duke of Normandy commanded a mighty fleet of seven hundred vessels, with soldiers from as far as Brittany to Flanders supporting his claim to the English throne, decrying Harold Godwinson as an oathbreaker. Despite preparations having been completed by the month of August, this fearsome army of Normandy did not cross the Channel. Instead, the Protector of England would find his first threat far to the north, upon the River Tyne, arriving the very day that the fyrd was disbanded.

Having long intended to reclaim the great empire that Canute had founded, Harald Sigurdsson had prepared his own invasion from the distant shores of Norway, commanding a host of ten thousand men. The mighty Varangian had set sail from his kingdom in August, joining together with his Earls of Orkney before sailing south, joining together with Tostig Godwinson at Tynesmouth. Where once the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria had managed to deal a devastating blow to Tostig Godwinson, they found the stern King of Norway to live up to his reputation. Harald Sigurdsson razed the town of Scarborough to the ground when it denied him as King of England, then raiding further south before sailing up the Humber, landing in the town of Riccall upon the eighteenth of September. Upon hearing that the city of York was to be threatened, Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, prevailed upon his brother Edwin, Earl of Mercia, and together they marched south to confront the King of Norway.


It would prove to be a disaster. Though the grandsons of Leofric were cunning men, and Morcar distinguished himself within the battle, it would be the forces of Harald Sigurdsson and Tostig that would carry the day, outmaneuvering the English line and sending it into rout at the Battle of Fulford. A full tenth of the fyrds of Mercia and Northumbria lay dead upon the fens near the River Ouse, and Edwin and Morcar were forced to flee the field, abandoning fair York to its fate. Not wishing the jewel of Northumbria to suffer the same fate as Scarborough, Tostig prevailed upon his ally to offer terms to York, who agreed to surrender but four days later, vowing to deliver hostages and supplies to the invading King at an old Roman stone bridge over the River Derwent within five days time. Little did the Norse know, but a mere seven miles away from Riccall, the Protector of England had marched a large army from London, arriving in the town of Tadcaster, crossing those one hundred and eighty miles in but four days.

Reports trickled in through the night as the huscarls of House Godwin established their encampment for the night. A firm guard was established, and no word was allowed to escape the town of Tadcaster to inform Harald Sigurdsson of his arrival. Indeed, instead, Harold Godwinson was informed by sailors of the modest Northumbrian fleet of the Norse encampment nine miles southeast at Riccall, while some of the burghers of York informed the Protector of England of the arrangements of the surrender. Taking this information into consideration, the Earl of Wessex called upon his brother, Gyrth, for counsel. Within short order, the brothers were agreed upon their course.

The sun crested slowly over the horizon, setting the heavens aflame in vibrant shades of orange and red. Though it was late in the month of September, the sun scorched through one of those rare cloudless days. Taking a token force of six thousand men, but two men for every three he held, Harald Sigurdsson and Tostig Godwinson made the long march to the old Roman bridge at a leisurely pace. Confident in his recent victory over the fyrds of Northumbria and Mercia, the King of Norway allowed his men to forsake their armour, leaving such behind with the remaining third of his army at Riccall, under the command of his beloved brother-in-law, Eystein Orre, and his youngest son, Olaf. As they marched north, several of the Norsemen took to swimming in the waters of the River Derwent, while still yet others relished the warmth of the sun upon their bodies.

As the sentries of the Norse army crossed that old stone bridge, they took note of a flock of birds taking flight from the over the hill out to the west. Upon spying this, Tostig turned to one of his remaining companions, giving a laugh, "The churls of York finally recognize their rightful earl." With a wry grin, he confessed, "I have long awaited this day - nearly a year since my treacherous brother betrayed me to those conniving sons of an outlaw." Rounding about on his horse, he cried out so that all his men could hear, "Today, York submits to its rightful ruler! Soon, we shall see England secure! Secure under the just and stern rule of Harald Sigurdsson!" A cheer went up amongst the largely Anglo-Norse band of retainers to Tostig Godwinson. It was, however, a cheer that soon went silent when another cry went up.

"Steel! We are betrayed!" one of the Norsemen cried out, the word soon translated for their Saxon companions. There, cresting over the hill that was called Helmsley Gate, was a large band of soldiers, the sun glinting resplendently upon their arms and armour. In a masterful move, not only had Harold Godwinson closed the distance from London to York in a matter of days, he had also seized the defenseless York and brought his men with haste along the old Roman road to confront the invading Norse at the River Derwent.

"Hold! Hold! We must no so easily yield!" called out that exiled Earl of Northumbria, frantically attempting to coax his panicked men to answer the battle-eager army that was quick marching upon them. Yet, seeing that there was no such hope, it was not long before Tostig Sigurdsson abandoned his men, fleeing across the River Derwent to bring word to his lord that the Saxons sought to defy him again. Now left leaderless and only lightly armed, the Norsemen fought bravely as the Saxon horsemen crashed against their ranks, the sound of hooves and steel louder than the waves against the shore. Soon, yet more of the Norsemen and companions of Tostig were in flight back towards the bulk of the army.

Riding with haste for the King's tent upon the heights of High Catton, Tostig almost threw himself from the saddle, prostrating himself before the veteran Varangian. Panic clear in his eyes, Tostig looked to speak, but Harald Hardrada was the one who spoke first, still gazing unmovingly towards the fray across the River Derwent, "Let us now fall upon some good sensible counsel; for it is not to be concealed that this is an hostile army and the Earl of Wessex himself without doubt is here." With that stern expression that had made him so feared in the lands of the Norse, the King of Norway looked about his advisors.

Trying his best to compose himself, rising back up to his feet, Tostig cleared his throat. Still yet perturbed by his brother's sudden appearance, he gestured off toward the south, where nearly three thousand more men could be found at Riccall, ensuring the three hundred longships and their store of arms and supplies would not be compromised. Knowing well the lay of the land from when he was once Earl, Tostig suggested with urgency in his voice, "If we withdraw to Riccall, we may yet make a stand against him, aided by the men of your son-in-law, Eystein Orre. Or, otherwise, we may withdraw to our ships, where these horsemen shall have no power over us."

Grumbling beneath his breath, the King of Norway returned his gaze toward the River Derwent, where the battle continued to turn against the token force west of the river, not yet replying to his newest earl. If the Saxon army had come from Helmsley Gate, surely they had come from York. If the Earl of Wessex had known they would be here, surely he knew of the Norse encampment at Riccall and would have cut off his route of retreat. Furthermore, how they pressed the Norse lines, attacking with such great fervor, Harald did not hold hope that his men could withdraw in good order without being caught by the Saxons. Thus it was that the King of Norway replied, "I have another counsel. Put three of our best horses under three of our most vigorous lads and let them ride with all speed to tell our people to come quickly to our relief. The Englishmen shall have a hard fray of it before we give ourselves up for lost."

Hefting his mighty sword overhead, Harald cried out, "Let raise high the raven banner!" At once, the low droning noise of countless horns filled the air, drowning out the sound of the men fighting and dying on the other side of the river. Even so, Harald's mighty voice overcame even that of his warhorns, declaring boldly, "Beneath the Land-Waster we cannot falter! Arise, arise, you sons of heroes! Today, we fight as our forefathers had, and today we bring England into our fold!" With his trusted thegn Frírek bearing the raven banner near him, the ominous dark bird seeming as if in flight upon the pure white silk, the King of Norway watched as the battle raged across the River Derwent.


Commanding the vanguard, Harold Godwinson directed his leal huscarls with motions of his sword, barking out orders in that commanding voice of his. Mounted upon fresh steeds provided by the city of York, the huscarls of Wessex had caught the Norsemen entirely by surprise, striking swiftly and with great force despite comprising so small a part of the Saxon army.

All about the Earl of Wessex, the Norsemen were routing and being cut down, axes and blades of the Saxons cutting through the unarmed enemy. While many fled across the bridge, a number tried to wade through the River Derwent, many drowning beneath the rushing waters increasingly reddened with blood.

But a short distance away, the dutiful Earl of East Anglia soon brought up the fyrds of the southern shires, the thousands of common men that comprised the bulk of the Saxon army. The huscarls having already sent the enemy to flight, Gyrth soon galloped up to his older brother, who gazed up towards the high ground of High Catton, unknowing that his foe, Harald Hardrada was staring right back. With a dry, abrupt laugh, Gyrth quipped, "There, then, is our foe." Little regard was paid to the remainder of what had been the Norse sentries, but a handful of those men still offering any resistance.

"Then let us take him," Harold uttered in that rumbling voice of his, and with a charismatic smile shone to his brother, he soon spurred his horse to the fore of his forces, a gallant image as he rode past the vanquished foe. Gathering to him a number of his huscarl, he made for the bridge, intent on securing the other side before the Norse could hold it against him. Little did he know that the King of Norway had no such intention, resolved instead to make his stand at High Catton, diligently attempting to form his men into a cohesive shieldwall.

Before long, Gyrth had again brought up the fyrd to support, and so both armies began to form up across either side of the rolling plains east of the River Derwent. It would be there that the men of England and Norway alike would come to perish in droves. However, whereas the Saxons were well armed for the fight ahead, the huscarls clad in heavy scale maille and so many wielding the fierce long axe, the Norsemen bore little armour at all. Indeed, even the King himself wore naught but a linen tunic dyed a vibrant shade of rich blue and a beautiful helm of polished steel, no armour wore he, the King of Norway. As Harald Hardrada surveyed his lines, ensuring that his men would be inspired and hold against so great a number of foemen, his horse stumbled, and the stern ruler of Norway fell to the earth. Rising with haste despite his age, the Varangian laughed, "A fall is lucky for a traveller."

This did not go without notice, however, for the Earl of Wessex saw his enemy fall to the ground, and when informed of who he was, Harold Godwinson called his brother to him and laughed, "A great man with once a regal bearing, but it would seem his luck has left him." Allowing Gyrth then to leave him to take command of the ranks of fyrdmen, the Protector of England gathered to him his trusted huscarls, all mounted and finely attired in their great coats of maille. Twenty of their number rode ahead of their countrymen, and under a flag of truce, they approached the Norsemen.

With a great and booming voice, the spokesman of the group cried out for Tostig Godwinson with whom he would speak. When that exiled earl approached, the envoy offered, "I bring tidings from the Earl of Wessex, Protector of England. He extends clemency and an offer of the earldom of Northumbria if Tostig, son of Godwine, will but retire from the field."

"Where was such kindness yesteryear?" spat out Tostig Godwinson, "Should he have not shown such scorn and treachery then, many a man now dead would still be amongst us, and the kingdom would well have been in our hands." Looking across towards where the raven banner flew, the exiled Earl then asked, "And what would Harald Sigurdsson receive for his trouble, in rectifying this great wrong that was dealt to me?"

"Six feet of earth," scoffed out the envoy almost immediately, dismissing the idea of ceding any land or treasures of England to the Norse again. Then laughing dryly, the horseman, clad in such heavy maille added, "Or as much more he needs, as he is taller than most men."

With heavy heart, Tostig replied, "Go, then, and tell my brother to ready himself for battle." Turning then to his retainers, and even more so to the Norsemen with whom he had thrown in his lot, the exiled Earl declared boldly, "For I shall not have it said that Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, returned to England with so great a host, only to betray his benefactor and King." To the cheer of his soldiers, Tostig Godwinson concluded, "So it is - we shall either triumph and seize England into our hands, or we shall die with honour!"

Saying nothing, the envoy turned and rode back to the Saxon ranks with his escort. Only now realizing of the negotiations that had been going on, Harald Hardrada arrived at the side of his newest earl, inquiring of whom the horseman was, praising his eloquence. Upon hearing that it was none other than the commander of the Saxons and Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson, the mighty King of Norway declared that he should have been slain, sparing their army from the great fight that was to come. Boldly, Tostig retorted, "That may well be, but as I shall not allow it said that Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, betrayed his benefactor at his moment of triumph, nor shall I have it said that he was a kinslayer, betraying his brother to his death."

Scowling, the stern ruler of Norway looked towards the fleeing figure of Harold Godwinson, remarking, "That was but a little man, yet he sat firmly in his stirrups." A proud statement, given the great height of the Earl of Wessex. As his men settled into their shieldwall, the veteran Varangian showed his artistry, composing the verse, "In battle storm we seek no lee, / With skulking head, and bending knee, / Behind the hollow shield. / With eye and hand we fend the head; / Courage and skill stand in the stead / Of armour, helm, and shield, / In hild's bloody field." To the cheer of his men, Harald Sigurdsson rode to the center of his force, noting well the advance of the Saxons against his army.


With a cry from their commanders on both sides, the two lines crashed into each other with a thunderous sound, the hooves of so many steeds, the cracking of wood of countless shields, and the air filled with the cries of those caught in the fray. The huscarls of Wessex crashed against the shieldwall of the Norsemen again and again, withdrawing swiftly after gaining no purchase against their foe. Emboldened by the lack of success by their enemy, a number of the Norse broke their ranks and began to pursue the Saxon horsemen. It was this very moment that Harold Godwinson had been waiting for, and barking out his orders, the huscarls rounded about and fell upon the unarmored foe, driving wedges between the ranks of the Norsemen.

Seeing his men fall into disarray, Harald Sigurdsson rode hard for where the fighting was most fierce. Dismounting from his steed, he swung his sword to and fro, and none could resist him. Neither the thickest of maille nor the stoutest shield could withstand him, the veteran of so many a campaign. So great and terrible was his fury that the Saxons before him nearly broke in rout, but it was in that moment that the LORD showed His favour. As the King of Norway continued to hew down the men of England, one of the Saxons let loose an arrow, which thereupon lodged itself within the windpipe of Harald Hardrada. Struck so with such a mortal blow, the mighty Varangian clutched at the shaft of the arrow and fell, dying upon the field.


Yet, even with the death of their leader, the Norsemen fought valiantly on. Before long, the fray neared the infamous raven banner, and soon that trusted thegn Frírek was cut down with the blow of a long axe. Yet, even so, another warrior took up the Land-Waster, emboldening the Norsemen in their fight. Seeing the center falter, Tostig rode hard to reinforce the line. Taking note of his brother, the Earl of Wessex called out, restating his offer if Tostig would but yield. Yet, again, the exiled Earl refused to accept such dishonour, and before long, he was slain in the fray.

All such resistance was not to be in vain, for the preparations that Harald Hardrada had made had come to fruition, for soon three thousand Norsemen under the command of Eystein Orre soon entered fresh into the fray. Unlike their companions, these men were well attired for war, heavily armed and armoured. After so swift a march and many hours of fighting, the Saxons were soon hard-pressed by so fierce an assault. Before long, the men of Eystein Orre had recovered the raven banner, raising it high over the ranks of Norsemen and renewing their spirits. Before long, however, the swift nine mile march of these men began to take its toll, and though they cut down many a valiant Saxon, the tide of war began to turn again against them. Driven mad for blood, a number of the Norsemen cared no longer for their safety, enduring the blows that rained upon them so long as they could maintain the fight.

In the end, it would all be in vain, and eventually the Norsemen were put to flight or gave in to their fatigue, collapsing of exhaustion. After a brief pursuit of their vanquished foe, the Saxons reformed their ranks and dispatched a messenger to Riccall, informing the remaining Norsemen, including the King's son Olaf, of their defeat. A truce was established between the Norse and Harold Godwinson, who forced them to swear to not stand against him, the Earl of Wessex, for as long as they lived. On these terms, the remaining foemen were allowed to depart from England, but a score of ships of the initial three hundred were required to transport the Norsemen to Orkney, where they spent the winter.

With this victory at Stamford Bridge, Harold Godwinson had secured the safety of the north, decisively defeating the invasion from the Norse. Yet, however, England would not remain secure, for there still remained one unvanquished foe who had already declared his intent to see England brought within his dominion. Thus it was that, after but a few days to resupply and bury the dead - the fields of Stamford Bridge bleached white with the bones of the fallen - that the Earl of Wessex began the great march south back to London, that he might resume the defense of the southern shires. Having most certainly heard of the initial success that Harald Hardrada had made in Yorkshire, the Bastard of Normandy would surely be emboldened, and now, after many months of planning, his invasion would come.

 
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Asantahene

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Epic stuff! 1 thing though: historically the saxons only fought on foot-I think it is a game mechanic to allow cavalry when in fact it was Normans who pioneered cavalry warfare and the charge of the armoured knight.

The Franks (who were of course the Normans forebears) did travel to battle in large horsed formations but then tended to dismount to fight

Really great writing though-KUTGW
 

Andrzej I

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Predominantly so, however, when I was researching Stamford Bridge, it appears as though Godwinson had a fairly significant mounted force under his control, and that - at least according to Hardrada's saga - they fought while mounted. Not in the armoured charge as the Normans and later cavalry, but predominantly in harassing attacks, charging in, throwing javelins, then promptly falling back. That said, I found myself fond of the way Hardrada's saga described the battle, and thus decided to go with that :)

And thanks for the compliment! I should, hopefully, be able to get the first gameplay section up by this weekend, the two above being 'prologue', effectively.
 

Saxon125

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Very nice, eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
 

Davisx3m

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Interesting! :)
 

Andrzej I

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Westminster: 1066
As the Earl of Wessex made his way south from his campaigns in Yorkshire, the Archbishop of Canterbury began to establish the council that would come to help Edgar in the years to come. Stigand was blessed in this regard, for the late King Edward had left a rather competent counsel. Having served since the return of the Cerdicing family to England, Regenbald had long been a member of the witanagemot, even if his status as a Norman made him oft ostracized from so many of the Saxons that desired a freedom from foreign influence. All the same, under Edward, King, Regenbald had rose from being a royal chaplain to being the overseer of the kingdom's scribes and clerks, affording him a level of influence surpassed only by the great earls and bishops of the land.


Another courtier from the days of Edward was Eadnoth the Staller, a man of some considerable talent that saw him rise to the post of Steward for the Kingdom of the Angles and Saxons, overseeing the treasury of England and attending to the welfare of both king and kingdom. Being a man of good virtue and admirable skill, it came as little surprise that he was allowed to retain his position through to the new king, an ally against any corruption that might threaten the realm. Together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Harold Godwinson, these four men were intended to help oversee the governance of the kingdom until young Edgar came of age, and at such a time, they would continue to advise the King in the affairs of state. How little did Stigand know how quickly this council would be changed.


While Harold Godwinson strived and coerced the earls of the North to contribute their fyrds to his forces for the inevitable conflict, news arrived with great urgency that the Bastard of Normandy had landed in Sussex, arriving at the town of Hastings upon the ninth of October. With haste, the Earl of Wessex marched for London, making sure that the Norman duke could not advance north of the Thames. With any luck, Harold Godwinson prayed that he might be able to repeat the success he had seen at Stamford Bridge, perhaps managing to break the columns of foreign mercenaries before they had a chance to truly assemble upon English soil. Little did he know that the court at Westminster would hold him for the next several weeks.

The first fatal step in the dissolving of this early council was the untimely death of the chancellor Regenbald, who had suddenly taken ill from the unseasonal heat of the months prior. Even as the island of Britain began to cool in later months, the monk would not recover, and soon he passed. This would prove to be a crisis in two regards, for not only had Regenbald served as the chancellor of the kingdom, but it was into his care that Stigand had entrusted the young king, certain that the fellow ecclesiastic would raise the young man to rule over the Angles and Saxons with righteousness. With his passing, however, England was deprived of a mentor and counselor in one.


The timing of this could not have come on any poorer a date, for it had been scarcely a few days since the Earl of Wessex had returned to London. No longer entangled with the armies of the Norse, the Protector of England was now a force that the Archbishop of Canterbury was forced to take into consideration. Thus it was that Stigand summoned a man that might give Harold Godwinson pause: Morcar, Earl of Northumbria. Within short order, Morcar was called from York to assume the position that Regenbald had held for a decade and a half, and it was into the care of this firebrand earl that Edgar, King of England, would be entrusted to learn about the rulership of the realm.

Of course, as any should have anticipated, this brought not only the Earl of Northumbria to London, but his cunning brother, Edwin, Earl of Mercia, as well. Inseparable as ever, the Archbishop of Canterbury anticipated the two would provide a strong counterweight against the Godwinsons. Furthermore, their fyrds, however depleted from the fight at Fulford, would be of help to ensure a stronger force with which to repel the Normans back into the sea. It was, however, the knavish schemes of the grandsons of Leofric that Stigand had failed to account for. And so it was, mere days after their arrival in London, that the Archbishop of Canterbury received a messenger begging his presence at Westminster late one evening.

Relying upon that trusty crossier, the wizened Archbishop of Canterbury made his way through the doors into the great hall that Edward had built upon Thorney Island, the soft sounds of the Confiteor echoing over the wind from Westminster Abbey. Pale blue eyes looked about the hall, the scent of beeswax mixed with tallow thick in the air. As he saw Morcar, at first Stigand's heart was relieved, knowing the man to have been a faithful ally in the struggle to keep the Godwinsons from the throne. Then, however, the Archbishop saw another figure, cloaked in shadow. "How nice for you to join us," the Earl of Mercia spoke in that whispery voice of his, a slender smile biting deeper than a knife.

Backpedaling a step, alarmed at the presence of Edwin, Stigand eyed his companions warily, asking, "For what cause have you summoned me?" The Archbishop had remained quite keen even in his old age, and those pale blue eyes darted over the young earls. No weapons, no soldiers lurking in the shadows. They would cause him no harm. But what, then, was the purpose of the unannounced arrival of the Earl of Mercia? Still ill at ease, Stigand adjusted the pure white pallium over his shoulder, a nervous little motion.

With a hearty laugh, the Earl of Northumbria stepped forward, flashing that brazen grin of his. Looming over the gaunt figure of Stigand, Morcar replied, "With all due respect, old man, my brother and me decided a change of things was in order." His hazel eyes dart towards the Earl of Mercia before he continues, almost mocking, as he grins at the older man, "You like change, don't you?"

Rising up to his feet, it was then that Edwin, Earl of Mercia, decided to speak again, silencing his boisterous brother. With a mirthless smile, he rested a hand upon Stigand's shoulder, saying, "It is with heartfelt appreciation that we acknowledge all that you have done for us, your Grace. Truly so." Ensuring that he held the Archbishop's attention, Edwin flicked a glance across to his brother, then musing aloud, feigning deep thought, "However, it dawned upon us, you have forgotten something during your time here in Middlesex…"

"Your diocese, old man," Morcar booms out, finishing his brother's sentence. Stigand's mind was racing, trying to determine what was going on, and what had moved his former allies to move against him. Soon, however, all these answers would become clear. Stepping into the hall through one of the small side doors, the Archbishop of Canterbury's eyes went wide as he saw that tall and gallant figure. "And so he arrives," scoffs the Earl of Northumbria.

"Your Grace…" intoned the Earl of Wessex, dipping his head in polite reverence for the man's title, holding little love for the man himself, one who had contested him at the witanagemot months before. Towering over the other great figures of the land, Harold Godwinson was a startling arrival to the scene. Dressed in a lavish long tunic, a rich burgundy colour that brought out the faint hue of red in his long mustache, the Protector of England smiled smugly to the Archbishop, who dutifully returned the silent greeting in kind.

After acknowledging the Earl of Wessex with a brief cordial nod, Edwin then returned his attention to Stigand, remarking, "Worry not, your Grace. The kingdom shall not suffer in your absence while you tend to your flock." With that sliver of a smile, Edwin straightened up and adjusted his long tunic, trying to adopt a more noble appearance as he announced, "I shall be remaining here in Middlesex to advise the young king." Noticing the Archbishop look to Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Mercia deigned to add, "And yes, indeed, the fyrds of my shires shall be contributing to England's defense when our Protector marches to cast the Norman out into the sea."


Giving that thunderous laugh of his, Morcar decided to chime in as well, noting proudly, "And worry not for the boy, old man, I'll be taking good care of him." Though Stigand had trusted the Earl of Northumbria to look after young Edgar, he had underestimated the influence his scheming brother had over him. Though the Archbishop of Canterbury thought to protest, to try again to manipulate the great earls of the land into his pocket, he saw the futility of any such effort. He had been outmaneuvered, and though the grandsons of Leofric had once been his allies against the Godwinsons, their allegiance had since changed, and the House of Godwin was again in the ascendancy. Resigned to his fate, Stigand sighed heavily, bowing his head.

With a triumphant grin, Harold Godwinson moves closer to join this small council of powerful men amongst the Angles and Saxons. Casually glancing aside and feigning deep thought, the Earl of Wessex remarks, "Of course… in aiding our…" Harold trailed briefly off, as if considering what he wanted to term his elected leader, "-Young king- in ruling over our people, we will need... " He trails off, giving an almost feral grin beneath that bushy mustache of his, confident in his position of strength as he tactfully demands, "Certain amnesties to be granted." With an air of assumed magnanimity, he motions out with an open hand, adding, "For the good of the realm." With a haughty, deep chuckle, Harold then gives a wave of his hand, dismissing the aged Archbishop.


Outmaneuvered in his intrigues, schemes that had brought the young Cerdicing to the throne, Stigand dips his head in a humble bow. With the air of a man defeated, the Archbishop turned to depart. The night air was cold, and the courtyard full of shadows as Stigand looked up to the heavens above. With a heavy sigh and heavier heart, the gaunt figure of the Archbishop of Canterbury paced a good distance away, then, looking back towards that great hall, Stigand uttered the words of Isaiah, "Woe to you, conquerer, who have not been conquered! Woe to you, betrayer, who have not been betrayed! When you cease conquering, you shall be conquered; when you cease betraying, you shall be betrayed." With a pitiful shake of his head, the Archbishop of Canterbury departed, unknowing of how long it would be until he set foot in Westminster again.
 
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Aidun

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Britain has always been my favorite playground when it comes to CK2. I have a soft spot for Edgar, the king who never was and the last of his line, who you somehow have brought to the English throne. Needless to say, I'll be following this AAR with great interest.
 

Andrzej I

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I'm really impressed by the research and characterization in this AAR.
Thank you so much :) I swear I end up spending about twice as much time researching stuff as I do writing, haha.
Britain has always been my favorite playground when it comes to CK2. I have a soft spot for Edgar, the king who never was and the last of his line, who you somehow have brought to the English throne. Needless to say, I'll be following this AAR with great interest.
Modding. Lots of amateurish modding. Now how Edgar Ætheling remains upon the English throne with just Middlesex as my demesne, and with Harold Godwinson still having a claim to the throne, we'll see :)
 
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Andrzej I

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Brentford: 1066
While the earls Harold and Edwin contented for the hearts of the Angles and of the Saxons, their foreign invader did not remain idle. Finding no opposition against him in landing at Hastings, William the Bastard moved with his characteristic energy. While Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and half-brother to the Norman Duke, proposed that they march on Winchester to seize the royal treasury there, and old Walter Giffard, the cousin of William the Bastard, proposed that they move to seize the lavish estates of Canterbury and thereby undermine the corrupt English church thought to be led by Stigand, the cunning bastard of Normandy had a far more bold strategy that he sought to employ.

There was, however, another foreigner fast approaching the court of the Saxons at Westminster. Unlike the Norman duke, however, this band bore no ill will to the sons of England, and instead brought with him a missive from the Scots of the North. Hearing of the defeat and death of his claimant to the English throne at Stamford Bridge, Malcolm, King of the Scots, sought to make amends with the rejuvenated Saxon realm. To this end, he dispatched his younger brother, Donald the Fair, to entreat with the Saxons.

This had hardly been the first time the Scots had visited the courts of the Saxons. During the reign of Macbeth, Malcolm had sought refuge in the court of the late King Edward, residing there until that Earl of Moray could be slain. Any friendships formed during his youth in the courts of the Saxons was lost, however, when Malcolm broke his vow to wed Margaret, Edward's great-niece, instead wedding the widow of the Earl of Orkney, and yet further when he gave refuge to the outlaw, Tostig Godwinson. Even so, intrigued what could move the King of the Scots to break his silence, the brothers of the North agreed to entreat with the King's brother, Harold Godwinson away at Fulham overseeing the defense of the Thames.

Dressed in a lavish linen tunic of saffron yellow, trimmed in silk, Donald cut a dashing figure among the Saxons. Furthermore, his renown as a poet amongst the Scots was well-known, and in elegant Latin, he addressed the young king of the Saxons, "Edgar, of the Saxons king, from distant lands, now giver of rings, from Scone of the Soaring Shields, I serve you a statement from my sibling sealed: He offers his commendation, for having repelled the Norse and unified your nation. In years long past, to your great-uncle since passed, he made a vow, and in hopes of renewed friendship, he would desire your sister's hand now."


The two brothers looked across to each other from either side of the throne, Morcar unable to help himself but grin in wry amusement at the man speaking in loose verse. The young king, as well, seemed rather amused. With Stigand no longer presiding over the government in Harold's absence, the Earl of Northumbria had taken a key position in the council. Where the Archbishop of Canterbury once made rulings in the name of Edgar the Ætheling, Morcar decided it best that the young king make his own rulings - and often without the counsel of his advisors, saying to the boy upon their first encounter days since passed, "Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason." It had been something the youth had taken to heart, many times establishing his royal decree before any advisor could say nary a word.


Dressed to appear the king that he had been elected to be, Edgar Edwardsson was dressed in a richly embroidered tunic of scarlet wool in the eponymous colour, with modest stitchwork about the collar and cuffs depicting countless crosses in gold. A rich girdle of white leather held the tunic in place, the same embroidery of golden crosses in even intervals about the belt. Over this, the king wore a plain mantle of fine wool dyed a modest taupe color, fastened in place by shoulder clasp in gold and russet red, the motif of crosses seen yet again. Unlike his guest, who went bare legged, Edgar wore a pair of tightly fitted trousers with long stockings, both in subdued earthen tones. Lastly came the gold crown his great-uncle had once worn, square in shape and adorned with a number of precious jewels. Raising a hand, Edgar scratched thoughtfully at that little stubble of a beard upon his chin, considering the offer.

In days since returning from York, Harold Godwinson had been vying for the hand of young Margaret Cerdicing for his eldest son, Godwine. Though opposed by the grandsons of Leofric, the move would have surely availed both the Earl of Wessex and the resurgent royal house, binding the two powers strongly together. All this would be dashed in an instant, however, for as the Earl of Merica began to lean in to whisper his advice to the young king, Edgar replied, "Very well." A murmur went up throughout the court, astonished at this move, yet the young king continued unabated, "The trespasses of your lord shall be forgiven; for as Christ forgave us, so too shall I forgive him who trespassed against me." Rising up to his feet, the young man descended down the dias, embracing the Scots prince. "As I have embraced you, so too shall I embrace your brother in Christian brotherhood," declared the young king, and soon arrangements were made to send the fair Margaret north to Scone.


Meanwhile, but a handful of miles away, William of Normandy had marched at a feverish pace from the beaches of Sussex, advancing boldly inwards to the shire of Surrey. The great town of Tunbridge submitted to the Norman duke with little contest, and with great hope, the bastard of Normandy dispatched his cousin, Roger de Beaumont, to scout ahead in force towards Southwark. It had been reasoned by the cunning Duke of Normandy that only but two obstacles stood between him and the throne of the English: the ætheling king, a youth whose cause would readily be abandoned should he suffer any defeat, and the powerful Earl of Wessex, whose great house held far too much power to be allowed to remain intact. Hearing that both figures resided in the palace of Westminster, William the Bastard hoped to seize both and the English throne in one daring move.

Upon arriving at Southwark, Roger de Beaumont discovered that the fyrdmen of Harold Godwinson strongly held the northern shore of the Thames. Yet, the Norman Duke was not deterred by this ill news. Infamous for his daring and innovative maneuvers, William the Bastard looked to the past to devise a scheme with which he might take Westminster and end the native rule of England. Having studied campaigns of the past, the Duke of Normandy discovered an old ford to the west that would see his force north of the Thames. No longer able to hold the river against him, surely then the Saxons would be defeated in pitched battle and forced to submit to his reign. Leaving a token force of men at Southwark under the command of the native Ralf de Gael, son of the Earl of Norfolk, the Normans proceeded swiftly west. But ten miles away, William the Bastard proceeded to ferry his forces across the Thames near the small town of Brentford.

This did not go unnoticed, however. Though Ralf de Gael had been instructed to take measures to bolster the appearance of his small band, hoping to deceive the Saxons with such a ruse, Harold Godwinson was not fooled for long. Allowing the earls Edwin and Morcar to continue to hold London with their huscarls, the Earl of Wessex advanced swiftly west to the town of Brentford proper, intending to hold the River Brent against the Norman invader. As chance would have it, the fate of England would be decided again at this pivotal ground, where it was said that the great Julius Caesar had crossed the Thames, and where Edmund Ironside, the young king's grandfather, had defeated Canute but fifty years before.

Bolstered by the remaining fyrdmen of Mercia and Northumbria, the Earl of Wessex had been given fifteen thousand men with which to best the Normans. Certain that his left flank would have to hold strong, Harold Godwinson placed his trusted brother Gyrth in command of the fyrdmen there, commanding him to hold to the River Thames and allow no Norman to cut them off from London in the east. This served the Earl of Wessex well, for it allowed him to place the ingenious thegn Leofdæg of Tottenham in command of the right, separating him from his rival, for the hatred between him and Gyrth, the Earl of East Anglia, was well-known. What little cavalry the Saxons had were to be placed under his command, for though his brother despised the thegn of Tottenham, Harold Godwinson trusted that the man could be put to good use.


Against this Saxon defense, the Normans had gathered a formidable band of mercenaries from across northern France, some thirteen thousand men, including nearly three thousand horsemen. Leading the Norman right against Gyrth Godwinson was the timid William de Vassy, son of the Count of Évreux, commanding a sizeable force of the French soldiers that had come to support the claim of William the Bastard. On the left were the Breton mercenaries along with a small contingent of Norman soldiers. With most of the light cavalry, Roger de Beaumont was hoped to press the Saxon right hard. In the center and near to the Duke was his trusted councilor, Roger de Montgomery, the Count of Alençon.

Calling to his side Ralf de Tosny, William the Bastard bade him bear his ducal banner, saying, "Bear my standard, for I would not but do you right; long has your line been the standard-bearers of Normandy, and very good knights have they all been." However, Ralf de Tosny refused the honour, bading the Duke to give the honour to another man. Thus it was that William the Bastard summoned Walter Giffard to his side, saying unto him, "By my faith, I have always loved thee, and should you do me the service of bearing my standard, surely I shall love thee even more." Though old and white of hair, Walter Giffard begged that another bear the honour, desiring nothing more than to fight the Saxons with both hands. Moved to a fury, William of Normandy exclaimed, "By the splendor of God, my lords, I think you mean to betray and fail me in this great need!" Moved by this charge, Walter Giffard relented, and so the banner was given unto him.

Mounted upon a magnificent black steed, given to him by his cousin Walter Giffard from the King of Aragon, William the Bastard surveyed his lines, all to the deafening shouts of "Ut! Ut! Ut!" from the Saxon lines, defiantly crying out how they would drive the foreign invader out of their land as they had the last. With him were his half brothers, Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, and Robert, the Count of Mortain. Drawing his sword, the Duke gestured towards the Saxon lines - and indeed, towards Westminster as well - and in a powerful voice declared, "By God's glory, the fight ahead of us shall be difficult, indeed! Our foe thinks us savage, unknowing of our righteous cause! Do not expect any quarter, for surely our foe shall shew thee none! Should we break our foe at this place, upon this day, we shall know naught but victory, but if we suffer defeat, we shall know only death! Thus do I, your Duke, beseech thee to fight with your utmost strength!" A cheer went up amongst the Normans, and so the advance was ordered and the battle committed.

Darting ahead, the unarmored archers sought to break the Saxon line with a devastating hail of arrows, firing in concentrated volleys. Upon a gentle rise overlooking the River Brent, however, the Saxon line would not break so easily. At the fore were the renowned huscarls, impressively clad in their maille byrnies and well trained with their heavy wooden shields, easily defending against the Norman arrows. Eventually, realizing the futility of this effort, William the Bastard ordered his infantry to advance. As the center of the Norman forces marched ahead, with their heavy mail hauberks and kite shields, it was not before long that their lines came under a withering fire from the Saxons lines, javelins and arrows filling the air. In a loud voice, the Duke of Normandy cried out, "By Christ and all His saints, raise thy shields!" The order came too late, however, and many of his soldiers fell beneath the shower of spears and stones.

Though having to cross the least distance to reach the Saxon lines, the Norman right under William de Vassy advanced slowly, merely pinning the Saxon left with light skirmishing attacks. This seemed to play to Gyrth's desires, who had his own skirmishers strive to respond in kind, all to little avail against the heavy maille of the Norman soldiers. It would be at the opposite end of the field, in the marshy tidal plains of the River Brent, that most of the maneuvering would take place. Roger de Beaumont ordered his archers to harry the English while he led his cavalry in a wide arc to flank the enemy line. However, both of his forces would find the swamp to impede their efforts, the archers having to wade through the muck to close the distance to be able to loose their arrows, and Leofdæg held firm against the light shower of arrows that could be brought against him. Meanwhile, Roger de Beaumont found his cavalry bogged down by the swampy terrain, unable to make the swift maneuver as he had desired.


As the Duke of Normandy continued to cry out his orders to his men, encouraging his soldiers with that powerful voice of his, one last volley of Saxon javelins plunged into his lines. As Heaven-ordained spear struck that magnificent black warhorse he had been gifted, sending the Bastard of Normandy flying from the saddle as the beast writhed in its death throes. A clamour went up amongst his soldiers, concern that their cunning Duke had been slain. The Norman advance faltered beneath the fear that their leader, the man who was their sole cause for being upon English soil, was slain. Taking advantage of this panic, Harold Godwinson ordered his huscarls to charge downhill into the Norman lines.

William the Bastard, however, was not slain. Casting his helm aside, he shouted in a loud voice, "Stand firm! By God, I yet live, and by God, I shall yet conquer!" It came just at the right moment, for mere seconds later, there was that great clash of shield upon shield, men crying out in agony as they were cut by the blade and maimed by the axe. Though the Saxon charge had hit the Norman line hard, the presence of their beloved Duke rallied them in that moment of need, allowing them to bear the press of men that had come thundering down at them. Unfortunately, it would not be so upon the Norman left.

There, the Bretons soon found themselves hard pressed by a charge led by the thegn Leofdæg himself, cutting many a man in twain with his mighty long axe. With the cavalry still stuck in the marshlands of the River Brent, it was not before long that the thegn of Tottenham managed to drive a wedge between the Bretons under Roger de Beaumont and the rest of the army. Seeing this, William the Bastard took another horse and rode hard to relieve his left flank, leaving Walter Giffard and Roger de Montgomery to continue to hold against the might of Harold Godwinson's finest troops. All the while, near to the River Thames, the Saxons and Normans continued their harrying attacks, neither side willing to commit to the melee just yet.


Pushing his way to the fore, striving to reach the enemy banner, Harold Godwinson fought with the fury of a beast. Armed with his long axe, none could resist the Earl of Wessex as he cut his way to the standard of the Duke of Normandy. Yet, William the Bastard was not amongst the company near that banner, still borne by the venerable Walter Giffard, the veteran of the famed siege of Barbastro. Moved to a great anger, Harold swung his axe overhead, sending it mightily down at the aged knight. Bearing the standard, old Walter Giffard was unable to defend himself against so mighty a warrior, and soon was slain, ending the life of that valiant Christian knight. Alerted by one of his close companions, the Duke of Normandy looked back to his forces, crying out in dismay as he saw his banner fall, "By the LORD, surely this shall be the end of us if we do not salvage our standard. Spare thee not thy horses, to the center again!"

But the damage was done. As the Bastard of Normandy wheeled about to try to reclaim his banner, the Bretons on the Norman left lost heart and broke. It was only at that penultimate moment that Gyrth Godwinson finally committed his troops to the fray. In a decisive, powerful charge, the fyrdmen of East Anglia came crashing into the Norman ranks, frightened and confused as cries went up about the fall of the ducal banner and retreat of the Bretons on the left. Hard pressed on all fronts, it was not before long that the rout became general, the Saxons overrunning the Norman ranks to pursue their defeated foe. Caught in the midst of this chaotic retreat, striving in vain to rally one last defense, both the Duke of Normandy and his trusted companion, Roger de Montgomery, were captured and made prisoner.


His ambitious offensive having failed, the Normans paid the price heavily for William the Bastard's hubris. Having been ferried across the River Thames, the Normans found their retreat difficult, and scores drowned within muddy waters of that historic river. Yet, however, a number of the Normans managed to make their way across the River Thames, many under the command of Roger de Beaumont. It would be at the town of Southwark that the remaining Norman forces, numbering less than some three thousand men, would strive to regroup and evaluate what could be done. All the while, the Earl of Wessex led his men in triumph back towards Westminster, the last invader of England as his captive.

 
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Saxon125

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And thus the Normans were driven out of England, and Edward is secure for now. Really hope he is able to hold onto the throne.
 

Asantahene

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Predominantly so, however, when I was researching Stamford Bridge, it appears as though Godwinson had a fairly significant mounted force under his control, and that - at least according to Hardrada's saga - they fought while mounted. Not in the armoured charge as the Normans and later cavalry, but predominantly in harassing attacks, charging in, throwing javelins, then promptly falling back. That said, I found myself fond of the way Hardrada's saga described the battle, and thus decided to go with that :)

And thanks for the compliment! I should, hopefully, be able to get the first gameplay section up by this weekend, the two above being 'prologue', effectively.
Ahhh thanks for the clarification-I must admit I didn't know that. You wonder why they didn't have more mounted troops at Hastings then eh? Possibly could have swung the battle as it might have helped nullify the incessant Norman Cavalry charges. Also the shields the Normans fought with were teardropped shaped rather than circular but I loved the description of the Battle of Brentford?

Great writing!
 
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Andrzej I

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And thus the Normans were driven out of England, and Edgar is secure for now. Really hope he is able to hold onto the throne.
Time will tell. Harold Godwinson still has a claim upon the English throne, and both Edwin and Morcar are ambitious schemers.
Ahhh thanks for the clarification-I must admit I didn't know that. You wonder why they didn't have more mounted troops at Hastings then eh? Possibly could have swung the battle as it might have helped nullify the incessant Norman Cavalry charges.
My guess? It's either: a) an error in the Hardrada saga, written well after the fact, or b) the swift cavalry attack at Stamford was considered unviable at Hastings, with William being much better informed than Hardrada. This, combined with Godwinson taking up a defensive position might explain the lack of mounted tactics from the Saxons, who, as you noted, specialized more in infantry.
Also the shields the Normans fought with were teardropped shaped rather than circular but I loved the description of the Battle of Brentford? Great writing!
Correct, and edited! I wrote circular, as when researching Hastings, I read somewhere the Norman infantry used both circular and kite, while the cavalry used predominantly kite. I then neglected to mention the armaments of the typical Norman cavalry at all and... circular shields alone it was! But no more! Thanks for the correction :)