stnylan

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Quite a lot going on. A reminder that the Tormentor is a dangerous sort to have around

But Ubbe makes an excellent point about Odin, if you believe in such things :)
 

Michaelangelo

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It seems potential traitors linger everywhere. Is the Tormentor cursing Ubbe, is the Queen's child Ubbe's, or are both true? We may never know.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Ælfwine!? How rough a time this guy has had since Ubbe and his brothers arrived.
 

JabberJock14

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I can't remember - is Ubbe paranoid? If he is, then I'll buy the maid's explanation. If not... :eek:

Things go well for now, but there's certainly foreboding in that ending. Perhaps what awaits after Ubbe dies?
 

alscon

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Quite a lot going on. A reminder that the Tormentor is a dangerous sort to have around

But Ubbe makes an excellent point about Odin, if you believe in such things :)
Amongst a horde of dangerous men, he certainly is one of those that one must pay special attention to.

That's why it is somewhat effective for Jorunn. Besides, Ubbe also picked up that zealous trait from his meeting with Odin, so he likely believes that too.

The war is playing out well for Ubbe. I do have to wonder if Jorunn is right about Hæsteinn that he will somehow be Ubbe's undoing. Good to see that Jorunn's pregnancy is from Ubbe.
It's strange enough. The entire time I wondered why only the slightly reinforced mercenary force was moving around, attacking even. While Ælfred happily waited for them to be slaughtered with his 4.3k in Winchester :confused:.
He'll never be above suspicion. And if the child wasn't Ubbe's... it wouldn't have been pretty.

It seems potential traitors linger everywhere. Is the Tormentor cursing Ubbe, is the Queen's child Ubbe's, or are both true? We may never know.
Without real danger from the outside (happily not taking part in the conflict...) one has more time to focus inward. And since the beginning, suspicions ran rampant around Ubbe. Does truth even exist in these circumstances, or is truth different from person to person?

Ælfwine!? How rough a time this guy has had since Ubbe and his brothers arrived.
One man, exemplary for the suffering of an entire people. Then again he isn't, as he's been fairly capable at facing the Norse threat.

I can't remember - is Ubbe paranoid? If he is, then I'll buy the maid's explanation. If not... :eek:

Things go well for now, but there's certainly foreboding in that ending. Perhaps what awaits after Ubbe dies?
Yeah, he's always been. As he is, I didn't need the console to confirm it. I only wonder why he didn't suspect Jorunn the first time.

Would you listen to some drugged enemy mystic commander, captured and dragged into your camp :rolleyes:?

Let's hope Ubbe's wife won't take matters into her own hands, or if she does, that she'd limit herself to casting a spell on the Tormenter or something like that.
Who knows. She might well be plotting the Tormentor's death, but Hafrid doesn't tell Ubbe of it. A spell - now that seems like something she might do. :D

The next chapter is a smaller one - and deals with a hero and one of the objectives ;).
 
Chapter Twenty-Six: The Meaning of Names

alscon

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Chapter Twenty-Six: The Meaning of Names

Selsey, August 874

Hæsteinn's specialists waited until he woke up to start their task. Once again, a Saxon commander would serve as example of the unstoppable viking advance, just like the former earl of Cumberland did. It didn't take long for Ælfwine to pass out again. Apparently he had drugged himself quite potently before entering the Norse camp, and this turned out to be a mercy for him, even if it didn't save him from flaying.

whAsNGX.jpg

The execution of Ælfwine and a few locals who had attempted to help him was the final part of one of Ubbe's goals ever since he set out from Scandinavia, even if he wouldn't hear of it for quite some time still. Having lost their leader, their pay vanished in the invaders' pockets, the mercenaries made one last attempt to relieve the siege, fully aware that it was a hopeless affair. It ended up as a one-sided slaughter.

Legends tell the story of a man who charged the Swiss on horseback, before his horse got killed. After the loss of his shield, he would have thrown off his armour and swung his axe like a madman, before picking up a bow from a fallen enemy and taking out the sole rider on the field. After having utterly demoralized the opponent, they would have collectively sworn that they may be defeated, but they would take that man down with them, which they managed to do in the end. Only this unnamed legend, who none of Ubbe's warriors claimed to have known.

8hckQll.jpg


Selsey, February 875

The siege had taken long enough. Now, Ubbe finally stood on the other side of this wall he took months to pass. A week too late. He had just lost more men to a recent outbreak of disease than he had to the persistence of Ælfwine and the Swiss. Without Anlaufr – tending to his newborn daughter, Kraka, and whatever other business he had in Lúnborg – it had not been possible to prevent it as effectively as Gunnarr had in Wales.

p0tS89a.jpg

A great price to pay – but still, the king of Lúnborg watched the pillage from the walls with a satisfied smile on his face. Selsey's commander had not only surrendered the town to Ubbe – he had surrendered it to the hands of 'the Flayer'.

The nicknames of the Saxons were not exactly unexpected. Still, Ubbe aspired for such a 'title' since his arrival, something that would make him more fearsome in their eyes then the average Olaf, Harald or Gorm. People avoided to cross a man with the right reputation. And he was sure that if he had been known as the Flayer since the initial invasion, the priests wouldn't have dared act against him, just like Ivar's alleged sorcery kept the Christians in line.

On the other hand, their own rulers were idolized, as these were the ones they put their hopes in. After Burghræd the Magnanimous, the main opponent of the vikings was now known as a man people would be naturally inclined to want as their ruler – Ælfred 'the Just'. A portrayal of the struggle of good against evil, compressed in merely a few names. In Brittany, the Liberator had prevailed against the Tormentor. The Flayer would try to avoid meeting that fate against the Just.

LKab57R.jpg



Lúnborg, March 875

“Give me that.”

“Why?”

“Because. And my father's the king!”

“So what? He isn't here.”

“I want that!”

“No! It's mine!”

Hæsteinn grabbed the object of desire and began to pull. Whatever it was, Inwær couldn't discern from his position. His opponent didn't give up. “L-let go!”

Although he was younger then his opponent, Ubbesson held his own in the struggle, until he surprised the other boy by letting go of the thing, leading to him holding the prize, but falling backwards on the ground, Hæsteinn jumping on him next fists first.

Inwær intervened. “That's enough, boys!” He pushed the fighters away from each other. “What is it today?” The Saxon sighed.

“Ragnarr's got some nice figurine and doesn't want to give it to me!”

“It's mine! Father made it for me!”, the other boy exclaimed. He was the son of the Tormentor, and Inwær didn't recognize what the figurine represented from the few glimpses he got on the coveted thing, hidden from his sight. Perhaps Ragnarr feared he would want it, too.

The former monk let loose the older boy. “Go to Anlaufr, see if something is badly hurt.”

“I feel fine”, Ragnarr answered, glared at Hæsteinn, then ran off wherever.

“It is his figurine, young man”, Inwær told his king's son.

“Father is the king. So he has to give it to me.”

“That's not how it...”

"What do you know? People like you lived here. Then father took it. Now it's ours. So if I take it, it's mine.”

“Who told you that?”

“What else is father doing now? Taking what he can from weak people.”

“You can't just simply take what you want.”

“No, you! You and the fat guy cannot. You live from what father took.”

“There's more ways to live than just taking.”

“For you weaklings. I am not weak. I will be a king, like father. And what he hasn't taken, I will.”

“Sometimes, strength is mistaken for weakness. You will learn, in time.”

“Not from a weakling”, Hæsteinn said, struggling to break free until Inwær had to release him.

The man thought about pursuing the boy, but then remembered that he should leave him alone. “By finding his own way Hæsteinn will grow to be a strong and determined young man, a conqueror, or – as you would put it – a true viking leader.”

Jorunn's words. It would be a struggle for Ubbe's heir, especially if he kept picking fights with Ragnarr Hæsteinsson. But if that was his parents' idea of his future, Inwær wouldn't intervene.

Qbv94br.jpg


Anlaufr was passing by. “I guess that means Ragnarr didn't come to see you.”

“I've seen him running past me. Couldn't have been something bad. The boys were fighting again? Then I must say that it is a good sign that Hæsteinn overpowers the Tormentor's son.” The seer was smiling. Naturally, it was thanks to his excellent treatment that his future king had vanquished the flu, and gotten stronger from the experience.

“Enmities for life are born that way, I fear.”

“So what?”, Anlaufr shrugged. “It is by the strength of your enemy that you measure your own. If you grow up unchallenged, you become complacent, weak. See your monasteries.”

“They are no longer 'my' monasteries, but still. What are you alluding to?”

“Your people, they see a monastery and think 'how blessed are we to live and work here'. Your kings, they leave them mostly be. This is what I mean by unchallenged. Then you think of yourself as secure, and when we Northmen cross the sea and see undefended goods, you cry out in outrage. When it was your own complacency that caused it.”

The former monk was seeking words to answer, while the seer continued. “Hæsteinn gets a little authority from his birth. But he needs to earn most of it. If even Ragnarr had a son called 'the Tender', nobody would have followed him, he couldn't have led an invasion like the Boneless, Whiteshirt and the Flayer did. And Ubbesson is on exactly the right course.”

“Your educational matters remain a strange concept for me still, who has grown up under monastic tutelage”, Inwær sighed. “But I will learn, in time.” His expression lit up. “Speaking of which... does your offer still stand?”

“Of course it does.” All antipathy against the former Christian had vanished from the physician over the last years, and he beckoned him to follow.

“I have learnt a lot from my old masters, but your treatments have proven highly effective. I can't wait to learn about them.”
 

stnylan

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It can be hard to value a the worth of a reputation, and whether it is "good" or "bad" often depends on one's perspective.
 

Michaelangelo

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"The Flayer" is certainly a worthy title for a Norseman. It shows that Ubbe is finally striking fear into the hearts of the Saxons and outshining his brothers.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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That one Norsemen cavalier may be lost to history, but he better remain a legend.

The Flayer! If nothing else, you got some prize from this war.
 

tpmcinty

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The city has been taken and Ubbe has earned a Viking style nickname. Nice tale of the one casualty. What is next in the war?

Ubbesson seems to have a quarrelsom and head stronge nature. Wonder if that will be a problem down the road.
 

JabberJock14

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The Flayer - now Ubbe has taken another step to avoid being the forgotten one in this timeline.

That Wessex army just sitting there would have scared me. Can't trust the AI to assist.

And the prince is rather young! Will Ubbe make it the 10 years necessary for him to take over without a regency?
 

Bullfilter

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At last, a macho nickname - huzzah! Better ‘the Flayer’ than ‘the Guy who gets Boars to Gore People to Death’! A bit Ramsay Bolton, but good. ;)
 

alscon

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It can be hard to value a the worth of a reputation, and whether it is "good" or "bad" often depends on one's perspective.
Definitely. For a fearsome raider, the Flayer may be a title he gladly wears, but for most others perhaps not someone inspiring much trust.

"The Flayer" is certainly a worthy title for a Norseman. It shows that Ubbe is finally striking fear into the hearts of the Saxons and outshining his brothers.
He's on track. That's at least one objective down :).

That one Norsemen cavalier may be lost to history, but he better remain a legend.

The Flayer! If nothing else, you got some prize from this war.
That battle result can only be explained like that. That man deserves to be remembered, name or not :p.

To be honest, I've kept executing prisoners in the hope of getting a nickname out of it. So that worked :rolleyes:.

So Inwær is going to learn the Bee treatment?:D
One of Anlaufr's most prized secrets. He'll teach it eventually, I'm sure :p.

The city has been taken and Ubbe has earned a Viking style nickname. Nice tale of the one casualty. What is next in the war?

Ubbesson seems to have a quarrelsom and head stronge nature. Wonder if that will be a problem down the road.
Took long enough, with all the stubborn and suicidal Swiss interruptions. And it is only with such a terrifying name that one may motivate such legends to follow you :p.

It really depends on who will influence him. He's very young still, so there might be some change. Not that we'll see much of him these next few years.

The Flayer - now Ubbe has taken another step to avoid being the forgotten one in this timeline.

That Wessex army just sitting there would have scared me. Can't trust the AI to assist.

And the prince is rather young! Will Ubbe make it the 10 years necessary for him to take over without a regency?
Yeah. One big goal, clearly achieved :).

Probably the AI planned to invade Lotharingia, but didn't realize it lacked the ships to do so. The Swiss Company was hired specifically to fight Halfdan, so these guys attacked (though I've got no idea why suiciding them was a good strategy - perhaps Ælfred could no longer afford them?). Had they attacked, it could have caused a welcome twist in the story, at least :eek:.

That's a good question ;).

At last, a macho nickname - huzzah! Better ‘the Flayer’ than ‘the Guy who gets Boars to Gore People to Death’! A bit Ramsay Bolton, but good. ;)
I don't know, the second one sounds good too. Perhaps a bit long, but a bit shortened so that it rolls off the tongue - 'the Boar-Gorer'? - and it would be memorable if only for its uniqueness. And after all, it is not the first time one can see a similarity between Ubbe and Ramsay :rolleyes:.


Well, and now it's time for the next chapter. Ælfred will be forced to act - and it is time for a legacy-defining decision.
 
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Exalted Ambition

alscon

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Chapter Twenty-Seven: Exalted Ambition

Winchester, March 875

“Halfdan has engaged Ælfred. Let's join him, boys.”

Ubbe's host arrived almost just in time. Still, their arrival looked like it would definitely tip the scales into Halfdan's favour, giving him the clear advantage in men. The hopes of the army of Wessex lay in their long training for this day, their will to defend their homeland, and the skill of their king.

ExiB84t.jpg

Ælfred's presence was clearly noticeable. Unlike in Lincoln, the Saxons looked like a unit, disciplined and tough. It wouldn't be easy to break through their well-organized ranks. While the Norse flanks employed a different strategy than Whiteshirt's centre, their opponent harassed the advance as one, seeking whatever opportunity arose to employ their cavalry. The king's men wreaked havoc amongst Halfdan's archers.

8VJxTLc.jpg

As the distance diminished, the Saxons pulled back, intent on holding their position. And holding it they did. Relentlessly, the viking shieldwall pushed against the Saxon one, but made little gains. It looked like there would be a bloody standstill, save for the right flank. Hæsteinn's banner had assumed command of this flank, and its presence was felt by the combatants. Ælfred suddenly seemed very far away, the Jew who led them very near. And the Tormentor approached. When he had managed to cut off the flank from the centre, the Saxons had enough.

The left flank and the centre held until Ælfred had to sound the retreat. A spirited charge by the Normans had torn a hole into his formation which had so formidably held off the vikings before, and he knew then that the battle was lost.

As the dust settled, it became apparent how well the Wessexians had held against a numerically far superior enemy.

464k18H.jpg

“I don't even want to know how the battle would have turned out if they had the Swiss on their side today”, Tryggve mused.

“Of course you don't want to know. You would have retreated”, Steinn picked up Tryggve's thoughts, not bothering to hide the hostility in his voice. “While it is the charge of me and my men who decided the battle.”

“Oh, absolutely. For Hæsteinn totally wasn't just finishing off the flank and would have crushed the centre afterwards. Leaving less men to escape.”

“Go on, continue hiding behind your master's success!”

“Oh, I'm sorry, but I don't want do do the same as you.”

“Say that again.”

You hide behind your master.”

“Enough! Like squabbling children”, Halfdan asserted his authority, earning a thankful nod from Ubbe, but scorn from the Tormentor, who was clearly enjoying the fight and waiting for it to escalate. “Rivalry between commanders. Doesn't that wake good memories”, he glanced at Ubbe, who stayed silent, glaring back.

“Ælfred has just offered to surrender our target. And no matter how much you are thirsting for blood now, I have accepted it. There will be another conflict with the Saxon.”

3lQXDfD.jpg

“Still, no matter what came afterwards”, Ubbe sighed dramatically, “I think it is clear enough that without me, you would have had a hard time.”

“Ha. Nice one, brother.”

“Not recognizing my efforts? Then let me name the facts. It is the appearance of my commander who broke through the left today. It is the charge of my right hand who tore a hole into the enemy centre. And without my previous battles against the Swiss, or my assistance here, you – and Ivar's men – would have been outnumbered! Would they fight half as well as they did today, you would have been defeated!”

Halfdan smiled at Ubbe for a moment, outraging him even further. Then he briefly nodded. “No, I do. Neither of us has been feeding on each others' scraps in this war. Seems like my little brother can actually stand on his own now.”

“Just as I thought... you are overdoing things. As usual.”

“Come, stop being grumpy and enjoy our victory today. We've dealt a great blow to the Christians. Canterbury is mine. Let us feast!”






As the others were celebrating their victory with copious amounts of meat and drink, Ubbe kept to his right hand sitting beside him, choosing not to engage in Halfdan's boasting or Hæsteinn's gleefully gory tales from the battle.

“'Standing on my own.' Pah. He'll see soon enough. I am now as much among the greatest heroes of the sagas as he is.”

ZpxYe0h.jpg

“I think Halfdan absolutely recognizes that. Next to his usual condescension, he showed you plenty of respect. At least in his way.”

Ubbe grunted. “Either way, I don't need his approval. People speak my name. The Flayer of the Saxons. If anyone can conquer them, it is him. More so than Whiteshirt or”, he paused a pensive moment. “A comatose Boneless. And that is what I will have to capitalize on.”

“I see. Hæsteinn was only the first step.”

“More like the intention to make the first step, but yes. I will be the first king of Englaland, and then... Halfdan will have to accept me as his superior, as his king!”

CdAyivN.jpg

Now was not the time to discuss it in more detail, as the two had gathered the attention of Sigfrið, Halfdan's eldest son, who seemed to listen attentively. And if Jorvik's heir listened, Asa's ear was open as well. And Whiteshirt's lover was capable of anything. She certainly wouldn't want him to become Ubbe's subject.

So Steinn raised his horn. “To the king.” That wouldn't raise any suspicions. But it held true both for the king of Lúnborg – and that of Englaland.





Lúnborg, October 875

A few ships had been spotted. Hopefully the first of many. “Why do you think they are here? Örvar's honeyed words or Arnfast's envoys?”

Right after the return to his capital, Ubbe had sent his left hand back to Scandinavia. He was to travel the land and attract as many warriors as he could to his king's cause – the preparation of an invasion of Wessex.

2BtfkRh.jpg

The mayor of Lowther had stayed in Lúnborg, as usual frequenting all places which offered drink and women. In other words, also the places where adventurers and other travellers spent their time in town. These people would also serve as recruiters for Ubbe's cause if Arnfast managed to convince them. The treasurer had bet a sizeable sum against Steinn that he would be able to gather more warriors then Örvar without making as much as a step out of town.

“You will have to ask them. I doubt we'll be able to see it from here”, the king responded.

“True”, Steinn said, his thoughts elsewhere. “So have you decided?”

“It is a difficult decision. Right, Tryggve had the least success on his flank, but then again, your Norman cavalry would be missed in the centre.”

“The Tormentor's dog belongs to his side.”

“He is capable enough. He faced strong opposition.”

“Not as strong as Ælfred himself, who we faced. The men are losing trust in him.”

“Is that what you want to hear or what you have truly heard? Either way, if everything works out, we'll have more men joining us from Scandinavia than we have now, so that isn't a problem.”

“I...”

“Rest easy, my friend”, Ubbe cut him off. “I have decided. When the time comes, you will lead the flank, and Tryggve stay with Hæsteinn. Though I will miss your presence at my side, I have the utmost trust in you. And now, let us hear what they have to say.”

The newcomers had been greeted friendly and with much optimism. The disembarking men seemed to be mostly young men, drawn from their homes with the dream of a great success in this fertile land. A grizzled veteran had led them here, and the king welcomed him personally.

“Ubbe the Flayer, son of Ragnarr Loðbrok. It will be an honour to fight at your side.”

“And I am glad to count you at mine. The first of many.”

“I am certain we are. Although the choice was a difficult one.”

“There was a choice?”

“As it happens, you are not the only Ragnarrsson preparing to strike against the dead crucified god. Sigurdr, Snake-out-of-the-Eye, has designated Lotharingia as his target, striking at the heart of the Frankish kingdoms after uniting the Danes.”

“May we both have success. But wait... 'Snake-out-of-the-Eye'?”

“Yes. In the struggles for Danmark, in battle against Bagsecg Jute's forces, he took an axe to his face. The snake may have protected him, as he may have lost his eye, but nothing more.”

6kdN5Xf.jpg

Ubbe nodded silently. Steinn seized the opportunity and asked the man why he had come here.

“A well-fed man appeared in our village together with Rognvald, an old friend of mine who had sought his luck in Englaland. After hearing their words, we decided to join the Flayer instead of the Snaked.”

The right hand grumbled. A draw for the first ships.




Lúnborg, 3rd December 875

Preparations for the invasion continued. Steinn had headed back to Cornwall to train his cavalry. Härek greeted the newcomers and, together with the Tormentor and the king, began to form an army out of them. The Christians kept quiet – there was hardly a worse time to act against their pagan overlord than now as he kept growing stronger.

The latest arrival was a familiar face. But one nobody expected. He entered the great hall, devoid of advisors, only occupied by Ubbe and a few huscarls at the time. All of them turned their heads towards him without a word as he made his way towards the king, until he broke the silence with one word. “Uncle.”

“Sigfrið. What are you doing here?”

“I bear news from my father..”

“And that's why you came?”, Ubbe mustered his nephew closely. “Why not send a messenger?”

“Father didn't want to send any. Yet.”

“Still, you are here now?...”

“For I want to join you, uncle.”

Now he had Ubbe's full attention. But not his trust. Sigfrið could be up to something which would make the glory of his invasion pale in comparison, however he could do it. “Let us hear that message first.”

“As I said, it is not an actual message from my father. Rather a sharing of information. I expect you to be aware of the Scottish troubles in the last years? Father intends to seize Fife, launching his attack before the month's end. He naturally expects your assistance.”

“Naturally. For he definitely hasn't heard of my invasion plans by now”, Ubbe grumbled.

“There's a chance he hasn't. Ever since his return from Kent, the gates of Jorvik have been closed and we've lived in seclusion – a nasty disease spread amongst the Saxons.”

“Believe me, he knows. If not by himself, then Asa has whispered it into his ear. Is that another 'test', I wonder? To see if I simply cast him aside to focus on my goal?”

“Concerning Asa, she has been troublesome for me.”

“She has? Well, then tell me.” If his nephew had clashed with his brother's lover, it might help to explain his sudden appearance – and build up some trust.

“You remember the feast at the last war's end, when you spoke to Eyjing. About the kingdom of Englaland.”

So he had listened to them in more than a drunken fit. “Of course.”

“Which is why you are preparing to march against Wessex.”

Ubbe waved him onwards. Clearly, there was no need to discuss something that obvious.

“Back then, I already made up my mind. I played no role in the 'Great Heathen Army'. Father rather entrusts his flank to Ragnarr than to me, his eldest! I want to lead men into battle! Kill the Saxons myself instead of cowering inside Jorvik waiting for them all to croak from the pox or whatever! That is why I am here. You must know that feeling, uncle! This is why I will join your invasion.”

The king of Lúnborg nodded. “It seems that Halfdan overshadows us both. Believe me, I understand. What about Asa now?”

“The Shieldmaiden knew my idea from the start. Perhaps it was her idea to close off Jorvik so that I couldn't leave. Jorvik's heir fighting for the weaker brother – now that is something my father surely wants to avoid. Too late now – I will be forging my path here.”

At least Sigfrið's determination was admirable, Ubbe thought. Although it was exactly that which would make Halfdan more willing to look the other way and welcome his son's actions – after all, he was showing the strength and conviction he would need as a ruler.

“She kept an eye on me all the time. I wasn't able to leave, growing increasingly frustrated until I had enough. With some friends, I brawled with Asa's goons and then we dragged them and their mistress into a food storage. In times of rationing, a reason to be put into shackles. And even if it was Asa, father's usual distrust paired with her reputation gave him no choice but to dismiss their story. I enjoyed seeing her imprisoned, then used my freedom from the shadows to leave, consequences be damned.”

Blunt, but effective. “He must have released her by now, ended that dreadful seclusion. But I am here now. To stay.”

Well, what's the worst Sigfrið could do? He could only be an asset, in the end. Ubbe smiled. “I'll be glad to know you with me, nephew.”

DffkEDP.jpg
 

stnylan

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It is good that Ubbe is finally being recognised as being of worth.

Though I don't doubt he will continue to have to prove himself.
 

Michaelangelo

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Becoming King of England is quite the ambition, and one that will inevitably bring Ubbe into conflict with his brothers. Let us see whose ambitions will be fulfilled and who will be forgotten in the annals of history.
 

Bullfilter

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Wessex in the sights, but others diversions first - will Ubbe merely pay lip service to Halfdan’s call and keep his focus on his own invasion plans, or actually assist? Interesting having the heir to Jorvik at court - will he one day have to bow to Ubbe as a subject?