TheAnguishedOne

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Two invasions being prepared! It would be quite interesting if they both proved successful. Having Sigfrið around is a surprise too. Be a real shame if he died fighting Ubbe's war...
 

alscon

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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.
Definitely. It wasn't easy for Halfdan to grudgingly accept his contribution.

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.
There can only be one!

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?
Whatever he chooses to do, Halfdan will likely find a reason to criticize that decision. Especially with Sigfrið on Ubbe's side - conditioned to follow the latter's orders in the future?

Two invasions being prepared! It would be quite interesting if they both proved successful. Having Sigfrið around is a surprise too. Be a real shame if he died fighting Ubbe's war...
It was a bit surprising to see Sigurdr preparing the invasion at almost the same time - only the norns know about their success.
If Sigfrið died, I'm not sure Halfdan would be too annoyed. Sure, it is his eldest son, but he would have died in battle. And his actual favourite, Ragnarr, would become his primary heir. Ubbe on the other hand would clearly feel like he lost an asset...

Time for the next chapter - we will take another look northward.
 
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Loss of Bone

alscon

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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Loss of Bone

Lúnborg, 22nd December 875

“Tell your king that I won't join his campaign.”

“So you are to abandon your brother?”, the emissary asked dutifully, likely as he was instructed to do.

“No. But the Scots are weak. They have been plagued by internal troubles. They won't be able to resist Halfdan's advance.”

“Still, it remains abandon. You no longer leech of his greatness.”

“You can also tell him that he could have spared himself these instructions – it's tiresome. He knows very well what I am doing. You have seen it, too. But rest assured – should the Scots put up more of a fight than expected, I will help him. To defend his lands. Then he can beg to profit from my greatness.”

The emissary wanted to retort, but Ubbe had already turned his attention elsewhere. “Tell me, Sigfrið, how many men have arrived today?”

The heir to Jorvik grinned at his father's man before answering the question, and the latter left the hall angrily. His king wouldn't be pleased, so he had to try to convince Ubbe again tomorrow.

Unsuccessfully.

fa3UJYE.jpg



Suðreyar, 12th February 876

The three men stood there, staring out at sea, silent. Whenever it seemed as if one of them would break the silence, the latent hostility in the air made him reconsider. Thus, everything went according to tradition.

It is only when no flicker of light reached the shore any more that the men felt brave enough to speak. The hostility remained, but there was no longer a shadow looming over them. Without the inhibitor the fear of that shadow presented, the mutual hate drove them to articulate their differences.

“Who's to say he would have wanted it now? After you have broken his promise?”

“I broke none of his promises.”

“That's what Halfdan said, didn't he? That you wouldn't break his promise.”

“He's right, you know. No promise has been broken.”

“Still taking his side now? You disappoint me.”

“I've supported that decision. So of course.”

“Then why isn't either of you helping our dear uncle now? I've heard that he fights the Scots.”

“For the same reason you are here, Sigtrygg. The kingdom of Suðreyar.”

The Boneless had drawn his last breath and taken his place at Odin's side. It was after all his wound in battle that was finally fatal to him. His three surviving sons were at odds ever since he had been incapacitated. Now, with no hope of Ivar's guiding hand returning, the three were ready to fight for his inheritance in earnest.

LMeCTKu.jpg

Barid presented his main argument once again. “I have been his designated heir. The chiefs of Mann, Teviotdale and Clydesdale have confirmed it before, when I was declared regent. They will confirm it again. Dyflinn, too.”

“Ha! I doubt he's being of use to you.”

“He is. In exchange for his support, he has been set free.”

“What? You set free Olafr?”, Sigfroþ exclaimed. “Do you think that strengthens your cause? He seized the first sign of weakness to betray us. He'll do so again.”

“And face Suðreyar's full might if he does? I doubt it.”

“'Suðreyar's full might'. Sounds nice, doesn't it? But it is no longer father's realm. Without him, the strength of the southern isles vanished. I am the one to rebuild it.”

“And why you, Sigfroþ? We can both agree that Barid is unsuited to lead warriors, but why you?”

“I'm younger and stronger than you, brother. And I fought to conquer Aírgialla.”

“'Younger and stronger', hmph! I am the eldest son. Just as it was when Ragnarr died, the eldest takes the lead.”

“In the campaign to avenge him”, Barid noted. “Aírgialla is conquered, its Irish defenders dead. There is nobody left to exert our revenge on.” He smirked. “Funny you should mention Ragnarr. Aren't our younger uncles ruling in the homeland? Which would mean me here.”

“And me in East Anglia”, Sigtrygg was quick to retort.

“Me in Oriel then. And Dunbar.”

“That's not what-”

“You meant, Barid? Did you never consider that buying the chiefs' loyalty may not net you father's personal lands? These aren't theirs to dispose of. They can choose who they follow. If, at the end of the day, it is you, then so be it. But that doesn't mean anything for the conquests we just mentioned.”

The eldest agreed. “And so we will act like our uncles before us, each of us taking parts of father's lands as our own.”

“You would revolt against your king and brother?”

“Right. Brother. We are, as such, equals. Just look at Ubbe, and you'll see that the equality of Ragnarr's sons can't be denied. So not the equality of Ivar's either.”

lnQ37E8.jpg



Dyflinn, 28th March 876

“I knew it.”

“Of course. You know me, you know your brother.”

“There's not much left of 'Suðreyar's full might'. I had half expected him to give in to your demands.”

“He remains your father's son, after all. Had he given in, I could as well claim the reign of Suðreyar for myself.” Olafr gave that some thought. “Might have been better if he did, after all.”

“Tell me why you don't want independence this time.”

“Like you, Sigfroþ? Tell me, does your brother still hold that Saxon fool like a pet?”

“That's a promise he can't break. We have all sworn that together. Ælla's line will end with a shackled dog.”

“So easy it was to convince him, too. Of course, that even bigger fool had to die before we could make our move. Oh, don't act surprised. You know that Guðfrið was as much on our side as Sigtrygg – that is, before your sibling died and with it my freedom from the word I gave the Boneless.”

“And your point is...?”

“I had to resort to freedom last time, because I lacked strength. Now, I have it – compared to Barid. How better to demonstrate your strength than to play an Ivarsson like a puppet?”

“I see.”

“Is that why you are here? To prevent that?”

“I'm not here to help my brother. You know that, too. I just wanted to see if my prediction was right.”

“I think that isn't all...”

“A fair warning – one Ivarsson puppet doesn't prevent another Ivarsson from taking his rightful place.”

0np6S8J.jpg



Cumberland, 28th September 876

“The truce holds?”

“It does – not that I have any opportunity to break it”, Steinn grumbled. “Not with only a few men from the temple and town, while he leads a few hundred.”

“Well, then you'll be perfectly able to provide the flank support Ubbe wanted and Halfdan requested.”

lD1MXaa.jpg

“Me? No. I'm probably only here to ensure everybody returns to Lúnborg after the battle, still following Ubbe and not Hæsteinn. I'm more surprised that you are here.”

“Everybody who matters is in perfect health. And I've taught Inwær a few of my tricks. Under the right guidance, these former monks can be very useful.”

“Is that who your type of fame attracts? Men like Ubbe attract warriors – you pupils.”

cwMPW0o.jpg

“There are worse curses for a physician”, Anlaufr smiled. “Though I could accomplish more if my temple owned more than just the little land around it.”

“No matter how often you tell me that, it remains out of my reach”, Steinn sighed. “I imagine anything can happen once Ælfred has been defeated, but before he is, all remains repetitive.”

“Like heading through this land? Seeing that pole on the hill? The first sign of the Flayer to come?”

“You listened to the right ones.”

“People like to tell stories while they are being treated. Or in a delirium of sorts. And I had to know the story of Ubbe's arrival. I've been thinking about getting Inwær to write it down in one of his books and circulate it amongst the monks. Right after he told me, he seemed to regret it.”

“Either way, no. It may seem so at first. We come to support Halfdan. Fight in Northumbria. With less men than him. But then again, it isn't. Ubbe owns this land. The Tormentor and that fool Tryggve are on the flanks. Even for me personally – I am þegn of Cornwall, acting on Ubbe's orders, but away from him instead of being his hirdman.”

“Looking at you, there's another difference.”

“As well as you. You are far more present in Ubbe's saga than I would have ever expected.”

“Hard work, like yours, to constantly improve. If I hadn't recognized the red lightning bolt, I doubt I would have recognized you before you took off the helmet.”

Steinn furrowed his brow as he watched the seer, who shrugged. “We all know it's wrong, but according to Arnfast's hearsay, you are now known as 'The First Norman'. It suits you.”

“We aren't fighting in fjords. Wide plains form our battlefields, and we don't conduct small raids either. The Boneless left a lasting lesson on the value of mobility in warfare. I have adapted, as have the people in my land. So we fight mostly on horseback.”

“With clearly different armour – to show your Norman-ness.”

“It reflects the combination of our cultures”, Steinn said as he glared at Anlaufr.

The seer wasn't intimidated. “You know why I am here”, he began, bringing the topic back to the question he had yet to answer.

“No. I asked you why.”

“You said it yourself. You ensure that everyone returns. I do the same.”

“Anyone else could do as well. Especially if the disease still plagues Ubbe, as you say.”

“I think my treatment will take care of it for a few more months at least. I am here for your health.”

“Mine?”

“Don't act so surprised. You are Ubbe's most trusted man. You even think alike in so many cases. Aren't you focusing on learning about warfare to better lead the men? Haven't you even entrusted your concubine with your safety, as he initially did? All for your king, your friend. He can't lose you. Yet he had to send you away with your sworn enemy. He needs you to return. I am to act as physician for the men, yes, but especially to ward off any poison or curse from you.”

JeSwQyZ.jpg

Steinn was left baffled for a moment. “I... suppose a 'thank you' is in order, then.”
Was it just Ubbe's paranoia striking again? Probably. He was here to alleviate it – he hadn't expected to be its target too. And that he was – it moved him deeply. His leader, his king, his friend – he had vowed to protect him, and he couldn't have made a better choice.
 

stnylan

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The death of Ivar has been long coming.
 

Bullfilter

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So, finally it is Ivar the Lifeless. Looks like his sons will bicker away his inheritance, lesser shadows of their uncles after Ragnarr’s demise. A touching devotion of Ubbe to Stein here.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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And so the Boneless passes on. If Ubbe has to throw his support to one of them, I wonder which of three nephews he'll pick.
 

Michaelangelo

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So many opportunities to dominate the Isles while everyone fights each other. Excellent chance to use the disintegration of the Boneless's domain to expand even further.
 

JabberJock14

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I didn't even realize Norman culture could spawn outside of Normandy!

Ivar's death opens up opportunity... for multiple parties. The Norsemen could pick the remains apart, but the Saxons could fight back, if the Norse start fighting among themselves.
 

alscon

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The death of Ivar has been long coming.
Yes. He stayed alive longer then I expected him to, though. But he didn't wake up again. :(

Ivar passes and chaos ensues with his sons.
Not a peaceful succession there. Made worse by releasing Olafr, but that might have been the price Barid had to pay to be king - a weak one, but still a king.

So, finally it is Ivar the Lifeless. Looks like his sons will bicker away his inheritance, lesser shadows of their uncles after Ragnarr’s demise. A touching devotion of Ubbe to Stein here.
The Ivarssons' realms are very weak. Without the Boneless, some strong guiding hand needs to emerge over there, or a recovering Scotland may one day make its move. Luckily for them, that day seems far off, with poor Constantine still having a lot of rebuilding to do again.
For a paranoid man like him, there are little men he can trust. Steinn has been with him for a long time, and he hopefully will continue to. It's the least he deserves :).

And so the Boneless passes on. If Ubbe has to throw his support to one of them, I wonder which of three nephews he'll pick.
For now, he's got bigger fish to fry, but that may be an interesting question in the future. Obvious candidate may be Barid, but he doesn't seem to hold much more than the title of king himself.

So many opportunities to dominate the Isles while everyone fights each other. Excellent chance to use the disintegration of the Boneless's domain to expand even further.
It would be... if there wasn't that prepared invasion of Wessex first :rolleyes:.

I didn't even realize Norman culture could spawn outside of Normandy!

Ivar's death opens up opportunity... for multiple parties. The Norsemen could pick the remains apart, but the Saxons could fight back, if the Norse start fighting among themselves.
It can spawn in French or Breton counties IIRC - and Cornwall is Breton, which is why it can spawn there. Still, it appeared faster there than in Nantes, so we have our Cornish Normans in this story ;).

Plenty of opportunity here, sure. For now, they seek it amongst themselves. Luckily for the Ivarssons, Britain's fate is on the line elsewhere :rolleyes:.


Which is what this next chapter will launch. Together with a massive change in Ubbe's life.
 
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Gain of Cover

alscon

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Chapter Twenty-Nine: Gain of Cover

Lindisfarne, 23rd October 876

“It is not that I didn't expect it. So I am not disappointed.”

Steinn tried to read Halfdan's expression. The leader of the Great Heathen Army seemed tired. Annoyed. And, strange enough, defensive.

“You are leaving again, I gather?”

“Yes. Your brother tasked me with assisting in the defence of Jorvik – we have done that. Now we shall return and gather for the coming storm.”

Not that it was that necessary. The battered Scottish army consisted mostly of poorly equipped peasants, the realm having lost most of its veterans in its Cathar rebellions. As Lúnborg's army arrived, the Scots were already almost defeated.

K52vCpy.jpg

“A storm on Wessex. The man our brother thought wise to release. Don't underestimate Ælfred.”

What was that? Advice from Whiteshirt? “I won't be able to assist you. I am keeping my word, and I am yet in full health, unlike my brothers.”

So that was the reason for the advice, Steinn thought. Halfdan had found a way to keep out of Ubbe's invasion – his truce with Ælfred. His pride wouldn't take a hit by being a lesser ally to his brother. Yet he didn't especially want to see him fail either. Best case probably being to drag out the conflict long enough for him to get involved as the saviour of the little brother. Not underestimating the king of Wessex was advocating for a more cautious – in other words, slower – path, letting enough time pass for his intervention.

“We were present in Winchester, and are gathering enough warriors. We do not underestimate the Saxon king.”

“Good. And keep an eye on my son. I don't want Sigfrð to do anything that might poorly reflect on me. So, Steinn Eyjolfsson, keep him away from him.”

“He's too old for me to watch him – but in that case, I'll do my best.” Of course, Halfdan meant the Tormentor. And Steinn wasn't exactly keen on him and his lapdog Tryggve to gain any more influence, which Jorvik's heir would clearly represent.

“When you get as old as me, you learn what is really important. Now, I think you wish to march back soon. May Tyr's strength support your endeavour.”

Whiteshirt was slowly growing soft. Not concerning his enemies, though, as the Scots had felt today.

6aso53v.jpg





Lúnborg, 15th January 877

“And you are certain there is no other way?”

“There isn't.”

“No herbs?”

“No.”

“Your bees?”

“Only short-term, at best.”

“They worked before, didn't they?”

“Until now.”

“Why not again?”

“They won't work any more.”

“Then ask the gods for help!”

“That's why I am here.” Anlaufr smiled at the queen, who had vehemently tried to bring the seer of his decided course ever since he announced what he deemed the necessary next step. “The gods work through me in curing the king.”

The bee remedy had lost its effect. Ubbe had begun to weaken again, and this time Anlaufr had thought to have found the cause of the disease that had gripped his liege. He was just preparing his tools when Jorunn had launched her last attempt.

Ubbe calmly watched the fire heating the iron. “It has to be done, Jorunn.”

“See it as a cleansing by fire.”

“Like the Christians do?”, the queen exclaimed with growing outrage.

Anlaufr remained calm. “No, like the fate of Einarr, the corrupted godi...
We are burning out the curse from your husband's flesh, whereas the bees' stings had just prevented it from spreading.”

She fell silent again. “It would be better to have driven out the curser instead of the curse. Too late for it now. So do it then. I will leave you alone.”

“Actually, I will probably need the assistance of two strong men...”

Jorunn did her best to stay composed. “I shall send for Steinn and Härek, then.”

Any man would do, but the seer was not about to argue as Ubbe nodded. Best to operate the king with only men he trusts around him. He decided to make use of the time until their arrival. “Are you sure you wish me to proceed, my king?”

“What did you ask of me before, Anlaufr? To absolutely trust you? Now I do. You say you know where the disease stems from. Then I trust you do. And if you have to remove it – better that than dying from some wretched illness.”

“I am honoured, but... I can reach so little with my work. I could do more if the lands of Bangor Fawr weren't...”

“Now is not the time for that. We can talk about it later. Concentrate on the task ahead.”

“As you wish”, the seer responded, doing his best to conceal his disappointment once again. What else did he need to do to get his just compensation?

“Remember, you have my full confidence.”

The two men then fell silent, both well aware of what was to come. After what felt like an eternity, Ubbe's foremost hirdmen arrived, and Anlaufr activated himself again. “I am glad you are here to assist me.”

“Why not the Saxon? You've been teaching him, after all”, Steinn wondered.

“His expertise is not what I need right now”, the physician averted his gaze. “You remain adamant in your decision?”

“It stands.”

“I have just the right concoction for...”

“It. Stands.” Ubbe's voice was firm. “The encounter with your bees wasn't pleasant either, but I still felt reborn afterwards. I will face your treatment.”

“Very well. It's time then. Would you lay down?” Anlaufr gestured for the two men to take their places to his left and right. “This is why Inwær's expertise is not what I need. I need strong men, capable of holding him down as I operate the diseased tissue.”

“So you found its root then?”, Steinn inquired.

“Yes. Thus I need to remove... the face.” As he turned around to grab one of his glowing tools, all colour faded from Härek's face.

yStAxvV.jpg

“Don't faint on us now”, the right hand joked, while the giant shivered, trying to think of something pleasant.

“Are you ready?” Anlaufr waited for his assistants and patient to answer accordingly, then went to work. “May it prove that gods watch over you”, he whispered to himself.

It wasn't for lack of trying. But as the burning iron came down on the flesh, the strength of the two men was definitely needed, and terrible cries shook Lúnborg's heart.





Lúnborg, 12th April 877

It was an unusual sight for the king of Jorvik. The person in front of him had the same size as his brother. The same title. The same attitude. But he wouldn't have been able to recognize him without all that.

His hair and beard had turned grey, and longer, as he had passed the fiftieth year of his life. But more importantly, the man in front of Whiteshirt now looked as if he had become a victim of himself.

When in full armour, there was already little skin visible of a warrior. But what remained was, in Ubbe's case, also covered. A great mask of iron hid his face – or whatever remained of it – from the world. If not for the voice that had greeted him, the man could be anyone posturing as Ubbe.

G3qwesC.jpg

He sounded like he always did. “After the Scots you seek my assistance elsewhere?”

“Hardly. Not that I ever requested your 'assistance'. It was nothing but brotherly support you gave me in Lindisfarne. You weren't even present there.”

“I had to amass my forces.” Unable to read his expression, Halfdan noticed the pride swinging in Ubbe's words.

“If you expect me to be impressed, I am not. I expected nothing less, rather some more.” A little more than 10.000 men had formed the host that was ready to set sail. A mass of wood and sails covered the sea. Less then the Great Heathen Army perhaps, but still a fearsome force.

Y2Nck04.jpg

“I never expected anything of the sort. I merely wondered why you are here.”

“Merely passing through. Constantine surrendered Fife, so I am coming to our nephew's rescue. And while I was caring for the family, I thought I might as well see how my little brother is doing.” Teasing Ubbe wasn't nearly as fun when there was no obvious reaction to discern.

The king of Lúnborg had grown accustomed to the few advantages his mask offered. In the days after the operation, the weakness completely faded from his body. But even the Flayer couldn't walk around like that – Jorunn claimed that only Hæsteinn's followers could endure looking at him. And indeed, between the operation and the final touches on the mask, it was the Tormentor who sought Ubbe's company, stuttering about hidden strengths in disfigurements.

“How very thoughtful of you. But you came almost alone. And you can't help Barid here.”

“Why would I bring my men? It is surely hard enough to supply all of you here. They are marching through Jorvik, on their path to East Anglia.”

“Burghræd makes gains, then.”

“He nearly controls Suffolk. Even if Ivar's sons brought it upon themselves – I can't abandon what we have conquered.”

Ajoqcv6.jpg

“And here I was, thinking you just wanted to show that you are the greatest again.” Halfdan merely smiled in response.

“He challenged us before – I think it is a lesson he hasn't yet learned. No word binds me there – you are welcome.”

Ubbe seemingly ignored that comment. “What did you tell my right hand? Not to underestimate Ælfred. He still has his men levied for that phony war against Lotharingia.”

“I said that?”

“I don't see why Steinn would lie to me.”

“Well, what would my brother do without my support? So I figured I might part with some words of wisdom. Here, have some more – crush him swiftly.”

“I intend to use these ships – now that I have some”, the king of Lúnborg accused the king of Jorvik, “so I don't need that advice.”

“Not that Mercia would put up much resistance – again. You don't need the ships.”

“I will land at Wessex' coast. And if you have nothing more to say, then I will depart soon.”

“Fight well. Valhalla can wait for you some more.”

Was that concern in Halfdan's voice? For his son, naturally... Or was it truly for Ubbe? The rumours were true then – Whiteshirt may still be pitiless against his enemies, but grown to be far more defensive in family matters. Perhaps the fate of Ivar and his sons weighed on his mind.

But now was not a time to think about him. Now was the time to set out. A time where legends are forged. Time to claim his destiny.

0bU9Ar7.jpg
 

stnylan

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Ubbe will no doubt make use of his new visage, I am sure of it, to frighten those that need frightening.
 

Michaelangelo

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Ubbe is getting exposed to some of the more creative medical treatments out there. First the bees and now the removal of his face. I'm not sure if I'm more surprised by the unorthodox treatments or that they've worked. :p
 

Bullfilter

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Ah, the good old “face-off”! :eek: Ubbe ‘the Faceless’. :D
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Ubbe loses his face right before making the world see him as more than the forgotten brother. Gonna be a tough invasion...
 

JabberJock14

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Well if it works... the Iron Viking of England!

He can make a real name for himself, and inspire fear in his enemies, if this invasion works out.
 

alscon

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Page 13, that does explain things :p. This next chapter will be a somewhat shorter one – my focus often went to the next one, halting my progress on what I was actually writing - then I got sidetracked with something else entirely, too... still, better to wrap it up instead of never finishing it and concentrate on thirty-one then, which should accordingly turn out to be a bigger and better chapter :).


Ubbe will no doubt make use of his new visage, I am sure of it, to frighten those that need frightening.
Definitely - in fact, that's going to appear very soon!

Ubbe is getting exposed to some of the more creative medical treatments out there. First the bees and now the removal of his face. I'm not sure if I'm more surprised by the unorthodox treatments or that they've worked. :p
Of course they work :D! Anlaufr is a brilliant physician - and the face removal thing can actually even be a legitimate treatment of cancer (somewhat), so he's going at least that going for him :p.

Ah, the good old “face-off”! :eek: Ubbe ‘the Faceless’. :D
The face is probably the most expendable part Anlaufr could have cut off, too :rolleyes:. And speaking of terrifying nicknames - that's another one, right here :eek:.

Ubbe loses his face right before making the world see him as more than the forgotten brother. Gonna be a tough invasion...
Now at least people will always say that they don't recognize his face.
.
.
.
.
.
I agree, that was bad :p. Right call on the invasion - after all these easy wars, this one will actually be a test of his strength, the one he craved so much.

You know, it would've been great if his seer would've told Ubbe what the treatment was before asking if he was sure about it ten times over!
He did (considering what happened last time), but... considering what happened last time... it might be good to ask again. And again. And again ;).

Well if it works... the Iron Viking of England!

He can make a real name for himself, and inspire fear in his enemies, if this invasion works out.
I wouldn't dream of calling him that :cool: - even if it fits into his growing list of awesome nicknames :D.

Everything is going to be decided in this war.

Wow another drastic cure but it worked so I guess it may have been worth it. In the future Ubbe needs full disclosure before he undergoes any treatment.

Let's hope the invasion is as painful.
Anlaufr could have cut short the story once before, but again he didn't disappoint. Even as like every great physician, he keeps his best methods a closely guarded secret ;).

It will be painful. Sure, Mercia may be busy and Scotland in no state to fight - but there remain plenty of Christians on the isles, not to mention Ælfred himself.
 
Chapter Thirty: Gain of Stink

alscon

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Chapter Thirty: Gain of Stink

Dorchester, July 877

Ubbe's army landed not too far from a fishing village, which was soon eradicated from the map. The smoke from the ruins should set a clear signal – the Flayer had arrived, and Wessex would soon bend to his will. Powerlessly noticing that devastation, Ælfred of Wessex turned away from the horizon and towards his men.

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“You all see that smoke. This is what awaits us. Every single one of your women, children. The vikings are coming for us, not to exert some revenge, but to burn, rape and pillage, to erase our entire being, to drive out the faithful. They are many. They have terrorized our fair isle, imposed their brutal heathen ways in the north.

But they are crumbling. The Heathen Sorcerer has been struck down by the Lord for his false ways after his children broke his promise, and our brothers in Mercia are marching to free East Anglia. There is disunity between Whiteshirt and the Flayer. And now it falls upon us, brave men of Wessex, to deliver the first blow, to initiate the expulsion of the heathen scourge.

Our brothers in faith have pledged their support of us. With their and the Lord's assistance, we shall take up our arms, and drive the heathens from our coasts! If not today, then tomorrow! For never can their unjust invasion extinguish our faith, our devotion, our very existence! You fight not for yourself. Not for me. You fight for Wessex! In the name of God!”

They all knew that it would take a miracle to stop the heathens here. The 'brothers in faith' the king mentioned were their only hope. All they could hope for was to delay the raiders as much as possible.





The battle would surely be a short one. Unlike their last engagement, this time Ælfred was hopelessly outmatched. His experienced commanders were no longer amongst the living or had, as in Wiltshire's case, betrayed him and fallen into his enemy's hands.

On the other side, Ubbe was determined to end that battle swiftly and then ravage the countryside, seizing every important place as soon as possible to force Ælfred to surrender. The Christians had banded together against the Great Heathen Army before, they would do so again. But the time they needed to raise their armies and assemble as one Christian host may well be too long.

Additionally, the time spent with the Tormentor as he grew accustomed to being the Faceless had left him to be more influenceable by the former, to the dismay of his other advisors. Hæsteinn was emphasizing the numbers on both sides, as well as the village they had just burnt down. A clear sign left to the enemy – as well as one he wanted to bring into the battle.
“I c-c-can feel their terror... Y-y-you must know that f-f-feeling. We should c-c-confirm it. Not slowly a-a-advancing, but present u-u-us as the bloodthirsty m-m-monsters they see us. A t-t-tested strategy”, he affirmed. “Especially with our c-c-cavalry.”

“He may not have lost any battle, but it also caused all Bretons to unite in their hate against him”, Steinn disagreed.

But Ubbe was infected. “The Saxons know me. We have enough men for it to be effective. They are going to run faster than Ælla did!”

“Which won't be good. Remember our first battles on this island? So many men escaped, to return with others in tow.”

“Then why are you here for? Any cowards fleeing from battle, run them down with your Normans!”

“We can hardly pursue them all...”

“It doesn't matter. Even if they run – they will be more willing to run the next time, too. Better that than to enter a prolonged battle, where we may get stuck at one point.”

He was likely referring to Lincoln. Steinn was tempted to point out that none of them were Tryggve, but decided against it. Ubbe's mind was made up. Attack! Attack! Attack! That was what awaited them.

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Especially Steinn's flank used this tactic to full effect, against Wessex' leaderless left. But of more importance was the centre, in which Ubbe himself was one of the first to make contact with the enemy. It must have been a terrifying sight to see the Faceless Flayer charge, a horde of his ferocious warriors in his back – which is exactly what he and the Tormentor wanted.

The battle was fairly short and bloody, only the Saxons in the centre managing to rally around their king for a while before retreating themselves.

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In the aftermath, Steinn was shocked at what he saw once he had to call off the pursuit. Not the battlefield itself, but a red stain, spreading across the king of Lúnborg's side. Noticing his faithful right hand's expression, Ubbe was quick to alleviate him: “Nothing but a scratch. A flesh wound without consequences. I have faced worse.”

The Tormentor, having returned to Ubbe's side earlier, heartily laughed before the king continued. “Anlaufr should be here soon.”

Indeed, a man had just arrived, announcing his intent to treat the king's wounds. But that man wasn't Anlaufr.

“And who are you?”, Steinn asked.

“I am Erlend, þegn Steinn, coming in stead of the godi of Bangor Fawr.” The young man half stammered, clearly intimidated by the characters around him.

“And where is the godi of Bangor Fawr?”

“According to him, he would be feasting in Valhalla by now.”

Hæsteinn laughed again. “Never knew h-h-him to be much of a j-j-joker! I misjudged him, then.”

Ubbe and Steinn didn't laugh. With one look, they made each other understand that they thought the same thing, remembering the fate of Gunnarr, the eunuch who was Ubbe's first physician. Dying in a battle with nearly no casualties. This one had been bloodier, sure, but to lose Anlaufr could only spell bad luck. “What happened?”, they asked in unison.

“I don't know. As his pupil, I am merely repeating the words he told me before the battle – if he didn't return to the camp before the red lighting, I was to replace him.”

Unsatisfied with the answer, Ubbe sent out his guards to look for his seer – and they did find him on the battlefield. He appeared to be unscathed, but didn't stir as they called for him. Remaining in his position, lifelessly lying on the ground.

Some time later, they had pieced together what had happened to the godi, mostly thanks to Sigfrið, who happened to be next to him before the battle.
“I merely noticed that he didn't look well, your seer”, he explained, “and told him as such. The answer I got was a weak smile, followed by the words 'Do you know you can still die in battle without the enemy hitting you? I am a godi, I would know. But never mind me, Halfdansson', before chuckling to himself. Strange, but I didn't pay it any more attention, and didn't see him again during the fighting.”

Erlend's observations of his master, his task, the word of others who had seen Anlaufr in the last days, it all completed the picture. His relentless asking concerning land for Bangor Fawr was put in a different light. It seemed that the seer had become terminally ill of a similar disease that had befallen the king, but unable to treat himself. But as he pointed out to Jorvik's heir, he still got a warrior's death.

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Inwær would take over Anlaufr's position as physician of the king, but he was still in Lúnborg, so it was up to Erlend to treat the wound Ubbe had sustained – a spearman had managed to stab him as he led the charge from the front.

A few days later, the wound was festering, infected, while the king's men stormed walls after walls, quickly gaining control of the key holdings in southwestern Wessex, marching on Ælfred's capital, Winchester.

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