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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Asantahene

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The wolves of the West Saxons denotes the emblem of the House of Godhelming: three silver wolves against a black background covered by a golden crown. By the start of the 8th Century AD, this was the pre-eminent family of that rich and fertile part of the west and south of Britain. Having arrived , two hundred years before, as robber chieftains with Cerdic, the great Saxon warlord who wrested large parts of the island from the native Britons, the Godhelmings thrived to such an extent that by the 720s they first proclaimed themselves Chiefs then Petty Kings of Wessex. Yet danger hemmed them in from all sides with rapacious Mercia to the North, the fractious Welsh too and the mettlesome Cornish to the west and divided Anglia, Kent and Sussex on the east.

But through it all the wolves of Godhelming did prowl, ever hungry and driven by the prize of uniting the warring Saxon people under one dragon banner on one benighted island.

This is that story.

Hi guys. I'm back! I'm playing this with all DLC (less Horse Lords and Sunset Invasion), normal difficulty from 767AD. My aim to ultimately make Wessex the pre-eminent kingdom in Britain. I will be writing much as I did my Flower of Scotland AAR, from various 3rd person perspectives with the odd bit of historical narrative and Wiki style thrown in but throughout will be the thread of our noble family, the Godhelmings of Wessex.

Enjoy!

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: City Of Winchester 16 September 785 AD
Chapter 2: Royal City of Bath, Somerset 26th April 790 AD
Chapter 3: Portway Road (between Winchester and London) 29th November 793 AD
Chapter 4: The Royal Palace at Winchester, 5th February 798 AD

Chapter 5: City of Winchester, 15th September 806 AD
Chapter 6: hamlet of Lulworth Cove, South Wessex Coast, 26th September 812 AD
Chapter 7: Palace of Winchester, 5th January 817 AD
Chapter 8: County of Surrey, 18th April 823 AD
Chapter 9: The King’s Villa of Lambeth, Surrey, 29th May 828 AD
Chapter 10, Colchester, 12th September 836 AD
Chapter 11, Port City of London, March 852 AD
Chapter 12, Royal Residence at Colchester, Essex, August 855 AD
Chapter 13, City of Lincoln, County of Lindsay, Mercia, December 858 AD
Chapter 14, Fortified City of Tintagel, Cornwall, March 865.
Chapter 15, Saxon Encampment at Dover, 14th December 876AD
Chapter 16, Manor in Barony of Tottenham, Middlesex, Wessex July 880 AD
Chapter 17, November 14th 889 AD, Royal Palace at Winchester, Capital of the Kingdom of Wessex
Chapter 18, 25th March 890 AD, King’s Manor at Wareham, Royal County of Dorset
Chapter 19, Royal Palace of Winchester, Wessex, The Queens Birthing Chambers, 4th October 891 AD
Chapter 20, Lydford, Devon, 9th February 901 AD
Chapter 21, The Port of Southampton, Wessex, 6th November 902 AD
Chapter 22, Cahors, Aquitaine, 19th November 903 AD
Chapter 23, 2nd December 904 AD, Siege of Cahors, West Francia
Chapter 24, The Royal Palace at Winchester, 25th January 911 AD
Chapter 25, The Small Council Chamber, Winchester Palace, 22nd February 916 AD
Chapter 26, The English Fyrd, old Roman road towards Colchester, October 916 AD
Chapter 27, the Great Hall, Palace of Winchester, Wessex, 23rd November 920 AD
Chapter 28, Council Chamber, Palace of Winchester, 16th July 928 AD
Chapter 29, Saxon Fyrd camp before the walls of the Welsh city of Cardiff, Deheubarth 31st May 931 AD
Chapter 30, The Royal Villa at Lulworth, Dorset, 17th September 936 AD
Chapter 31, the Queen’s quarters, Winchester Palace, 18th August 939 AD
Chapter 32, the port town of Dover, 27th January 944 AD
Chapter 33, Bamburgh, Northumbria, 3rd May 948 AD
Chapter 34, Sonning Common, near the city of Reading, 19th April 951 AD
Chapter 35, The Palace at Winchester, September 952 AD
Chapter 36, Lambeth Palace, Surrey, 17th October 953 AD
Chapter 37, Bangor, Gwynedd, October 954 AD
Chapter 38, the Hamlet of Southwell, north of Leicester, July 956 AD
Chapter 39, Environs of the City of Leicester, 22 July 957 AD
Chapter 40, Lambeth Palace, 10th July 958 AD
Chapter 41, Bamburgh, Northumbria, 30th August 959 AD
Chapter 42, The Grey Mare Inn, Colchester, Essex, 7th September 961 AD
Chapter 43, The Duke of Cornwall’s Residence, Tintagel, 16th June 964 AD

Chapter 44, Anglo-Saxon Fyrd, Luneberg Heath, Saxony, 10th December 965 AD
Chapter 45: Anglo Saxon Fyrd, South of the Cantabrian Mountains, Hispania, April 967 AD
Chapter 46, Lambeth Palace, Surrey, 21st October 969 AD
Chapter 47, Winchester Palace, Wessex 2nd May 973 AD
Chapter 48, Port City of Lewes, Sussex, 7th September 974 AD
Chapter 49, Fortified City of Blanche Garde, Kingdom of Jerusalem, 2nd September 975 AD
Chapter 50, Near Monmouth, Petty Kingdom of Deheubarth, 6th June 977 AD
Chapter 51, Lambeth Palace, Surrey, 14th January 980 AD
Chapter 52, Lambeth Palace, Surrey, 3rd March 982 AD
Chapter 53, Fortified City of Oxford, The Duke of Hwicce’s Residence, 5th October 982 AD
Chapter 54, Lambeth Palace, Surrey, 1st September 985 AD​
 
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Hadhod

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Subbed. Not very familiar with the earliest start date since I mainly play HIP so I'll be looking forward to what you can come up with!
 

Asantahene

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Surprised I didn't spot this earlier. Consider me subscribed :)
Haha-welcome aboard Specialist-good to have you as always. I reckon this will be a great ride especially starting at the time period that I am

Subbed. Not very familiar with the earliest start date since I mainly play HIP so I'll be looking forward to what you can come up with!
Thanks Hadhod-yeah I am doing some research into this time period-it's all very interesting let me tell you-I am aiming to get intro 1st post up this weekend

I'll watch these Godhelmings.
Thanks Nuada-welcome welcome!
 

Asantahene

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Chapter 1: City Of Winchester 16 September 785 AD



The mighty Wyvern Banner of Wessex​


The Godhelmings​



‘But you are a Jew my lord!’ the young man proclaimed, his eyes afire with zeal, the walk of the strange couple along the serried roads of the old Roman city of Winchester at dusk, only notable for the escort that accompanied them: six Saxon warriors, fully armed, carrying their large round wooden shields with huge brass boss and hefting six foot spears.


‘Sire if I may…’ the more exotic of the two, the older man opined, ‘It is true that my Jewish ancestry means that many look at me askance but I would remind you that your father saw fit to appoint me your Regent and Guardian all those years ago when you inherited the Dragon Throne.’


The boy, for that was what he was-it was clear that he had not passed more than seventeen summers by the light down on his cheeks was momentarily checked. But for all his simplicity of attire, a gold braided red tunic, he nonetheless carried about himself an unmistakeable air of authority.


Shimon of Kr Mayak pressed on, ‘you yourself have seen fit to appoint me Steward and I have served you faithfully these last ten years have I not? Please sir do not heed the siren voices of my enemies on the Council. The treasury is well stocked and you have the means to prosecute your wars of conquest and defence…please Sire I beg of you.’



The Bishops like not my Steward...zounds!​



They had skirted the mighty Minster that gave the Cathedral its authority and now their perambulation brought them back onto the High Street and back towards the Fort and that place they called palace. If the sight of their King walking amongst them was unusual to the townsfolk hurrying home before the curfew none did show it for ‘King’ was a relatively new concept amongst these peoples-a title coined by the current ruler’s grandfather to acknowledge his overlordship of the four Shires of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and the jewel of Westseaxna, Wessex. Old Cerdric Godhelming had figured that if the Saxon Chiefs of Mercia and Northumbria, not to mention those of Kent and East Anglia, could call themselves Petty Kings, then so could he.


The boy’s face, hitherto bunched in conflict, finally softened-he was in a bind: this man, this heretic Jew had been more than a Guardian to him since the untimely death of his own father ten years previously. By the decree and Will of King Cuthbert he had been appointed in the teeth of the Prelates on the Council, as Guardian and Regent and had steered the lad to his manhood such that by his seventeenth name day he had presided over the conquests of the rich Shire of Surrey in 777, two years after his accession at age seven and then in 785 that of Sussex and in between that had fended off an invasion by Duke Etguel of Cornwall, a leader not blessed with the sense that God had given him, somehow thinking that he could invade true Christian lands with impunity being someone who held to the filthy Fraticelli beliefs. That hadn’t turned out too well for the Cornish as ruler after ruler came to little Wessex’s aid. The war-such that it was-had not lasted much more than a year and a half…



Like cherries from a tree hehehe



Really?

Not so smug now are ya?​



As they approached the environs of the Palace itself, in reality nothing much more than a great Hall and collection of satellite buildings with a solid bordering wooden palisade, the Guard stepped forth to challenge them, quickly stepping back when they saw who the party was. Swithelm stopped and looked into the face of his mentor and guide. ‘In truth my lord, I am conflicted…’ his youthful features flickered in the bright torchlight.



A strapping Saxon Palace Guard​



The Steward saw his chance and grasped it eagerly, ‘My King, we are at a crossroads in our kingdom, the opportunities to hold dominion over all of the south of this land is yours-whilst mighty Mercia sleeps. It cannot be done, however, if we turn inwards and pander to the prejudices of some of your holy men…this proposal to prescribe those of my faith is surely a distraction and a possibly fatal one at that. I beg of you Sire-deny it!’


Swithelm of Wessex observed his Steward carefully and dispassionately, ‘and yet holy scriptures teach us that your religion has a blood libel to pay and whether it is now or in the future that debt will be called for my Lord Steward. I will deny the motion proposed by Bishops Ecgfrith and Siweard to proscribe the Jews. God alone knows I have enough on my hands with my brother…’


Shimon breathed a sigh of relief: this little battle, like many before with the wilful youth he called sire, he had won. The question of the King’s fourteen-year-old brother, the newly titled Earl Osweald of Surrey, was one that would have to continue to be debated by the Council for his ennoblement and the conferring of a lavish stipend on him had in nowise ameliorated the animus that the boy had for his elder sibling.


They were now walking in the environs of the palace itself-traversing from the northern transept towards the Great Hall-building works commissioned by the King, through the good offices of his Steward of course, meant that scaffolding covered most of the main areas of the edifice but once it was completed it would be truly a place fit for a king-somewhere that his father had once exhorted him would be fit for a future Bretwalda of Britannia. That was a conversation that was seared into his memory-when he had passed six summers-only a year before his Sire’s passing-it was down in the catacombs beneath the Villas of Winchester as they observed the old Roman-style Mosaics that adorned them. The old king had wheezed and breathed in his young son’s ear-even now he knew his health was failing: ‘see here boy-this fresco that depicts the Saxon invasion and how we wrested land from the Briton.’


‘Yes papa.’


‘And here much later-the harrowing of Wessex by Mercia.’


The boy nodded dutifully-all Wessexians knew well about the war that had broken out in the early eight century between their two kingdoms-a war that Northumbria had joined on the side of their southern neighbour thus guaranteeing a Mercian victory. The terms of peace had not gone well for Wessex-they had been forced to cede the Shire of Gloucester now independent. But that was in the reign of his father’s sire. His father was a true warrior and had fought all his life to restore the pride of Wessex-he might not have succeeded in acquiring any more land but he had made the Wyvern banner something to be feared and through cunning he had engineered the separation of the rich Shires of Surrey and Sussex from the Petty Kingdom of Kent. The aforementioned were now ripe for plucking like fat apples from their tree.


The stooping king was speaking again, his voice a low growl, his beard bristling with passion, ‘it is my dream boy that we will someday make them pay in blood-those men of Mercia and their King, Offa. Do you hear?’ The old man was gripping his son tightly by the arm little realising that he was actually really hurting the lad


‘Yes father.’


King Cuthbert pressed on dragging the boy in the dimly flickering torchlight from frieze to frieze-each one making him more impassioned, more angry.


‘It is my dream boy-or yours that it will not be Mercia that crowns the Bretwalda-the Wielder of the Bretons, but lowly Wessex! And if not me then you lad or your issue!’ And now he fixed his son with a steely stare whilst whipping his dagger from its sheath. The young boy shrank back in abject fear. Was his father to murder him? Here?


Instead the King slashed across the boy’s little palm, then copied the action with his own and grasped the whimpering lads hand conjoining his blood with that of Swithelm’s. ‘Promise me boy! You will bend your will to it! If not me then you and if not you , your issue! PROMISE ME!’


‘I promise father! I promise!’ The boy cried sobbing uncontrollably now as a solemn oath was sealed in the underground caverns. A solemn oath whose import would ring through the ages…



The plan is coming together mwuhahaha!​
 
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Saxon125

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Well I am currently in Winchester studying History at the Moment, so I will follow this. :)
 

fabiolundiense

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O happy day, Sir Asantahene is back with another tale of conquest and grandeur ! :) :)
Vive the kings of Wessex !
 

Asantahene

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;);)
A blood oath in a hallowed underground catacomb -- quite the dramatic start to what will hopefully be an auspicious dynasty. With rivals within and without, though, Swithelm's reign will likely not be an easy one.
No it won't Specialist but I'm very glad to have you along for the ride! ;)

Well I am currently in Winchester studying History at the Moment, so I will follow this. :)
Good man! Winchester is a beautiful city. Enjoy Saxon-I have a good feeling about this story :)

Swithelm will have his work cut out for him to fulfill that oath.
Either Swithelm or his issue Nuada. Welcome welcome ;)

glad to see you Niethar

Onwards West Saxons!
Onwards indeed-its gonna be a great saga! Thanks for reading

O happy day, Sir Asantahene is back with another tale of conquest and grandeur ! :) :)
Vive the kings of Wessex !
well hello Fabio! Good to see you. Yes I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and already have much to write about.

Welcome all. I will get the next post up this weekend. Already a lot has happened :D:eek:
 

Asantahene

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Chapter 2: Royal City of Bath, Somerset 26th April 790 AD


Aquae Sulis had been something of a magnet for well to do Romans wanting to bathe in the hot springs a few hundred years previously and it heartened Swithelm that under his guidance and that of his Chancellor, Bishop Ecgfrith of Saint Swithun, it was once more prospering. The young King, still only having passed twenty-two summers was in jaunty good humour, conversing happily with both his Councillor and the townsfolk as the Royal Party traversed the narrow streets of the town, moving towards the Fort that stood at its centre.



Oh I love it when a plan comes together


In truth humour was not something that had been in abundant supply this last couple of years for the Court, rocked as it had been, by the news eight months previously that his friend and mentor-the former Regent, Shimon of Kr Mak, Lord High Steward of Wessex, had been set upon by an angry mob in Ilchester whilst collecting tithes. Apparently the townsfolk had objected to his Jewishness, for he belonged to the Radhanite sect that had been instrumental in using their monetary and trade networks that stretched from Europe to Cathay, to vastly increase the pecuniary pull of that humble county and thereby Wessex.



Money money money!


Alas poor Shimon...I knew him well :'-(


The king had been distraught when he learned of the attack, despatching his own Physician, the celebrated drunkard, Eofrith of Sarum to Somerset to aid in any way he could but the Steward had died frothing and writhing from an infected wound not a day after the assault.


‘That they would so cut off their own noses to spite their faces!’ Swithelm had cried in rage and anger on hearing the news. If he had not been so distressed he may have noticed the self-satisfied expression on the faces of two of his Council members, the Bishops Ecgfrith and Siweard, his Chancellor and Chaplain respectively. They had ever manoeuvred against the ‘heretic in their midst’ as they had called him. Quite what they thought of the appointment to the Council of another Jew, Mar of Val, an Ashkenazi, skilled in the art of subterfuge and secrecy, was anyone’s guess but the prelates were not happy about it that was for sure.



Now here's a man who knows about a secret or two...hired!


‘Mayhap this was God’s judgement on our late Steward for holding onto his misguided beliefs-it was, after all, the Jew who nailed our Lord to the cross…’


‘I think you will find that it was the Romans who did that my lord bishop!’ the king retorted disgusted. This news coming hard on the death of his trusty Marshal, Mayor Eanfrith of Sarum, had soured the young ruler’s summer-one that capped off the two previous that had also been nothing but frustration as he learned that the cunning old king of Mercia, Offa ‘the fat’, had secured as Tributes none other than the obeisance of lords of the domains of Kent, East Anglia and Hwicce. These incorporated all five Shires that he had intended to either annex or vassalise as part of his grand plan but with them all now in alliance with powerful Mercia, a move on any one of them would involve Wessex in a damaging war which she could not hope to win.



They're dropping like flies!


You cunning******!


‘Then we will bide our time.’ The king had snapped on hearing the news, ‘Offa is old, I am young-we will see who outlasts who…’ and at the time that had been that, Swithelm sweeping out of Winchester’s Great Hall, looking every inch the potentate dressed as he had been in a gold embroidered tunic of white damask.


Such had been the events of the summers of 787 and 789. Following Shimon’s passing the King’s justice had been swift and brutal, his Huscarls descending upon the village in question, razing all buildings to the ground and summarily executing by crucifixion all males that had passed more than sixteen summers-all else, women and children, were packed off into servitude.


“Let no man think that the King’s Officers can be molested without retribution” the signs and banns posted throughout the kingdom proclaimed. The message was clear-whether Jew, Arab or Christian, a royal officer was inviolate.


But now, a year later, Swithelm was in rare good mood, new Officers had been appointed to his Council, his treasury remained well stocked and he had set in motion events that he hoped would presage a reconciliation with his erstwhile rival and bitterest enemy, none other than his own brother, Osweald of Surrey. He had despatched missives and a monetary gift to his only Earl, stating, with humility, that it was truly time to end their rivalry and settle their differences. It had not been an easy thing to write but the young king was nothing if not humble and it had not been he who had inflamed and ignited the flames of their strife. It was ever Osweald, jealous of his elder sibling’s position and status and with no guiding hand, once their sainted mother travelled north some five years past to wed the King of Pictland. But Osweald was his flesh and blood, his brood and his heir since his bride to be, Princess Theodora of Asturias, was yet a stripling of a mere fourteen summers-their conjoining not due for another two years.



C'mon bro let's bury the hatchet-whaddya say?


‘One could think that Bath was almost as comely as our own city of Winchester, think you not my lord Bishop?’ Swithelm opined solicitously as they neared the end of their long progress.


‘Indeed Sire,’ the urbane Prelate responded, ‘and so generous of you to support this new peasant custom of pairing off for marriage prior to the harvest-all will prosper if Somerset prospers!’



Aren't peasants marvellous!


‘We can afford to be generous my lord-our treasury stands well stocked thanks in large part to Shimon-may God assoil him.’ The king ignored the obligatory crossing of himself that the churchman indulged in-even now the memory of his erstwhile guide pained him.


By now their perambulation had taken them up Main Street, past the old amphitheatre and within the limits of the Fort-the King was all smiles as he waved and took in the adoring masses. There was no doubt the smallfolk loved their king and he loved them with equal passion. And today he looked every inch the sovereign, dressed, as he was, in crimson velvet tunic bordered with gold, elegant black silk braes over linen hose and finest Italian leather boots. He was swathed in a cloak of midnight black wool held by an enormous golden wolf brooch-the same black that was emblematic of the sigil of the House of Godhelming and atop his head he wore the Blue felt cap of authority vested in him as Chieftain and King of the realm.


Though they had had their differences the bishop could not help but beam proudly at the younger man. He, too had known him since he was a babe-appointed as he had been by the boy’s father. Whatever difficulties he had encountered he had seemed to weather and take in his stride, maybe the problems with his brother excepted, but his reaction to learning of King Offa’s stratagem was to enact a series of laws that firmed up taxes from the Burghers and petty nobility-well might the churchman be pleased for the laws as yet had not touched Holy Church. Nor did they need to as yet for the Prelates of Wessex held their king in such high regard that the taxes that the Holy Father in Rome demanded year on year were sent instead to Swithelm for the ‘betterment of the realm’.


As they processed through a cluster of smaller buildings towards the Great Hall a messenger approached the royal party and presented, with a great flourish a scroll for the king. All, perforce, had to stop whilst Swithelm perused it. His handsome young features aglow with an imagined happiness-the letter was from his brother! The broad smile quickly disappeared, however, was replaced by a frown and then something altogether more stormy. Something was very wrong, the Bishop divined, as Swithelm almost sightlessly let the vellum drop from his trembling hand and stalked off towards his own private chambers, his guards hurrying after him.


The Bishop was now the most senior personage present in the party that consisted of many of the great and the good of Somerset-none had the slightest idea what they should do. For his part Ecgfrith bade one of his acolytes fetch the letter and quickly scanning it he read the flowery latin:


To my brother Swithelm, that calls himself ‘King’ I shall in nowise bury our differences, from our early childhood I have been told of your greatness, taught, cajoled and forced to kowtow to you until I choked upon my deference.



No more! I received your paltry attempt to curry favour with me by sending gifts and utterly reject them-not all the coin in Christendom would bring me back to your embrace.



King or Earl of one thing be sure-we shall be bitterest of rivals and foes until one of us breathes his last and there is not a day that I do not pray that it will be you.




Screw you then!



Oswealdus Comitis Surrey



Such was the hatred and bile spewing forth from the missive that the bishop crossed himself involuntarily before composing himself and hastening to comfort his King. On this matter it seemed that there was still much work to be done…



Excerpt from The Anglo Saxon Chronicle



It was at this time that good king Swithelm entered into a foul and dark humour and one that was in no way lifted either by the continued prospering of his realm, the enduring peace with his neighbours nor, in July 791, the wedding of the twenty-three-year-old to his betrothed, sixteen-year-old Theodora, daughter of King Aurelio of Asturias.




Sob!



It was said that the stars themselves did weep with the young king.



And there came a time in 793 when a collection of strange dragon-prowed ships were sighted off the coast, ships that disgorged hundreds of fearsome, warriors. Foul and filthy beasts that came to raid, pillage and rape-a time when the people looked to Winchester and cried ‘where is our king?’



And in those marbled halls Swithelm did keep his counsel, weeping night and day and help his people he did not.



It was the time of the Viking and the lament went up from every lip: from the fury of the Northmen deliver us!



 

Specialist290

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Such a shame for all fortunes to be prospering in Wessex save those of the king himself. Hopefully he'll have some stroke of fortune that'll pull him out of despondency before too much longer, or at the very least some new project to focus his mind and energy on.

Though with the Viking menace rearing its ugly head, I somehow doubt there will be much time for good news left in general. Wessex's prosperity may yet prove to be a double-edged sword.
 

Asantahene

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A murdered advisor, a vengeful brother, and now wild norse!
Indeed! It's all happening in lowly Wessex ;)

Such a shame for all fortunes to be prospering in Wessex save those of the king himself. Hopefully he'll have some stroke of fortune that'll pull him out of despondency before too much longer, or at the very least some new project to focus his mind and energy on.

Though with the Viking menace rearing its ugly head, I somehow doubt there will be much time for good news left in general. Wessex's prosperity may yet prove to be a double-edged sword.
This is very true Specialist there are quite a few menaces lurking on the horizon and no time at all for complacency-watch this space

Next Chapter will be out in the next few days guys
 

fabiolundiense

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What dark, sad misfortune befalls your noble ruler. Please, let something good happen to my lord of Wessex ! :(
 

Asantahene

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What dark, sad misfortune befalls your noble ruler. Please, let something good happen to my lord of Wessex ! :(
Read on my friend-the tidings are mixed ;)


Chapter 3: Portway Road (between Winchester and London), 29th November 793 AD


The lateness of the hour and the ill weather, a stormy grim November day, were portents of something urgent. Few were abroad in such foul times, fewer still with the pox ravaging the land. Many of the simpler minded folk were of a mind to blame the absent King-formerly much admired and loved-now a gaping maw in the weal of the realm.


So it was a surprise to the denizens of Lambeth, a small but growing hamlet just to the south of the mighty city of London, when a heavily armed party of Huscarls thundered past, their horses’ hooves striking up sparks on the poorly kept Roman Road. One old ceorl, a certain Sigbert Godricson, swore after that he had seen the banner of the Royal House of Godhelming fluttering from the soldiers’ pennants.



Settlement at Lambeth C 790AD (London is to the north across the Thames)


‘I doubt you seen anything you old fart!’ He had been roundly teased by one of his mates soon after, ‘you were too busy eating shit after diving in the ditch to avoid being run down!’


‘I swear it! T’was the wolves I seen!’ The old man spluttered and he was not wrong for the riders who had been galloping up the rain-drenched road were none other than the King’s Personal Guard: six strapping Huscarls escorting one of the ruler’s Councilmen, the shadowy Jew, Mal of Var.


The old Roman way took them all the way through wind-bent deciduous trees lining that road to the recently built Villa and Manor that sat astride the great river Thames with sweeping views of that tributary and of the bustling city of London itself-yet that was another country belonging as it did to the Shire of Middlesex-part of the Petty Kingdom of East Anglia at that time.


The Villa was the property of the Earl of Surrey, the twenty-three-year-old brother of the king but if the riders were expected there was no sign of it, their arrival in a storm of rearing horses, flying clods of earth and screeching hooves causing near panic amongst the servants of the Manor.


After a short while a man who appeared to carry an air of authority that the serfs so clearly lacked, appeared-he was Surrey’s Steward: portly of stature, ruddy of face-he clucked and fussed around the new arrivals as the wind and rain howled around them. Who was the leader of this band? He strove to determine which of the soldiers he might address himself to when he noticed one amongst them who stood out. This was no soldier he was rather- judging by the fine raiment hidden beneath mud and the huge pendant that his mantle had been hiding-a man used to command-mayhap an emissary of the king himself.



The mighty Huscarl


For his part Mar of Val dismounted with a languid ease. He was a tall man-tall and lithesome, dark obsidian eyes couching the thoughts within-a bushy but immaculately coiffed twin forked beard adorning thin, efficient lips. The Lord of Val was lost in his own thoughts for a while before coming to and speaking in heavily accented Saxon: ‘Where is your master? The tidings I bear are for his ears alone.’ Spare, cool, menacing…

Siweard the Steward spluttered and protested ‘My lord’ slipping without thought into deference ‘the master is ill disposed-he is abed…’


‘I care not whether he is taking his pleasure man-fetch me to him at once or it may well go ill for you when he learns that the delay in affairs of the realm were caused by a lowly steward.’


Siweard bristled-how dare this upstart foreigner. He was a student of theology, novitiate and had high hopes for himself, had ingratiated himself into the affections of the young Lord of Surrey and was now being spoken to as though he were some wretched cur. This would not stand! He was about to respond hotly when he was suddenly aware of a fragrant presence at his side and where before there had been nothing but tension the soldiers and their leader suddenly were all stares.


To Countess Creirwy they all did look-a rare beauty-able to stop a room full of the rowdiest brutes. Her burnished chestnut hair-held in the Welsh way-a billowing blue damask dress held with simple girdle and covered by a thick mantle of purest white wool and fur. In the wildness of the quickly gathering gloom she stood out as a beacon of solidity and calm. And well she might for she was not only Countess of Surrey, through marriage, but Gwynedd too in her own right-daughter of the Petty King of the Eryri and that wild mountainous realm.


She stepped forward and in a high lilting voice welcomed the new arrivals, ‘My Lord-you look like you have come from my brother by law.’


Mar was not abashed in any way-his network had appraised him thoroughly about this Welsh noblewoman. She would do, he was thinking, she would do indeed. ‘My lady it is so-the missive I bring from the Council is for your husband’s eyes only. May we?’


‘He is not well disposed my Lord-he has the affliction that has recently swept the land but the fever has broke and he is not so-ahem-ill to look on as he has been…’



Eeeew-my lovely complexion-all ruined!


Mar paused-Measles was the name they had ascribed to the disease that had recently caused so much suffering. Like its cousin, Smallpox, it started with feverish symptoms but rather than the individual blisters that itched to distraction instead the infected would be covered by an angry rash all over the body. They had been applying herbal poultices night and day to their lord according to the wishes of the Countess who found Saxon medicine, such as it was, to be primitive and utterly lacking in efficacy.



She knows her stuff that wifey of mine!


‘I am in your hands my lady’ was his simple response and he followed after her whilst the discomfited Siweard saw to the imposing warriors who made up his escort-it would soon be dark and they were hungry and thirsty: beds needed to be sought and ale and stew rustled up by the indignant cooks.


As they progressed largely in silence down darkened corridors, a serf walking just ahead with a bright burning torch, the secretive Jew touched the Countess lightly on the arm, stopping her. In the flickering torchlight her stunning beauty was all the more apparent.


‘My Lady-ah. Do you have any inkling why I might have come?’


She regarded him coolly, ‘I do not my Lord though if it is news from the Council and not the King I can, perchance, essay a guess..’


By God she was sharp this one! ‘My lady-I should really address you as My Queen, the king your brother by law met with strange fate not two days past. An accident it seems…’


A sharply indrawn breath and then, as quickly, Creirwy composed herself. ‘I see.’ It was a shock but she could not be unhappy-she harboured similar ambitions as her husband. Surrey would never have been large enough to hold both of their political desires. ‘An accident you say? What more of this do you know? My husband has always warred with his brother but may yet take this news hard.’


Mar of Val pondered for a moment then plunged in: ‘all I will say my lady is that the King had a fall from the balcony of the villa at his palace. I was at court and was one of the first to examine his body. I can tell you by the disposition of his limbs and what I know from my own travels and experience that he meant to break his body thus…’


He let that sink in. It was sad tidings indeed-the malaise that the young ruler had fallen into as a result of his brother’s repudiation of him, some years previously, seemed to have left him in a dark place from which he was not able to escape. Sometimes he would rally and his spirits would soar-indeed he was infused with an almost maniacal energy-such as when he married his bride, Princess Theodora of Asturias-but most other times he suffered with what the Physicians described as an ‘ague of the mind’. Council meetings were generally dour and grim affairs and no strategies employed by his closest advisers, his doctors or the Queen worked in any measure. To that end Val was almost relieved that Swithelm, first of his name, had seemingly taken matters into his own hand and ended the pain for good. Val had been sure to not reveal his suspicions for the Bishops on his Council were not likely to be as sympathetic-wedded as they were to their Christian doctrine of suffering.


‘We shall have to let my husband digest those tidings as he will’ the Countess said and they continued on their way until, at last, they arrived at the main lodgings of the Earl. A small knock by the Serf-a muffled shout from within and they were entering the Servant hurrying to light the torches that adorned the four walls whilst from within the massive bed at the centre of the room a slight figure emerged, face knotted with irritation. ‘Why have you brought guests to me? Did I not-‘


‘This is news I think you will be glad of my lord’ the Countess interjected-she was not one for remaining in the background-this was the Welsh way where women were treated with equal deference as men.


Abashed, the Lord of Surrey unsteadily alighted. He was of medium height and slim build-comely in a strange waspish way-a light moustache decorating his full lips and piercing blue eyes.


Immediately Mar of Val stepped forward and brandished a vellum scroll sealed in wax. Osweald of Surrey took the document, his hand trembling ever so slightly


‘My King I bring you tidings from Winchester where your brother, the late King has gone to meet his lord. As his sole heir, he having no issue, you are now King Osweald of Wessex, first of the name-KING SWITHELM IS DEAD-LONG LIVE KING OSWEALD!’ He then kneeled and reached to kiss his new sovereign’s hand in the gesture of fealty-not long adopted by the Saxons.


For some moments the young man-still barely a man, just stared until he was broken out of his reverie by his wife who similarly knelt and cried out in similarly loud tone ‘Long live the king!’


The serf too prostrated himself and then more were arriving from all over the manor, serfs and freemen, servants and villeins and all took up the refrain:


‘Long may he live! God save King Osweald! God save the king!’



Hope I last longer than my feeble minded brother!
 
Last edited:

Saxon125

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I think the phrase rhymes with clucking bell... :D