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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 9.35 - 1038 – February – Westmorland – Appleby

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Chapter 9.35

1038 – February – Westmorland – Appleby

Countess Wulwynn entered the council chambers along with her husband Anarawd. As she crossed the room, she mentally checked that all in her council who were invited were present. Bishop Ealdwine of Cartmel her chancellor, Mayor Sigeræd of Lowther her marshal, and Osweald her spymaster sat at the large table in the center of the room. Her Court Chaplin, Eadberht was not invited as it was well know he was not in favor of any plots and had stated his opinion numerous times in the past. Osult, the Stewart of Westmorland was invited but he was delayed by a tax collection problem with a large landowner in the south of the county.





While waiting for the Countess arrival the three council members were examining a piece of correspondence from the Regent of Jorvik. Once Wulfwynn was seated Osweald handed her the document. She tossed into the center of table as if it was laced with poison.

Looking at those in the room she asked, “What are your thoughts of this appeal for our levies to fight this war between Oxford and England over Wiltshire?”

Sigeræd chuckled, “The countess is being generous. It is no appeal. It is a demand.”

Ealdwine nodded, “The marshal is correct. No matter how sugary the request is worded, anything from Jorvik and the Regency Council requesting our gracious assistance is still a demand.”

Sigeræd scoffed, “As many times before we are asked to put our levies; the levies we recruit, equip, and feed, in harm’s way for a war we will see no benefit from. Why should I care who is the Count or Countess of Wilshire?”

Wulfwynn responded, “I too care not who rules Wiltshire. I care our young men will be off fighting a meaningless war when there is much to do here. There are crops to be planted in a few months’ time. Flocks and herds to be tended. Goods to be made and sold. Those in Jorvik forget where our levies are drawn. I have my few knights and men at arms but most of my barony’s troops are the farmers and villagers scattered about the barony.” She looked at Sigeræd, “or are drawn from the townsfolk of cities such your Lowther.” Now she turned her attention to Ealdwine, “and lastly your men from your bishopric. Without them all, our county will suffer.”

Osweald nodded, “Milady you speak words of wisdom. From what I can discover not only is this war meant to hurt England and possibly indirectly aid Ealdmund Oshereson but there may be a more sinister reason.”

Sigeræd laughed, “With the Regency Council chicanery is expected.”

Wulfwynn looked at Osweald, “What other motive could there be?”

Osweald gazed at the countess and replied, “A play for power. One group wants the war to improve their stature within the counsel and the kingdom, the other wishes to use the war to discredit and embarrass its rivals.”

Throwing his arms up Sigeræd exclaimed, “And again our levies are pawns in their game of intrigue.”

Ealdwine responded, “It is our lot to be the pawn. We are an afterthought to the king or council. Our liege is the Jarl of Lancaster and the Jarl of Lancaster is the king. We are thus expected to answer any call more quickly and with more loyalty than the other jarls and counts of the kingdom.”

Pausing for a moment he looked around the room. “Westmorland has always been treated as the mad dog for Jorvik. Those of us who can remember thought when King Rædwald,” he looked at Wulfwynn, “appointed your father as count it would change. It did not. Your father Åke grew frustrated and the frustration drove him into the bosom of many schemes and factions.”

Remembering Anarawd was seated at the table Sigeræd looked at him asking, “And what of you Morgannwg? You father is at the center of the very Council causing so much harm to us. Is he not one who championed this war?”

Anarawd looked around at the faces of those in room. Measuring his reply, he said, “Padern is the man who sired me. I am nothing to him but an extra to be pawned off in some attempt to forge an allegiance to further his desire for power. Little did he know when I came here, I would become aware of his callous scheming. My refusal to betray my wife and follow his script has made me even more worthless than before. I would relish the sight of him utterly failing and the disgrace it would bring.”

Wulfwynn smiled at her husband and he back at her. If one looked closely, they would have thought there was more to the smiles than the love and respect of husband and wife. It was as if some secret was exchanged between them.

Wulfwynn turned and looked at the others, “What paths lie before us?”

Sigeræd sighed, “In accordance with your oaths troops must be given to the king.” He smiled like a devil, “The number afforded is not stated.”

Ealdwine joined Sigeræd in smiling, “We need to enough so as not to cause any retribution from the crown.”

Smiling herself Wulfwynn looked at Sigeræd and ordered, “Lord marshal, see that it is done.”

Sigeræd nodded, “yes, milady.”

Wulfwynn looked around the table and stated, “We must look to the future?”

Ealdwine confused asked, “The future, milady?”

Wulfwynn nodded, “Yes, the future. We must ensure our levies are not foolishly called to war again.”

Sigeræd replied, “As long as a Hvitserk sits on the throne, there will be no change. We will forever be their lackeys.”

Eyes narrowing Wulfwynn replied, “Then we must find a way to restrict the unhampered power of the king.”

Ealdwine rubbed his chin and replied, “An intriguing thought but one that is stillborn.”

Wulfwynn smiled. “Perhaps not my dear bishop. Others of like mind now take steps to see it so.”

Osweald looked at Wulfwynn, “You speak of Hereford do you not?”

Sigeræd grimaced, “The Countess Katarina. She is a malcontent. Always in opposition to the Council and to the crown. To be with her would bring further disfavor from Jorvik. Some will label you a traitor.”

Wulfwynn nodded, “To achieve such a goal I would risk disfavor and the acqusations of those who are even more traitorous.”

Sigeræd shook his head, “I tell you milady, she is nothing but trouble, constantly embroiled in one faction or another. Many lords have cut ties from her.”

Wulfwynn grinned, “Not all. Wulfrun of Leicester openly supports her.”

Growing frustrated Sigeræd replied, “Leicester is another who causes nothing but trouble for trouble’s sake.”

Ealdwine remarked, “Why should she not? After what was done in her county during the recent conversion from Orthodoxy. The lies, the threats, and even the occasional murder in the name of the Church. All to make the Council look good in the eyes of Rome.”

Ealdwine looked at Wulfwynn, “What are your wishes, milady?”

Wulfwynn looked around the room. Her husband and Osweald nodded. Sigeræd showed no emotion. She returned her gaze to Ealdwine, “Make inquires to Hereford. See if there is any benefit to our joining with her.”

Ealdwine nodded, “As you wish, milady.”

Before Wulfwynn could dismiss them Osweald spoke, “While gaining the power to decide who the kingdoms wars upon there is still the matter as Sigeræd said regarding a Hvitserk on the throne.”

Ealdwine looked oddly at Osweald, “What do you speak of?”

Osweald rubbed his chin as he spoke, “This Council has already shown itself willing to involve the kingdom in unnecessary wars. Take this Wiltshire war for instance. What is not to say they will not support Ofeig when he is of age and his desire for some needless war?”

Confused and slightly frighten at where this conversation may go Ealdwine replied, “Do you speak of another king? I am not sure we are ready for such.”

Osweald smirked, “A new king, one who is of age would not need this regency council. He could form his own council and fill it with those who aid him.”

Not so sure Sigeræd asked, “Is there someone in mind?”

Osweald grinned, “Someone acceptable to the lords. Someone not Hvitserk but perhaps very close.”

Anarawd asked, “Who would that be?”

Osweald looked at Anarwd, “Swæfræd, Count of Gwent.”

Surprised Anarawd stated, “Swæfræd, the bastard? Who would follow him?”

Osweald grinned, “You might be surprised. He is not Hvitserk, but he is close, very close. He shares the same parents as King Rædwald; King Eilif and Eadhild.”

Anarawd shook his head, “He was not legitimized.”

Osweald nodded, “That was true. That was the doing of another of King Eilif’s lovers, Ingrid af Chester. Ingrid detested Eadhild and used the threat of denying her charms to Eilif if he legitimized Swæfræd out of spite.”

Still not agreeing with the choice Anarawd said, “I know Swæfræd. As Count of Gwent he is one of my father’s vassals. He is a womanizer, more interested in his next conquest of the flesh than the responsibilities of his county.”

Sigeræd chuckled, “A welcome change there. He will be too busy to think of wars.”

Seeing an opportunity Ealdwine agreed, “His affairs could prove to be very useful as they could be used as leverage against him and force him to grant favors.”

Anarawd asked, “What if he does not agree?”

Ealdwine looked at Anarawd and said, “His agreement does not matter.”

Wulfwynn looked at Osweald, “Are there others of a like mind?”

Osweald nodded, “Rumors say Duchess Ealhswith of East Anglia.”

Surprised Sigeræd replied, “East Anglia? The Spymaster of the realm.”

Anarawd asked, “Are there others?”

Osweald cracked his knuckles, “I believe so. But none who will speak out loud.”

Wulfwynn thought for a moment and asked, “What others are these possible allies?”

Ealdwine wasted no time in answering, “Jarl Ealdmund of Powys would be a good candidate. He has supported making Swæfræd king in the past.”

Osweald chuckled, “Along with anyone else whose name is put forth.”

Ealdwine returned the chuckled, “True, true. But his dislike for the Council and Ofeig is real. It is a weapon that the right person could use to obtain their goals. His levies are large, well trained, and equipped. He coffers are full and he has made it known for the right cause he would provide the needed coin.”

Wulfwynn smiled and nodded, “Then you will make the appropriate indiscrete overtures to gain his trust and support.”

Ealdwine nodded, “I will milady.”

Wulfwynn asked, “Any others?”

Anarawd asked, “Countess Katarina of Hereford? She is always opposing the council and king in some way. She has even supported others to be king.”

It was Ealdwine who shook his head this time. “I do not trust her. She is Hvitserk. The times she supported others to be king they were from the House of Hvitserk such as Sigeberht and Eilif. In such an endeavor I fear she will side with blood.”

Wulfwynn asked, “Countess Wulfrun of Leicester?”

Osweald scratched his beard, “Perhaps. Her disdain for the Council and king has been spoken of before.”

Wulfwynn looked at Ealdwine, “Add a visit to Leicester to your travels..”

Ealdwine smiled and nodded, “As you wish milady.”

Sigeræd responded, “I do not see any others. Gwynedd is too involved with their civil war. Yngvar of Lincoln owes his title to the crown and council. Jarl Hlothere of Mann speaks his mind and once in a while is opposed to the council, but he is a king’s man through and through.”

Anarawd asked, “Yngvar of Hylmerk. None have mentioned him.”

At first no one responded. Then Osweald did, “Yngvar of Hlymerk has not made his leanings known in the past. He has remained out of any and all frays thus far.”

Wulfwynn looked at Ealdwine saying, “Perhaps we should ask.”

Ealdwine nodded, “I will make the appropriate inquiries.”

Wulfwynn smiled. “If there are no other matters we are done.”

None spoke and thusly Wulfwynn adjourned the meeting. After the council members departed Anarawd walked over to his wife and sat on the table beside her.

Wulfwynn looked up at her husband and smiled, “Your father would be proud.”

Anarawd nodded, “All is falling into place as he foresaw. Soon the council’s power will be more than the king. Gone will be the days of the king answering to no one.”

Wulfwynn smiled and nodded.

The mood of Anarawd changed and he looked sternly at his wife, “This madness of Osweald why did you encourage such? My father will never stand for deposing Ofeig.”

Wulfwynn patted him on his knee and chuckled, “All to make the ruse all the more believable my husband.”

Anarawd returned the smile, “That is good. I would hate to have to choose.”

Wulfwynn rose, “You will not.”

She turned and left the room followed by her husband. As she walked across the room, she smiled to herself thinking, One must leave all options open.
 
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Plenty of plotting, though I question the logic of exposing one's self to clearly treasonous actions to keep options open. There's something to be said for council support, even if a tyrant won't hear of it. But deposing Olfeig is a big risk and as noted, risks turning allies in House Hvitserk to enemies. But then, being landed does not make one smart.

Still not agreeing with the choice Anarawd said, “I know Swæfræd. As Count of Gwent he is one of my father’s vassals. He is a womanizer, more interested in his next conquest of the flesh than the responsibilities of his county.”

Sigeræd chuckled, “A welcome change there. He will be too busy to think of wars.”
:eek: :D
 
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All this plotting- I mean there is always a certain degree of plotting, but this is getting extreme.

Though I do wonder if this particular circle isn't being rather naive.
 
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Plenty of plotting, though I question the logic of exposing one's self to clearly treasonous actions to keep options open. There's something to be said for council support, even if a tyrant won't hear of it. But deposing Olfeig is a big risk and as noted, risks turning allies in House Hvitserk to enemies. But then, being landed does not make one smart.



:eek: :D
Wulfwynn came out of nowhere. Once she was Countess of Westmorland she became involved in almost every faction. At this point in the game Westmorland, Hereford, and Leicester are constantly creating factions. Wulfwynn is becoming an important player in the opposition to Ofeig and things will be played out over the next couple of years.

All this plotting- I mean there is always a certain degree of plotting, but this is getting extreme.

Though I do wonder if this particular circle isn't being rather naive.
At this point in the game factions were driving me crazy. As Ofeig neared the age of getting rid of the regent, the factions increase exponentially. The Factions are large icon was constantly being displayed as faction gain 90 to 110%. Every time I thought they were under control by using bribes, appointments, and even giving land new ones would pop up. Wulfwynn seemed to be in everyone of these factions. Throughout the game whoever was ruler of Hereford and Westmorland were always first to create or join an existing faction. You are going to see them quite a bit in the future.
 
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I've just read the whole thread over the last few days. Good stuff :)

Take you time on the writing - trying to force things will just end up leaving you frustrated and annoyed.
 
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I've just read the whole thread over the last few days. Good stuff :)

Take you time on the writing - trying to force things will just end up leaving you frustrated and annoyed.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I always look forward to the comments.

Writing has been tough for several reasons. Having the family around all day has been a bit of a challenge. Time that I had gotten used to having to myself went away replaced by interaction with the family. Don't get me wrong, the interaction has been fun and we have accomplished several long term projects in the house to everyone's satisfaction. Luckily we are a group who works well together and supports one another. Also our house is big enough that you can get away and be by yourself when needed. Now that here in Pennsylvania we are in Day 10 (my county was the second county placed under restrictions about a week before the rest of the state) of social distancing we have settled into somewhat of a routine. However, perhaps the biggest problem is with writing is my favorite writing chair had to be thrown out and its replacement is uncomfortable. As such I have been in search of a comfortable place to write.

Back to the AAR, I am finishing the final edit of the next chapter. Once that is done I need to add some screenshots. If all goes well I will get it posted in a couple of days.
 
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Chapter 9.36 - 1038 – February Oxford - Reading

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Chapter 9.36

1038 – February

Oxford - Reading

Exhausted Öysteinn sat on the stool in the room he used as his private chambers. He suffered not from the exhaustion of war but that which comes with the loss of a dear old friend. His head fell into his outstretched hands in a feeble attempt to hold back his grief. He longed for sleep to finally put an end to this day.



Looking up as a noise disturbed his melancholy. His squire returned from taking his armor and boots outside to remove the mud from them. To Öysteinn’s joy his squire carried a large pitcher and a mug. The squire placed it on the table. “Ale, milord?” the squire asked.

Öysteinn nodded and the squire poured a mug of ale. He handed the mug to Öysteinn. Taking it the general thanked his squire. The squire turned and took a tray from a servant that had followed him. The squire nodded and the servant left the room. The squire placed the tray which held a bowl of stew and some bread on the table next to the pitcher saying, “You should eat something, milord.”

Öysteinn smiled and nodded. The squire stood waiting for further orders, “Is there any more you desire?”

Dipping some bread in the stew he replied, “No. You may go.”

The squire bowed and departed.

As he watched the squire exit the events of the last few days replayed in his mind. Painfully he relived seeing one of oldest friends and most trusted commanders, Mayor Uhtræd of Skardaborg, fall ill as he traveled from Jorvik. Once in Reading the mayor’s condition worsened and soon thereafter, he was confined to a bed. Two days prior Uthræd passed unto God in his sleep. Several hours ago, another long-time friend and commander Bishop Harold of Furness performed the funeral rites for their friend. Öysteinn could see Harold was taking the death of Uthræd hard. The three of them had known and fought together for many years stretching back to the Scottish Tribute War. Sighing to himself Öysteinn thought of Uthræd’s family and how they would never see him again. It saddened him even further Uthræd could not be returned to his home in Skardaborg to rest. His body would not survive the journey to there.



The door to the room opened. Öysteinn turned to see his son Alfgeir entering the room carrying a pitcher and a mug that bordered on the size of a stein.

Öysteinn smiled and pointed to the mug in his hand, “I already have some.”

Seeing the disappointment in his son’s face Öysteinn continued, “Thank you anyway and you can set them on the table.” He gestured toward the table. “You may go and join your brothers.”

Alfgeir sat the mug and pitcher down. He started to leave but hesitated.

Seeing his hesitation Öysteinn asked, “Is there something else?”

Alfgeir stopped and then slowly turned. He looked down at his feet and replied, “What will happen to Sumarliði now that Mayor Uhtræd died?”

Öysteinn looked at his son, “What do mean what will happen to him?”

Alfgeir tried to look at his father but was too apprehensive, “Whose page will he be now that Mayor Uhtræd is dead?”

Öysteinn knew Alfgeir was very close to his twin brother and since Uhtræd had rarely left Öysteinn’s side the two were always together. During the times when Harold was with the army their older brother Kjartan, Harold’s page, was with them. Uhtræd’s death threatened to upset their little group.

Öysteinn smiled, “No decision has been made.” Öysteinn could see the worry and dejection building in Alfgeir’s face. Reinforcing his smile Öysteinn continued, “Perhaps he will become Harold’s page now that his squire became a knight and Kjartan will take the old squire’s place.”

Alfgeir’s face lit up. A smile came to him. “That would be good.” He turned and nearly ran out of the room. Öysteinn knew he was going to tell his brothers and the general chuckled. He had discussed the possibilities with Harold earlier in the day and the bishop seemed receptive.

Alone Öysteinn ate some more bread and stew. He washed it down with some ale. Without warning the hairs on the back of his neck began to crawl. He was not alone. He sat his mug down carefully and reached for the dagger in his belt. In one quick motion he pulled the dagger from its sheath, stood, and turned, ready to defend himself against whatever was behind him.

Before him stood a Roman general and saint in full armor. The Roman smiled and Öysteinn relaxed.

Öysteinn spoke, “Eustace, my old friend.”

The Roman replied in a melancholy way, “Old friend. Yes indeed. How long has been the child lost in the woods hunting the stag found me?”

Öysteinn chuckled, “Far, far too many.”

St Eustace seemed withdrawn, “Yes many years.” Looking at Öysteinn in an odd way the Roman asked, “Do you remember what I told you that day?”

Puzzled Öysteinn replied, “I do.”

Seemingly lost in time St Eustace responded, “I warned you not to return to your father.” The saint then glared at him, “But you did not listen.”

Feeling uncomfortable which was unusual when he spoke with St Eustace Öysteinn replied, “I had to my father was King of Damark. I was needed.”

St Eustace scoffed, “Needed. For all your military genius what did you gain from your father and uncles?”

The puzzlement in Öysteinn grew as the Roman continued, “You gained nothing. Your father was disposed and became a violent man toward your mother, your siblings, and yourself.”

Öysteinn took several deep breaths as he remembered his father beating his mother, drawing a blade on him and his brothers on several occasions. Öysteinn closed his eyes tightly as he tried to drive the thought of his father raping his wife from his mind. Even to this day Öysteinn could still hear her screams as he laid on the floor in a pool of blood, beaten senseless by his father.

“Finally, you left.” St Eustace’s words brought Öysteinn back to the present.

Choking slightly on the words Öysteinn replied, “There was nothing left for me in Nerke.” He looked at St Eustace, “You saved me bringing me to these shores and King Rædwald.”

St Eustace smiled, “It was not just I. You played a part. You impressed Jarl Emrys. Your actions compelled the Marshal of Jorvik trust you. To give you authority over armies.”

Öysteinn smiled at the Roman general, “I could not have achieved what I did without your guidance.”

St Eustace nodded his appreciation for his assistance.

The nagging feeling something was not right kept gnawing at Öysteinn’s mind and he asked, “You have been absent for some time. Now you come to me and speak of the past and its regrets. Why do you do so now?’

St Eustace’s face became stern and cold, “You have not had need of me lately. I can offer nothing that you do not already know.”

Öysteinn felt something was amiss, “There is something else, is there not?”

St Eustace stepped away from Öysteinn a few paces and then turned to face him. The saint responded, “Long ago you swore to never expect a title and the land that with it.”

Unsure where the conversation was going Öysteinn nodded, “I saw what having a title did to a person. How the entanglements, the lies, and the deceit could drive a man to become a monster as my father became.”

St Eustace nodded, “A noble stance.”

Stilling wondering what was happening Öysteinn replied, “Perhaps but I have not done such for glory. I have done it to protect what is mine.”

The Roman seemed to stare off into the distance, “Such as done you well for these many years but I fear fate will thrust upon you a choice you do not want to make.”

Obstinately Öysteinn replied, “I will not accept a title.”

St Eustace raised an eyebrow, “Despite the repercussions?”

Growing agitated as his mind regarding such had long been decided Öysteinn answered, “I have seen the repercussions and the horrors that can be unleashed.”

St Eustace stepped toward Öysteinn. He stopped and leaned into Öysteinn’s face, “Are you sure?”

With a tinge of fear Öysteinn backed away. He had never seen St Eustace in this way, “What is all this foolish talk? There is a war at hand, and I need your guidance.”

St Eustace became despondent, “No you do not.”

Shocked Öysteinn replied, “You have always been with me. Why not now? Have I offended you in some way?”

St Eustace smiled in a reassuring way, “No you committed no offense. In this war my services are not required. There is nothing I can offer.”

Feeling like he had been struck by a thunderbolt Öysteinn looked at the Roman, “I do not understand.”

St Eustace looked Öysteinn in the eyes, “My time grows short.”

Concerned and feeling panicky Öysteinn asked, “Will I see you again?”

St Eustace nodded, “You will see me again when the time comes for you to make a decision.”

Öysteinn’s stomach churned with the fear of the unknown, “Decision? What decision?”

St Eustace began to fade as he replied, “A decision of title or family. Your choice will have far reaching ramifications beyond your comprehension for your descendants and the kingdom.”

Öysteinn wanted to ask what ramifications but St Eustance was gone. With the saint’s disappearance came a knock on the door.

Taking a few moments to recover brought another knock on the door with the call of, “Öysteinn?” from the knocker.

Finally, Öysteinn answered the knocks, “Enter.”

The door opened revealing Bishop Harold who stepped into the room. Öysteinn smiled at his friend asking, “Yes, my friend.”

Harold returned the smile, “We have found Ealdmund Osheresson and the English army.”



Öysteinn’s mood quickly improved, “Where?”

Harold replied, “They have crossed into Wessex from Dorset.”

Öysteinn rubbed his chin, “Interesting.”

Harold asked, “Trying outflank us? Perhaps launch an attack into Oxford?”

Öysteinn thought for a moment, “Ealdmund is a cagy old fox. He knows Lord Mayor Ruaidrí of Wessex has declared for the Rebels.”

Harold looked at Öysteinn, “Would Ruaidrí not attack Ealdmund?”

Öysteinn shook his head, “No I think not. Ruaidrí is not going attack his future king. If anything, he may aid Ealdmund. Remember we are the greater enemy. We are trying to take a county away from England.”

Öysteinn gave Harold a mug of ale which the bishop gladly took. Öysteinn continued, “Time is more of an enemy for us that the English. The longer the war lasts the more upset the lords of the kingdom will become and support will wane. Once that happens it will be more difficult for us to maintain our army. That is the only hope the English have to win this war or bring about a white peace.”

Harold nodded his agreement.

Öysteinn stood and asked, “What of the Lithuanian Band that soundly defeated Count Hereweald’s Oxfordian troops at Southampton? Where are they with Ealdmund?”

Harold smiled, “On their way back to Germany or Lithuania.”

Surprised Öysteinn responded, “They left?”

Harold nodded, “Many English nobles took offense to having a pagan mercenary army fighting for them.”

Öysteinn shook his head. He did not care what faith one held if they fought hard and true for him, “Fools.”

Harold nodded, “Indeed.”

Öysteinn looked at Harold, “Have the army prepare to break camp in the morning. We march to Wessex.”

With a big smile Harold replied, “Yes, milord it shall be done.” Harold then turned and left the room.

Once Harold left Öysteinn stood starring into the fire. His mind kept trying to think of the choice St Eustace talked of. The thought would haunt him through the night and for many more nights to come.

Wessex – Winchester

Hungifu was on edge as she sat at the table. She kept her eyes on the food before her which she barely touched. All her efforts were being spent on trying to avoid the gaze of her husband Fer-Fugaill. She had not supped with her husband for several weeks at his insistence. As a matter of fact, he had basically made her a prisoner to her own quarters. When the order was delivered to her by the steward of the castle, she was at first shocked and surprised. Her surprise quickly turned to fear that she would learn of her punishment.

Fer-Fugaill finished eating his meal and a servant cleared his plates from the table. He looked down the table at Hungifu and said, “Are you not hungry? You have barely touched your food.”



Still keeping her head down, she replied, “I have no appetite.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded and a servant removed the plate from before Hungifu. Hungifu began to stand and Fer-Fugaill slammed his fist on the table. “I have not given you permission to leave.”

Eyes wide Hungifu slowly sat down. Once in her seat she screamed, “Stop the torturing me. Enact your punishment and get it over with!”

Fer-Fugaill stood leaning on the table with both arms and with a raised voice said, “I should have you flogged for what you have done and the embarrassment you have brought upon this family.”

Hungifu sank into the chair and sobbed expecting the worse.

In a lower voice Fer-Fugaill said, “But I will not. I have a far better punishment for you and your lover.”

Hungifu choked out, “What can you do to the Lord Mayor?”

Fer-Fugaill stood straight and smiled, “I can leave Ruaidrí without his Marshal and with no troops and war on his doorsteps.”

Hungifu’s mouth fell open but then she smirked, “If you did not call forth the levies as he requested, he can have you arrested and executed.”

Fer-Fugaill walked toward Hungifu and said, “Not if cannot reach me.”

Bewildered Hungifu looked at Fer-Fugaill, “What nonsense do you speak?”

Fer-Fugaill stood over her, “We leave for Jorvik within the hour.”

Hungifu asked, “We leave? Jorvik?”

Fer-Fugaill smirked, “I have accepted an invitation from Rígán, Regent of Jorvik inviting me to come to the court of King Ofeig and I have accepted.”

Hungifu’s mouth dropped open and her eyes widened in shock, “You would go to Jorvik and live after what King Rædwald did to you?”

Fer-Fugaill glared at his wife, “True it is a bitter taste but is far less bitter than living here. Rædwald has been in the ground now for over thirteen years. His underage grandson now rules, and a fellow Irishman is regent. I say there is more opportunity in Jorvik than Wessex. Here is only the embarrassment brought about by your adultery.”

With her mind swirling Hungifu was stunned into silence. Her head fell into her hands crying. With the Lord Mayor as her lover she believed herself to have power and be untouchable. Now it all came crashing down. After a moment she decided to resist.

“I am not going.”

Fer-Fugaill grinned, “You are going.” Fer-Fugaill clapped his hands and four guards entered. “This is your escort.”

Still trying to find a way out she yelled, “You cannot.”

Fer-Fugaill chuckled, “I am your husband and I can do what I want with you.”

In desperation and through her tears Hungifu, “What of our children?”

Fer-Fugaill leaned with one hand on the table over his wife, “Our youngest Eithne will travel with us.”

Fear rising Hungifu asked, “What of Lochlann and the others?”

Smirking Fer-Fugaill replied, “He will watch over his sister Sorcha and brother Selbach. He will leave Winchester by other means.”

Hungifu desperately asked, “Where will they go?”

Fer-Fugaill shook his head as he stood up, “They will be safe. That is all you need to know.”

Fer-Fugaill began to walk from the room as Hungifu cried after him. At the doorway he met the steward and said to him, “See that my wife to the wagon once she is dressed for the journey.”

The steward nodded, “Yes, milord.”

Fer-Fugaill put his hand on the man’s shoulder and looked at him, “Do not tarry. You and the household staff must be gone before first light.”

The steward again nodded, “We will, milord.”

Fer-Fugaill smiled as he removed his hand, “’Til we meet again in Jorvik.”

The steward smiled and Fer-Fugaill left him.
 
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JabberJock14

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I could be wrong, but I read symbolism all over this chapter. Öysteinn loses someone close, and St. Eustace departs him - is he feeling abandoned by his faith?

And there's the ominous signs at the end - Fer-Fugaill setting up to be Oysteinn's replacement?

All and all, not the greatest of moments for Öysteinn.
 
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I agree @JabberJock14 - there are ominous tones throughout. Including the fact, as of now, Fer-Fugaill hasn't heard of Rigan's turn of fortunes.

By the by @tpmcinty it appears you have been afflicted by the sort of typo that I sometimes make:
Obstinately Öysteinn replied, “I will not except a title.
 
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By the by @tpmcinty it appears you have been afflicted by the sort of typo that I sometimes make:
Obstinately Öysteinn replied, “I will not except a title.
I was so worried about Obstinately I messed up accept. I fixed it. Thanks for catching it.
 
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I could be wrong, but I read symbolism all over this chapter. Öysteinn loses someone close, and St. Eustace departs him - is he feeling abandoned by his faith?

And there's the ominous signs at the end - Fer-Fugaill setting up to be Oysteinn's replacement?

All and all, not the greatest of moments for Öysteinn.
Many things are moving to a climax over the next few chapters. Öysteinn and his sons' roles in the story are in for big changes. Fer-Fugaill is going to become a major character in the future.

I agree @JabberJock14 - there are ominous tones throughout. Including the fact, as of now, Fer-Fugaill hasn't heard of Rigan's turn of fortunes.
These are changing times for Jorvik. Some may consider them dark but others may not.

At first when the social distancing began in our county (we were the second county in Pennsylvania placed under restrictions) I thought my writing and editing output would increase. At first it did but for reasons I am not sure it fell off. I went back to my other hobby of model railroading but even that suffered a slow down. However, over the last few days I seemed to have shaken by funk and I had a good day editing yesterday. I need to finish the final editing for the next chapter and my goal is to get it posted by Sunday.

The chapter tells of the Oxford-Wiltshire Claim War and contains a major event.
 
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Chapter 9.37 - 1038 – August – Jorvik

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Chapter 9.37

1038 – August – Jorvik

To Ofeig Mauda looked extremely lonely sitting on the bench in the courtyard. She was gazing unseeing at the fountain before her. Her melancholy tugged at Ofeig’s heart as he approached one of the few people he could call a friend. Perhaps they both needed each other. He the king without power and she the daughter of a deposed regent.



Seeing Ofeig approaching her face brightened and a smile came to her. Patting the bench next to her she said, “Come, come, sit down.”



Gladly taking the seat Ofeig aked, “How do you fair this fine day aunt?”

“Better than the last few days now that the wind is blowing in from the fields and not the river and docks and the heat has decreased,” she replied.

Ofeig nodded, “Yes, the recent hot days the stench from the river was nearly unbearable.”

Mauda looked at Ofeig, “Why does Arngrimr not move the court to Richmond during the summer like the kings have done in the past?”

Ofeig shrugged, “Uncle Sigeberht acting as Court Physician has been trying to encourage him to move to Richmond for the health of the court but Arngrimr will not.”

Mauda shook her head, “I do not understand why he does not listen to Sigeberht.”

Ofeig half frowned, “He says that with the levies fighting in the south there is too few troops to protect the court while it travels to Richmond. No one believes him but he still insists. Sigeberht thinks it is because he has not received word from Padern to do so.”

Mauda asked, “Can’t Council make him do so?”

Ofeig shook his head, “No. With Padern and Vagn in the south fighting the war and Duchess Ealhswith not always present the Council has not meet since there is no quorum. Arngrimr as regent makes all the decisions on his own.”

Her eyes teared up slightly as she responded, “I wish my father was still regent. This would not be.”

Ofeig half grinned, “Many wish Rígán was still regent.”

The two sat watching several birds fly around the fountain and the bushes nearby. After a few minutes Ofeig asked, “How was your trip to Germany?”

Mauda bit her bottom lip and then answered, “It went well.”

Excited to hear about another country from someone who had been there Ofeig asked, “What was it like?”

Mauda shrugged her shoulders, “Very much like here. Lüneberg is a city similar to Jorvik. It is surrounded by hills and is on the river.”

Ofeig nodded, “Did you meet King Gerhard?”

Mauda did not seem pleased, “Yes, I did.”

Ofeig inquired, “What is he like.”

Mauda frowned, “He is old.”

“How old?” asked Ofeig.

Mauda’s frown deepened, “Sixty. He has had two other wives.”



Ofeig now felt sad for her, “I am sorry.”

Mauda looked at Ofeig and seemed ready to cry, “I found the only reason I am marrying him is to secure a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany, so they won’t attack us while we fight England.”

Ofeig nodded, “I know our marriages are made to benefit the kingdom and never for love.”

Mauda sniffled a little and then smiled, “What news from the war? I have heard nothing while I was traveling and since I returned.”

With a hint of pride Ofeig responded, “Lord General Öysteinn is going to single handily win the war for us.”

Mauda chuckled, “That is good to know. What has happened?”

Ofeig enthusasticly launched into an explanation of the war.

“Öysteinn crossed into Wessex with an army of nearly seven thousand men. Ealdmund Osheresson with his much smaller army of thirty-one hundred men lead Öysteinn and his army on a month-long chase. Using his calvary Öysteinn was finally able to trap Ealdmund near Winchester and force a battle. Ealdmund was successful in delaying a full fledge battle until late in the day. As evening approached the English army broke and routed. Due to the onset of darkness the Jorvikians were unable to pursue the routed English, just as Ealdmund had planned. Even so eighteen hundred English lay dead on the field of battle. Only four hundred of our soldiers were killed.”



“As Öysteinn marched through Wessex our French allies landed at Gloucester. A greater number of their troops streamed south and brought Bath under siege. The remaining French marched into Wiltshire and joined Jarl Padern and his army laying siege to Wilton.”

“Over the next couple moths Ealdmund retreated across Dorset and into the Petty Kingdom of Cornwall. The pursuit continued across the Cornish counites of Devon and Cornwall. Near St Germans Ealdmund ran out of places to run. Öysteinn attacked the English. If not for Cornish interference Öysteinn would have destroyed the English. Close to one third of Ealdmund’s army perished while Öysteinn only lost a hundred men.”



Surprised Mauda asked, “Did the Cornish truly help the English?”

Ofeig nodded, “They must have. Otherwise how could the English escape?”

Mauda asked, “Will Arngrimr punish the Cornish?”

Ofeig shook his head, “No, the coward will take no action. I, however, will never forget what they did once I am no longer burdened with the regency.”

Like Ofeig, Mauda was disappointed, “Is there more? Where are the English?”

Ofeig picked up his story.

“Because of the Cornish treachery Ealdmund was able to flee through Cornwall into Somerset. From there they snuck across the Jarldom of Deheubarth. Öysteinn hoped to trap them in Dyfed but having a smaller force Ealdmund could move faster and crossed the St George’s Channel. We are sure the ships were provided by Queen Gwenn of Cornwall and King Natfraich II of Connachta.”

Mauda sighed, “Natfraich, also.”

Ofeig frowned, “How else would Ealdmund journey to Ireland with his army?”

Mauda looked worried, “These are troubling accusations.”

Ofeig nodded, “Yes they are and the disgrace nothing is being done to castigate those who have wronged us.”

Mauda looked at Ofeig, “I am sure you will make it right.”

Ofeig blushed at Mauda’s confidence in him. “I promise I will.”

Mauda smiled knowing Ofeig enjoyed talking about Öysteinn, “Please continue.”

Ofeig smiled back at Mauda, “Of course.”

“Once Öysteinn crossed into Ireland he was joined by the French giving Öysteinn over forty-six hundred men. Unlike Öysteinn Ealdmund could not replenish his loses and his army dwindled down to about nine hundred by the time he reached Ulaidh. Ealdmund thought he could cross the North Channel to Scotland. To his disappointment Ealdmund found no friendly ships only those belonging to Jorvik and Scotland.

Knowing he had nowhere to go Ealdmund attacked at Dún Pádraig. The battle mercifully did not last long. Ealdmund is truly a worthy adversary and to Öysteinn’s disappointment Ealdmund escaped. Last word is Ealdmund fled to Connachta.”



Confused Mauda asked, “Did Ealdmund seek protection from Natfraich?”

Ofeig shook his head, “No, he has not.”

“That is good.” Mauda smiled, “Then the war goes our way.”

Ofeig smiled with pride, “It does thanks to Öysteinn.”

Mauda chuckled, “You truly adore Öysteinn.”

Ofeig chuckled, “Why shouldn’t I? He is one of Jorvik’s greatest general. He should be honored and revered as King Knut, Count Þorgil of Glamorgan, and Jarl Emrys of Deheubarth.”

Mauda grinned, “How will do such?”

Proudly Ofeig responded, “I shall grant him a county.”

“He has refused land grants before. What makes you think he will accept it?”

Ofeig laughed, “Because I am granting it to him.”

Mauda laughed, “You sound so sure.”

Ofeig replied, “I have sent him a letter stating I will do so once I am king. He has refused regents and council. He will not refuse his king.”
 
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stnylan

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That is a rather touching converstion, and gives me some additional hope for Ofeig for the future. I mean, immature too of course, but with potential.

Rather embarrasingly though I cannot remember how much longer this regency has to last.
 
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Ofeig granting Öysteinn a county is a just reward, but his rivalry with his sons may well cause problems for him down the road.

That said good on the king for wanting to honor a great servant of the realm. It could well inspire other lords toward loyalty, though I'm sure a few will end up rather envious.

Ofeig nodded, “Yes, the recent hot days the stench from the river was nearly unbearable.”
For some reason, I really appreciate this detail, as it would be accurate given the waste people would dump in rivers and streams.
 
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That is a rather touching converstion, and gives me some additional hope for Ofeig for the future. I mean, immature too of course, but with potential.

Rather embarrasingly though I cannot remember how much longer this regency has to last.
Thanks.I was trying to show him as a boy who is growing into his position but is still a child. As such he hero worships Öysteinn and wants to praise and reward him.

There are 4 long years left in the regency.

Ofeig granting Öysteinn a county is a just reward, but his rivalry with his sons may well cause problems for him down the road.

That said good on the king for wanting to honor a great servant of the realm. It could well inspire other lords toward loyalty, though I'm sure a few will end up rather envious.

For some reason, I really appreciate this detail, as it would be accurate given the waste people would dump in rivers and streams.
Ofeig is not exactly looking at impacts on others if he rewards Öysteinn. His goal is to reward his hero. However, the good effects can't hurt. You are right about Öysteinn's sons. Their prt in this tale will have impacts.

Thanks about the river line. As civil engineer I have an obscure interest in weird things like sanitation, roads, structures, etc. When I do research on something I want for the story I constantly get pulled off topic by reading about how something was built and why.

*****

Next chapter is close to ready. I am about half through the final edit. Then I have to add screenshots. The next chapter has a dozy of an event and one that will have major repercussions for the future. It should be posted in a few days.
 
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Chapter 9.38 - 1038 – October – Ros Comáin

tpmcinty

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Chapter 9.38

1038 – October – Ros Comáin

Öysteinn sat upon his horse off to the side of the road clearly frustrated. The frustration had been building everyday as the pursuit of Ealdmund Osheresson and his English army lengthened into the late autumn. He was about to ride forward of the column of passing troops when Bishop Harold rode up to him.

Hopeful Öysteinn said, “Any word?”

Harold shook his head, “Nothing. It is hard to believe three hundred men could just disappear.”



Öysteinn grimaced, “Ealdmund is an old cagy fox. He has honed his skills against Þorgil and Emrys for many long years. Fighting the infidels in Iberia has taught him many tricks.”

Harold nodded, “And getting aid from King Natfraich makes this all the more difficult.”

Öysteinn steadied his horse, “We cannot prove the King of Connachta has hindered our efforts to find and trap the English.”

Shocked at Öysteinn’s remark Harold replied, “You cannot be serious. Bridges suddenly collapse before we reach them. Unexplained roadblocks in our path. Poor or inaccurate directions given to our scouts. What else would you call it?”

Öysteinn smiled, “Bad luck as Natfraich calls it.”

Harold shook his head, “You believe him?”

Öysteinn chuckled, “Of course not but without undeniable proof I can officially say little. Unofficially I can attest King Natfraich II of Connachta will answer someday for his interference.”



Harold smirked at first, but his mood changed, “Winter is approaching. We need to find Ealdmund before the weather turns and supplies dwindle, and replenishment becomes difficult.”

Öysteinn nodded, “I doubt Natfraich will sell us much. We must not allow wholesale plundering of his lands. We do not need enemies all around us when we need to rely on the miserable roads of this wretched kingdom for our supply trains from Dyflinn, Ossory, and Hylmerk.”

Looking concerned Harold replied, “We need to find Ealdmund soon.”

Öysteinn nodded and thought for a moment. He took a deep breath and said, “Send out the last of the Jorvikian horse to search.”

Sensing Harold’s reaction his horse shifted nervously, and Harold had to steady it. “All of calvary will be searching and scouting. We will have no calvary to protect our foot soldiers of warn of us of traps.”

Öysteinn shook his head, “We still have the French calvary.”

Protesting Harold replied, “Do you think that are worthy of the task?”

Öysteinn frowned, “Not particularly but what choice do we have? I cannot send the Frenchmen out into the Irish countryside unsupervised. I fear they will be more entranced with plunder and spoils than finding the enemy.”

Harold knowing Öysteinn was correct conceded, “You are right.”

Öysteinn chuckled, “We will have to be more diligent ourselves looking for traps and snares. Our light infantry will need to fill the role of the calvary in that respect.”

Harold nodded and then smirked, “Speaking of traps I hear of a letter from Ofeig pronouncing he will grant you a title and land after this war.”

Surprised Öysteinn asked, “How do you?”

Harold chuckled, “You seem to forget your son Kjartan is my squire, and Sumarliði is my page. Whether you like it or not Alfgeir is a pretty good spy. Of course, what he discovers he tells his brothers and eventually one of them slips and tells me.”

Öysteinn laughed, “Betrayed by my own blood.”

Harold laughed and then became stern, “What will you do? I know you have refused titles and land before.”

Mournfully Öysteinn replied, “I have seen what they do to people. What they did to my family and wish no part of it.”

Harold looked at Öysteinn, “Refusing the Regent or Council is one thing and I can understand your reasons. However, refusing the king is entirely a different thing. I feel he will not take a refusal kindly.”

Öysteinn thought for a long moment, “Nothing has been offered so there is nothing to decide.”

Harold shook his head, “That may be so but the time will come.”

Getting annoyed Öysteinn replied, “When the time comes, I will decide then.” He then turned his horse and rode away from Harold. As he did so he heard St Eustace say, “Time for a decision is nearly at hand. You can put it off no longer. The fate of your family and the kingdom rests with you.”

*****

Several days later found Öysteinn again sitting astride his horse watching his army march by. His frustration at not cornering Ealdmund was growing deeper and deeper by the hours. He noticed a rider coming toward him from the direction the army was marching toward. Seeing Öysteinn the ride increased to a gallop. In a couple of quick minutes, the rider was before Öysteinn.

The rider bowed, “Lord General, I bring a message from Lord Barthélémi.”

Öysteinn nodded, “Let’s have it.”

The messenger took a breath, “He believes he has found the English.”

Öysteinn cocked an eyebrow, “Where?”

“Several miles from here,” the rider said indicating the direction he came from, “at the juncture where the road turns toward Ros Comáin.”

Öysteinn turned to his page and son Alfgeir and said, “Find Bishop Harold and Mayor Arnuad and have them follow.”

Alfgeir nodded and turned his horse and rode off toward the rear of the column.

Öysteinn turned back to the messenger, “Lead on.”

The messenger nodded and turned his horse. Öysteinn followed the messenger as he rode back the way he came.

A short time later Öysteinn and the messenger approached several men standing under some trees or at least what were called trees in Ireland. Öysteinn found the absence of forest in Ireland unnerving at times.

As they neared the men one walked toward them. Öysteinn halted his horse and dismounted. A solider took the reins from Öysteinn as the general drew near the man.

Öysteinn called to the man, “Barthélémi de Médidan.”

Barthélémi bowed and replied, “Lord Öysteinn.”



Öysteinn asked, “Where is it you believe you have found the English.”

Proudly Barthélémi replied, “Come to edge of the trees and you can see.”

Barthélémi lead Öysteinn to the trees’ edge. Before Öysteinn laid several fields of tall grass on both sides of the road. At the point where the main road turned west there was a small village with some fortifications. The fortifications looked to be in a state of disrepair although there were signs of recent repairs. At first Öysteinn could not see any people but after a few moments he saw what could be English soldiers manning the fortifications.

Öysteinn looked at Barthélémi, “Have your horse go around and make sure the way to Ros Comáin and the road south are blocked. I do not want to lose this chance.”

Barthélémi nodded and turned to shout orders but Öysteinn stopped him, “Go yourself and ensure everything is in place.”

Surprised Barthélémi responded, “Yes, milord.” He began to walk away from Öysteinn when the general added, “Do not be seen, understand?”

Insulted Barthélémi, replied, “Yes, milord.” The commander gave some orders and mounted his horse. Along with several others he rode off.

Öysteinn then noticed Harold standing nearby. The Bishop had a huge grin on his face as he came closer to Öysteinn.

“So, our mediocre friend from Aquitaine may have actually done something useful,” Harold said.

Öysteinn glared at the bishop, “Every dog has his day.”

Harold nodded, “I thought you be rid of him by now.”

Öysteinn frowned, “I had hoped but the replacements may be worse.”

Harold’s eyes widened, “Worse? Gold help us.”

Öysteinn nodded, “Yes, At least Barthélémi does his duty.”

Harold shook his head, “And nothing more.”

Öysteinn looked at the village and asked, “What are your thoughts?”

Harold looked, “I don’t like it. Where are the Munsterian guards and the villagers?”

Öysteinn shrugged his shoulders, “Perhaps they fled seeing our army approaching.”

Harold shook his head, “You are reaching but you maybe correct. Ealdmund could have ordered them to leave. But why make his last stance here?”

Öysteinn looked at Harold, “Maybe we got lucky.”

Harold looked at Öysteinn oddly, “You speaking of luck.” Harold looked back at the village, “I hope you are wise.”

Alfgeir joined them saying, “Mayor Arnaud of Amiens.”

Arnaud joined them. The commander of the French troops smiled and said in Nordic with a hint of French accent, “Finally we have them?”



Harold replied, “It seems that way.”

Arnaud looked at the blue sky above and replied, “A good day for a fight.” He chuckled, “I have been hoping for another chance to show my worth and the worth of my soldiers.”

Öysteinn smiled, “You have already done so at Dún Pádraig. Turning the English flank broke the English and lead to their rout.”

Arnuad’s mood lost its cheerful edge as he responded, “But the English escaped, and I feel I should have done more.”

Trying to be reassuring Öysteinn said, “Despite our best efforts battle does not always bend to our will.”

Harold noticed his page Sumarliði trying to get his attention. A man stood next to him. Harold recognized the man as one his scouting party commanders. Something important was at hand for him to come here.

Harold said, “Excuse me. I have a messenger.”

Öysteinn nodded and Harold joined Sumarliði and the messenger. They spoke for a moment and then the messenger left at a quick pace. Harold returned to Öysteinn.

Harold frowned, “Now we know why Ealdmund is here.”

Öysteinn looked at Harold and without asking said, “Why?”

Harold took a breath and replied, “King Natfraich has left Ros Comáin at the head of an army of several thousand men.”

Öysteinn cursed, “Damn!”

Confused Arnaud asked, “Does that mean the King of Connachta has joined with the English.”

Harold shook his head, “No. He is marching out to show us we are too close to his capital.”

Öysteinn picked up, “But his true reason is to buy time for Ealdmund and force us to circle around him.” Öysteinn looked at the village, “But luck maybe on our side.”

Confused Harold asked, “How?”

Öysteinn looked at Harold and smiled, “We arrived sooner than Natfraich expected.”

Harold was still not convinced, and his face showed it.

Öysteinn continued, “We need to move fast.” The general looked at the village. Mayor Arnaud I need your Frenchmen to attack along the left. Harold take the center and right. Send word to Barthélémi to attack down the roads.” Öysteinn smacked his fist into his palm, “This is where we end this.”

Harold and Arnaud nodded. Arnuad asked, “When?”

Öysteinn looked at both and replied, “You have two hours to get your soldiers in place.”

Harold and Arnaud bowed and moved away quickly.

Öysteinn turned and found himself face to face with St. Eustace. Eustace’s face showed no emotion.

“Careful the hunter may become the hunted.”

Before Öysteinn could speak the Roman general was gone.

*****

Harold finished issuing orders and turned to his squire Kjartan, and page Sumarliði. Kjartan was in full armor ready for battle. Harold placed his hand his squire’s shoulder and smiled, “You are not ready.”

Disappointment filled Kjartan’s face. “But Lord Bishop…”

Harold removed his hand and continued smiling, “You have not mastered the sword in battle yet. When you have it will be your time.”

Trying to protest Kjartan replied, “I have worked hard. I know I can do it.”

Harold shook his head, “Not this time. Now go with your brother and go to your father. He will need couriers as the day goes by. Communicating with his commanders is of the upmost importance.”

Dejected Kjartan nodded, “Yes, milord.” Kjartan spun his brother around and they both began walking away.

*****

Close to two hours later Öysteinn stood on the small hill near the tree line. He was in the company of his three commanders Harold, Anraud, and Barthélémi. The commanders were waiting for their final orders.

Harold kept glancing at the copse of trees. Every time he did so an ill feeling shook him to his bones. He looked at Barthélémi, “Did you clear those woods when you arrived here this morning?” pointing at the trees.

Barthélémi looked insulted, “Of course I did. Do you think me an idiot? I directed the clearing myself.”

Harold did not trust the man from Aquitaine. However, seeing Öysteinn glaring at him he backed down, “one cannot be too careful.” Harold made a mental note to have the woods checked again.

Öysteinn pointed to the village, “It is too small to siege. The fortifications are crude and obviously repaired in haste. They will take some time to breech or climb. They have archers and will do damage. We must be quick and charge across the open ground and reach the fortifications and breech them before their archers do too much damage. Our archers will need to pick them off quickly. This will not be fancy. Just a plain forward assault.”

The commanders nodded.

“I wish the horse was here,” Öysteinn said as he looked around. “However, we cannot wait any longer.” He looked at the sky, “If we do, we will lose the light and run the risk Ealdmund will steal away in the dark.”

Öysteinn paused. He looked at his commanders and they all stiffened knowing orders were to follow for the coming battle.

“Harold you will lead on the center, Arnaud on the left, and Barthélémi the right. The attack will be made first by the light infantry with the archers behind them covering them. The pikemen and one third of the men-at-arms will follow close behind. The remaining men-at-arms will be the reserve which I will command. I will wait here to see if the calvary arrive.”

“Barthélémi send a message to the troops you left blocking the road to Ros Comáin instructing them to remain. Their purpose is to prevent the English from retreating in that direction. Makes sure their commander understands.”

Barthélémi nodded, “Yes, milord.”

Öysteinn smiled, “Now go to your commands we attack in a less than a half hour. Listen for the horn.”

The three commanders responded, “Yes,” and quickly dispersed.

As Harold departed, he saw Kjartan standing with his brothers Sumarliði and Alfgeir. Kjartan still in his armor looked at Harold and quickly turned away. Harold made a mental note he would need to console the young man when this was over.

Once the commanders were gone Öysteinn found St Eustace standing before him. Again with the emotionless expression St Eustace said, “Wait it is a better to risk a fight another day than now.”

Öysteinn shook his head, “No Ealdmund is here now.”

St Eustace glared at Öysteinn, “You have never rushed a fight. Why abandon what has made you great?”

Öysteinn protested, “Ealdmund is here. Now. I may not, I will not get another chance such as this. The time and place is now and here.”

St Eustace frowned as he faded into the trees.

*****

The horn sounded and the light infantry moved forward at a quick pace. In days of old this is what the Northmen raiders who came to England looked like. Leather armor with a few chain mail shirts mixed in. Many carried the traditional wooden round shields. Although some opted for leather and few carried metal shields. Their weapons were an assortment of swords, axes, clubs, and maces. Behind them came the archers. Over two-thirds of them carried the deadly long bow.

The French on the left were similar in nature. Their light infantry, however, was more uniformly equipped with light chain mail, metal shields, and short swords. Some of their commanders wore heavier chain mail and carried more elaborate shields and longer swords. The French archers were equipped with crossbows.

Öysteinn mounted on his horse at the crest of the small hill watched the scene unfold before him. The light infantry increased their speed when they were halfway to the village. The archers matched their pace. Once the village was in range the archers stopped and began firing into the village. When the infantry was close a loud war cry erupted and a moment later they were on the barricades.

The scene did not appear right. A few men fell from arrows and bolts but far too few. The rate of fire from the English did not seem right. It was too little. There was almost no resistance at the barricades. The infantry easily breeched them and poured into the village.

As instructed the pikemen and men-at-arms began moving across the open ground toward the village. Still no real resistance from the defenders.

Öysteinn looked around franticly. Something is wrong his mind screamed.

St Eustace stood before him and screamed, “Trap!”

Suddenly there was a sound behind him. He turned to see a flock of arrows explode form the tree line. Men fell. Some close by. Öysteinn yelled orders to the men-at-arms nearby ordering them to defend against an attack.

Another shower of arrows. More men down. Öysteinn desperately searched the scene until he found his sons. Thus far they were safe. They had taken cover behind some crates and a small rock wall.

Without warning another volley of arrows came out of the tree line. Then to Öysteinn’s horror armed men charged out of the trees. Men-at-arms quickly tried to form a defensive position, but their numbers were few and many were still gathering their wits from the surprise.

A group of them passed his sons. Öysteinn’s heart sank as he saw Kjartan draw his sword and run to join them. From where he was, he could see a party of Englishmen about to flank the men-at-arms and Kjartan.

Without thinking Öysteinn drew his sword and kicked his horse. The great stead leaped forward. Several soldiers near him followed as best as they could. The Englishmen turned to see what the commotion was behind them to only find themselves face to face with a howling madman swinging a sword from atop a huge beast.

Öysteinn could hear St. Eustace as he rode past him, “The choice has been made.”

Öysteinn felled several with his sword quickly. One Englishmen carried a pike and as Öysteinn rode by he struck. The pike was driven into the chest of the horse. Öysteinn turned and cut down the English solider. Unfortunately, the damage was done, his horse mortally wounded. In its pain and agony, it stopped suddenly throwing Öysteinn off balance. He lost his grip on the reigns. The horse reared and Öysteinn felt himself sliding off. He tried to bring his leg over to make a leaping dismount. Time was not kind to him. He slid off the horse and fell to the ground with a resounding thud. Before he regained his senses, the horse fell on top of him. He felt the air being forced from his lungs and pain caused by the weight of the horse landing on his body. Mercifully came the darkness.

Being the first to reach the fallen general Kjartan could only see an arm and a leg protruding from beneath the horse. He dropped his sword and screaming, “Father, father,” he tried to move the horse with no success. Several other soldiers came to his aid and with the use of several large branches as levers they were able to lift the horse and pull Öysteinn out. Seeing him Kjartan screamed. It would be a sight that would haunt him until his dying day.

Suddenly the cry, “The Lord General is down rose from hill.” In another army this would have set off a panic. With this army it created a frenzy for revenge and few Englishmen left the field that day.



*****

In the dark several miles from Ros Comáin Ealdmund Osheresson stood alongside his horse with several other men.



Ealdmund looked at one and asked, “Are you sure?”

The man nodded and replied, “His horse collapsed upon him. He was carried from the field barely moving.”

Ealdmund shook his head, “Not good.”

A second man spoke, “It is good news milord. Our greatest enemy is no more.”

Ealdmund glared at the man, “The attack was meant to kidnap one or more of Öysteinn’s sons, not his death.”

Confused the second man responded, “But now they are leaderless.”

Ealdmund growled, “Fool. With Jorvik it does not work so easily. Their battle cry will be for revenge. The fate of Wiltshire no longer matters. With one or more of Öysteinn’s sons as hostages we could have negotiate. Now we are lost.”

The first man asked, “What shall we do now?”

Ealdmund sighed, “Take Natfraich’s offer of a ship and return to England.”

*****

Nine days later in a bedroom of a house located in the village where the battle was fought Bishop Harold finished giving Last Rites to his friend and commander. Öysteinn lay under blood-soaked blankets and furs. His body twisted and broken in too many places to mention. Since he had been brought here, he had not said a word. On a few rare occasions he opened his eyes. Over the last day his breathing had become very labored. The army physician and the Court Physician for King Natfraich confirmed his time was short. Yes, Öysteinn’s reputation meant that the King of Connachta had come to this small village to see the Great General of Jorvik and greatest threat to his kingdom. Natfraich waited in the common room along with several others.

Harold stepped out of the room and into the hallway. Arnaud greeted him. One look at Harold’s face told Arnuad all he needed to know. The Frenchman put his hand on Harold’s shoulder.

Harold tried to smile but failed, “It will not be long now.”

Arnaud nodded, “I will tell those waiting.”

Harold nodded, “I will return and stay with him until the end.”

Arnaud began to walk away and stopped. Turning back to Harold he asked, “What of his boys?”

Choking back tears Harold replied, “They said their good-byes a short time ago.”

Arnaud patted Harold’s shoulder and the bishop entered the bedroom again. Arnaud walked down the hallway and descended the stairs. Once in the common room he made his announcement.

*****

Öysteinn found himself standing in a town square. The location was familiar, but he could not place where it was. His concentration was broken by St. Eustace who walked out of the shadows.

St Eustace smiled and extended his hand to Öysteinn saying, “Greeting, old friend.”

Öysteinn took the saints arm and they clasped wrist, “It is good to see you again.” He looked around still trying to figure out where he was. He looked at St Eustace and asked, “Where is this place?”

St Eustace smiled, “It is here, and it is everywhere.”

Confused Öysteinn replied, “I do not understand.”

St Eustace just smiled and replied, “Soon everything will be clear.”

Suddenly concern filled Öysteinn, “The battle? The war?”

St Eustace chuckled, “Always the general.” Seeing how concerned Öysteinn was, St Eustace continued, “You won a great battle. The English army is no more. In the war The French captured Bath and then they moved on to Wells and Ilchester. Just within the last couple of weeks the French took Taunton and Muchelney.”







Relieved Öysteinn asked, “What of Wilton? Has it fallen?”

St Eustace shook his head, “No it has not. The Scottish troops finally arrived to aid Jarl Padern and the French. The city should fall soon.”

Öysteinn smiled, “The war will be over soon. I hope before the English Civil War is finished. I have heard nothing about England since Westminster fell to Duke Osweald’s Rebel Army.”

St Eustace chuckled, “There is little to tell. No battles have been fought. Osweald is now besieging London.”

Öysteinn nodded, “Then Wilshire will be lost to the English before they are whole. We have done our duty.”

St Eustace nodded. Pointing to something he said, “Yes you have. Now come we must go now. You are expected.”

Surprised Öysteinn asked, “Expected? Where?”

St Eustace smile, “Come and you will see.”

Behind St Eustace there was now a white chariot pulled by four white horses. It reminded Öysteinn of the chariots he had heard the Roman Emperors would ride. St Eustace helped Öysteinn into the chariot and once both were in carriage the horse commenced to move.

As they traveled down a wide boulevard with crowds cheering on both sides. They threw wreaths and flowers as the chariot passed. Öysteinn was awe struck. He could catch some of what the crowd shouted. “Hail to the Great General of Jorvik,” “The Victor over the Scottish.”

Without warning sadness came to Öysteinn and asked, “What of my children?”

St Eustace looked at Öysteinn but this time he did not smile, “Because of your choice of your children will each be successful in their own ways. One will be more successful than the others. However, with great success comes tragedy.”

Worried Öysteinn asked, “Tragedy to them? To the kingdom?”

St Eustace nodded, “Both.”

Öysteinn began to respond but the chariot stopped before a great hall of marble. St Eustace exited the chariot and Öysteinn followed. They ascended the marble steps that were lined with large pots of burning fire. They walked past the tall columns and into the great hall.

In the great hall there were tables and benches laid out. On the tables there were heaps of food and drink. Men and women were feasting, drinking, and celebrating.

Öysteinn turned to St Eustace and asked, “What is this place and why are they celebrating?”

St Eustace smiled and pointed to several men approaching, “Ask them.”

Öysteinn turned back to the men. He could not believe his eyes. The first one to greet him was Jarl Emrys of Deheubarth the great Marshal of Jorvik who he served under. Next came one he had never met but Öysteinn knew him, Count Þorgil of Glamorgann. The third man shocked Öysteinn even more. Before him stood King Knut of Jorvik.

Öysteinn again asked, “What is this?”

Knut laughed, “It is your welcoming party.”

Confused Öysteinn said, “My welcoming party to where?”

Placing a mug of ale in Öysteinn hand Þorgil replied, “Do you not know this place from your legends?”

A wild thought came to Öysteinn, “Valhalla? But Valhalla is a pagan place.”

Emrys laughed, “Who said Christians cannot have their version of Valhalla?”

Öysteinn started to relax. Without warning Knut put his arm around Öysteinn and guided him into the hall saying, “Come there are many here who want to meet you.”

*****

There were no more breaths. Harold placed his head in hands and wept. “Goodbye old friend. Until we meet again.”

Composing himself Harold stepped into the hallway to tell the world they had lost the Great General of Jorvik.

 
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JabberJock14

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Nooooooooooooo.

I didn't expect that. Internal strife, but death in battle. And one where it was a total rout. I know you know I have experience sudden severe wounds in easy victories, but that's gut punch.

So... he ignored the warnings from St. Eustace and it cost him his life, but he destroyed the enemy. A worthy trade for Öysteinn? Maybe, though I lean not. A worthy trade for Jorvik? Definitely not. And obviously the English already know it was not a good result for them, either.

But I also wonder what the king shall make of this. He is lacking in those he can trust. And now he loses perhaps the person he trusts most.
 
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stnylan

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Damned. That is a hard way for Oystein to go. But ... at least he won't have to now decide about taking up that title?

Damned small mercy.

A very well crafted final set of scenes - the ambush and his death.
 
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Nooooooooooooo.

I didn't expect that. Internal strife, but death in battle. And one where it was a total rout. I know you know I have experience sudden severe wounds in easy victories, but that's gut punch.

So... he ignored the warnings from St. Eustace and it cost him his life, but he destroyed the enemy. A worthy trade for Öysteinn? Maybe, though I lean not. A worthy trade for Jorvik? Definitely not. And obviously the English already know it was not a good result for them, either.

But I also wonder what the king shall make of this. He is lacking in those he can trust. And now he loses perhaps the person he trusts most.
I was very upset when this event happen. Losing Öysteinn was unexpected and bothersome. As far Ofeig and his reaction you will get to see some of that in the next chapter. Öysteinn's death is going to have ripples throughout Ofeig's reign.

Damned. That is a hard way for Oystein to go. But ... at least he won't have to now decide about taking up that title?

Damned small mercy.

A very well crafted final set of scenes - the ambush and his death.
Thanks. I am glad the scene worked. I needed something trivial that became monumental. Some of the events of this scene lay the ground work for some future events and trends. The death scene or dream I played with not including it. When I first wrote the chapter I had it included. In my edit I removed it. I had my daughter look over the chapter without and without the scene to get her opinion. She thought including the scene the best way.

*****

I just finished the final editing of the next chapter. I need to finalize one or two more things with it and add screenshots. I hope to post it Sunday night.

The chapter deals with Ofeig and his reaction to Öysteinn's death.
 
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Chapter 9.39 1038 – November – Jorvik

tpmcinty

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Chapter 9.39

1038 – November – Jorvik


Ofeig walked into the solar and was greeted by Prince Sigeberht. Standing next to Sigeberht was another man. The man had the look of a fierce warrior and in many ways reminded Ofeig of Öysteinn. One glance at the man Ofeig could tell he was Irish. The man smiled at Ofeig.

Sigeberht smiled and gestured to the man, “May I introduce Fer-Fugaill, Your Highness.”



Fer-Fugaill took to a knee and bowed. Ofeig nodded and he rose. Fer-Fugaill said, “it is a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”

“Fer-Fugaill,” Ofeig said as he was trying to remember something, “I have heard your name before.”

“I was once the Count of Hlymrek,” replied Fer-Fugaill.

Sigeberht quickly inserted, “He is a great general who led a revolution that defeated King Ælfgar and freed his county from the English.

Ofeig appeared impressed but still asked, “Why are you not the Count now?”

Sigeberht cringed. Fer-Fugaill expected the question and responded, “I got into a disagreement with your grandfather King Rædwald.”

Ofeig nodded, “I have been hearing lately about many who got into a disagreement with my grandfather.”

Sigeberht and Fer-Fugaill chuckled.



A commotion had broken out in the hallway. Men were heard running. Somewhere there appeared to be the sound of a wailing woman. Sigeberht and Fer-Fugaill looked at one another in confusion. Sigeberht began to walk toward the door but stopped when he saw his wife and Ofeig’s guardian, Uasal in the doorway. The women stopped before him.

Knowing something bad had happened Sigeberht asked, “What is it?”

In a low voice and choking back tears Richenza replied, “Öysteinn is dead.”

Sigeberht felt he had struck by a lightning bolt. He stammered, “How?”

Richenza sobbed, “In battle near Ros Comáin. He died protecting his son Kjartan.” Pausing to regain her composure she continued, “He charged a large group of Englishmen who were attacking Kjartan. His horse was lanced, and he fell with the horse landing on him.” She swallowed hard, “They say it took him nine days to die.”

Uasal spoke, “We must tell Ofeig.”

Sigeberht shook his head, “No, I will tell him.”

From across the room Fer-Fugaill and Ofeig watched the prince speak with the two women. Fer-Fugaill sensed something was wrong. Even twelve-year-old Ofeig could feel the heaviness now gripping the room. One look at Sigeberht when he turned and began to walk toward them spoke of some very bad news forthcoming.

Sigeberht stopped before the king. He put his right hand Ofeig’s left shoulder. Anticipating something horrible Ofeig swallowed hard.

“My dear Ofeig, “Sigeberht began his voice cracking, “Lord General Öysteinn was killed in battle near Ros Comáin.”

Tears began to build in Ofeig’s eyes. In a low voice he muttered, “No, no, no.”

Sigeberht continued, “He died defending Kjartan from an English attack.”

Ofeig grabbed Sigeberht’s wrist and flung his hand off his shoulder screaming, “No. It can’t be. It cannot be.”

He looked Sigeberht in the eye and lunged at him, “You lie.”

Sigeberht grabbed Ofeig as he approached. At first Ofeig fought him but then he was overcome with tears and wept. Finally, he became limp in Sigeberht’s arms. At that point Richenza took him and she and Uasal began to take him from the room.

Without warning Ofeig stopped and forced himself from the grasp saying, “I am no baby who must be taken away by women.” He spun around facing a shocked Sigeberht and Fer-Fugaill, “I am twelve years old. Old enough to face the hard truths.”

Standing stoically but with his voice cracking Ofeig looked at Fer-Fugaill and said, “It appears we will need your sword quicker than expected.”

Ofeig fought back a sob and stood proudly saying, “I must go and give my condolences to Öysteinn’s widow.”

He turned so Sigeberht and Fer-Fugaill could not see the tears rolling down his cheeks. He looked at Richenza and Uasal and said in his best royal voice, “Let us go, Ladies.”

Sigeberht stepped toward Ofeig and the ladies saying, “I will go with you.”

Ofeig offered no resistance. In many ways he welcomed his uncle accompanying him because he had no real idea what he was about to do.

Before leaving Sigeberht turned to Fer-Fugaill and said, “Put your family affairs in order. Your services will be required by your king. Be ready to depart at a moment’s notice.”

Fer-Fugaill bowed, “As you wish milord.”

*****

Three days later Fer-Fugaill was summoned to the Council chambers. The Irishman entered the chambers finding the Regent, Arngrimr, and Prince Sigeberht standing near the great table. Seeing Fer-Fugaill Sigeberht smiled and motioned for him to come nearer. As he approached Fer-Fugaill noticed the king’s chair was empty as were the other council members seats.

Fer-Fugaill reached the Counselors and bowed, “Milords.”

Arngrimr looked at Fer-Fugaill and said, “It is fortunate timing of your arrival here.”

Sigeberht spoke, “As you are aware the sudden unexpected death of Lord General Öysteinn has left us with a dire need. We are in need of someone who is experienced and has shown success against the English in particular. Being respected and loved by one’s troops is another quality we hold highly.”

Feeling his throat drying up Fer-Fugaill nodded, “Yes, milord. How can I help?”

Arngrimr grinned, “Your past experience in defeating King Ælfgar and the English gaining freedom for your county is very impressive.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded, “It was a short-lived freedom.”

Sigeberht awkwardly smiled, “I apologize for my brother’s actions against you. Many including myself thought other means should have been pursued than a claim war.”

Fer-Fugaill looked at Sigeberht without emotion, “King Rædwald’s taking of my land is a bitter burden I carry. For many years I held a grudge bordering on hatred for him. In recent years I have mellowed some, but I warn you the desire to regain my lands still burns.”

Arngrimr looked at Fer-Fugaill, “Many favors come to those who faithfully serve the crown.”

Sigeberht joined, “King Ofeig will be eternally grateful to whoever can avenge the death of his beloved general and bring the English to heel.”

Fer-Fugaill looked around the empty chamber, “What of the Council? What of the Marshal, Jarl Padern?”

Arngrimr smiled in what can only be described in a sneaky way, “Jarl Padern is busy with the siege of Wilton. Þegn Vagn is with him. Duchess Ealhswith is in East Anglia addressing issues requiring her presence. Bishop Wistan is off on another pilgrimage or such. When there is no quorum the Regent may take action when a situation demands immediate resolution.”

Sigeberht continued, “Appointing commanders is one of those actions that cannot always wait for a council meeting.”

Being cautious Fer-Fugaill asked, “Are there not commanders previously appointed who can lead Öysteinn’s army?”

Sigeberht responded matter-of-factly, “No there are none we feel are qualified for such a command.”

Shocked at Sigeberht’s answer Fer-Fugaill asked, “What of Bishop Harold of Furness?”

Sigeberht shook his head, “Bishop Harold has made it known he does not wish such responsibility at this time.”

Fer-Fugaill was still unsure and slightly uncomfortable with such an assignment so soon after his arrival in Jorvik. “Why me?”

Sigeberht smiled, “As stated before you have defeated the English before.” He looked at Fer-Fugaill with respect, “During the claim war you irritated my brother with your abilities and strategy. It was not any matter of skill which defeated you. It was a matter of numbers. Rædwald had far too many soldiers than you did.”

A feeling of pride warmed Fer-Fugaill and was about to speak when Sigeberht laughed, “Rædwald was extremely jealous of how your troops loved you.”

Fer-Fugaill stood silent for a moment mulling over Sigeberht’s comments. He looked at both men and replied, “I am your obedient servant.”

Arngrimr nodded and a smiling Sigeberht replied, “Very good.”

Fer-Fugaill asked bluntly, “What are my orders, milords.”

Sigeberht turned to the table. Fer-Fugaill noticed a map was open on the table. Sigeberht pointed to Wales. “Harold marches the army across Wales. You will join them when they reach Gloucester. In Gloucester you will also find Duke Arnaud of Burgundy and his French army. You take command of the French and Jorvikian combined armies and advance to Wareham and place it under siege.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded, “As you wish.”

Arngrimr smiled, “That is all Lord General. Go now and join your army.”

Fer-Fugaill bowed.

Sigeberht wished, “Godspeed.”

Fer-Fugaill turned and walked out of the chambers. As he left a big smile crossed his face.

“I am back in the hunt,” he whispered to himself.
 
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