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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 9.44 1040 – Gwynedd – Bishopric of Bangor Fawr

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Chapter 9.44

1040 – Gwynedd – Bishopric of Bangor Fawr

June


The recently ascended Duchess of Gwynedd blessed herself as she finished her prayer. She rose from kneeling before the undersized and rather plain sarcophagus. Once erect she reached down and straightened her skirt. She then placed a loving palm on the smooth stone top. She removed her hand, turned, and exited the mausoleum.

In the sunlight, a middle-aged man greeted Ælfthryth. Eyes filled with concern, he watched her and bowed.



Still trying to control her tears and emotions, the duchess glanced at him. “Swithelm Eadricsson, what brings you to this gloomy place?”

He smiled to appear cheerful, “You do, Duchess.”

She raised an eyebrow, “I do?”

With the same smile he replied, “Am I not your Court Chaplin? Is not my duty to comfort you when your spirit and heart are troubled as they are now?”



Angry with her advisor, Ælfthryth sensed he was demeaning her. But, one look at the counselor Ælfthryth could see his concern was genuine. Her mood softened.

“It is difficult to come to terms when someone so young is taken from us.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “He had only seen eleven summers. A life too short.”

Swithelm reached out and cupped her hands within his, “Our Lord’s plan is impossible to understand in particular when he calls a child to his kingdom.”

Her voice cracking, Ælfthryth replied, “Thurcytel had not begun to live. Jarl at three and half weeks after being birthed deprived him of his childhood. Then the same flu that took our father stole the life out of my brother.”



To comfort her, Swithelm said, “He is at peace now.”

With force she removed her hands from his hands shocking Swithelm. Ælfthryth glared at her court chaplain, “Peace. What do you know of peace? What do any of us know of peace? All he knew for his eleven years was civil war.”

Swithelm recovered from his shock, “I speak of eternal tranquility. The love and warmth he will find in the arms of Our Lord.”

She realized the possibility she insulted Swithelm and regretted such Ælfthryth forced down her anger. “I apologize, I appreciate you only offer comfort to me.”

Swithelm smiled, “No offense taken, milady. These are trying days.”

Ælfthryth chuckled, “Dark times, indeed, with civil war for the last eleven years. All the fault of that bitch Countess Mildrith of Gloucester. May her soul rot in Hell for all eternity.”

Swithelm remained silent. There was nothing he could say as his duchess spoke the truth as far in his eyes.

She continued, “What underhanded deal did my uncle Hlothere make with her? The lands and titles grandfather left to him do not satisfy his thirst for power.”

Swithelm tried to protest, “Milady, the Count of Shrewsbury has never acknowledged Mildrith acted in his name.”

Annoyed, Ælfthryth replied, “In public he may not acknowledge it, but I tell you in private he plots with his treacherous wife, the Countess Katarina of Hereford, to steal the Jarldom of Gwynedd from its rightful rulers.”

Still trying to allay Ælfthryth’s fears, Swithelm responded, “He has often spoken against the war.”

Ælfthryth shook her head, “Yet he has taken no action to end the conflict.”

Swithelm knew further arguments were futile and did not respond. Instead, he averted his eyes from the duchess’ gaze.

Ælfthryth finished her rant, “If Hlothere becomes Jarl of Gwynedd upon his demise, his, and Herford’s son, Snorri will become Jarl of Gwynedd and Count of Hereford.”

At the gate of the graveyard she gestured and looked back at the plain, unornate mausoleum and shook her head, “We cannot even bury him properly since the Rebels hold our home, Abberfraw.” She swung about and pointed at the bishop’s manor and said, “We now call this home.” She sighed, “Our pitiful levies of two hundred and fifty men can do nothing to change our lot. Our gold is all but gone. We need a miracle to survive.”

At the manor gate, another counselor met them. Ælfthryth stopped and glared at him.

“Why is my Chancellor waiting for me? Am I not permitted to mourn my brother without intrusion?”

The official looked wounded and embarrassed, “I beg your forgiveness, milady.”

Ælfthryth shook her head in disgust, “Well, out with it, Tewdwr. What is so damned important it could not wait?”

Tewdwr swallowed hard. He had underestimated the duchess’ reaction to him bringing her news. Close to losing his nerve, he replied, “Your grandfather sends his condolences and apologizes for not being able to attend the funeral. Matters of state and the health of your grandmother prevented him from leaving Prefeddwlad.”



Ælfthryth closed her eyes, struggling to hold her anger. “By any chance did the illustrious Jarl Ealdmund of Powys offer any gold or troops to aid his favorite granddaughter?”

Tewdwr looked down, “No, milady.”

Ælfthryth pushed past Tewdwr saying, “Perhaps good sir you should go return to being just the Mayor of Caernarfon.”

Tewdwr tried to save face, “Milady, I understand not.”

Ælfthryth stopped in her tracks and spun around to confront Tewdwr, “Do not waste my time.”

Tewdwr stepped back in fear, “I – I—”

Ælfthryth glared at him, “You did not come here to tell me of an insignificant message from my grandfather.”

Tewdwr meekly shook his head.

She was finding it hard to control her annoyance at Tewdwr. Deep down Ælfthryth believed Council was the principal reason for the civil war going against her late brother and now herself. She took steps to correct the problem and removed the former regent Beorhthelm Cuthrædsson from his council position of Spymaster and replaced him with Wulfgar Leofhelmsson who she planned to meet later this day. She hoped her new spymaster would give her the justification to remove the fool who stood before her from the Council.

“Well?”

Sweat appeared on the Chancellor’s forehead, “A message arrived from Jorvik, milady.”

Ælfthryth’s mood darkened. The last she wished to hear from was the Regency Council. “The news?”

In fear of a backlash with caution, Tewdwr replied, “Arngrimr speaking for King Ofeig requires your appearance before the king and council to swear your oaths and pledge your fidelity.”

Ælfthryth closed her eyes and was silent for several moments, so long Tewdwr thought she had not heard him. He was about to repeat the message when her eyes opened slowly. Her face became red, and she clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms. She exhaled deliberately.

“They dare order me to Jorvik now. My brother’s body is not cold in his tomb.” She glared at Tewdwr, directing her anger at him since she could not direct it at the Council. “We fight a fruitless war and they offer no help, nor do they take steps to end it despite our pleas. Our jarldom is awash in blood and fire and those fools sit on high feasting and celebrating their victories.”

Shocked and confused by her outburst, Tewdwr stood wide eyed looking at the duchess. She scoffed, turned and left Tewdwr and Swithelm standing in the courtyard.

Tewdwr turned to Swithelm, “If she refuses, there will be trouble.”

Swithelm nodded, “She needs time.”

Desperate Tewdwr replied, “We have no time. The Council, the Regent will not wait. They will label her a traitor.”

Swithelm smirked, “They may call her names, but they will not take action.”

Tewdwr sighed, “But what of the Church?”

Swithelm looked at Tewdwr, “What of the Church?”

Frustrated and scared, Tewdwr answered, “Not swearing her oaths will gain disfavor with the Church. There could be repercussions.”

Swithelm chuckled, “Excommunication?”

Tewdwr nodded.

Swithelm shook his head, “For whom are you afraid? The duchess, the jarldom, yourself?”

“Excommunication would harm us all,” replied Tewdwr.

Swithelm put his hand upon Tewdwr’s shoulder. “I do not believe the Church will follow such a course.” He smiled and walked away. Tewdwr stood watching him leave.

*****

After the evening meal, Ælfthryth sat with Wulfgar in her chambers. She offered the spymaster wine, which he accepted. They sat across from one another.



Ælfthryth looked at Wulfgar, “Have you found cause so I may rid myself of that fool Tewdwr?”

Wulfgar shook his head, “No, I have not been so fortunate.”

Ælfthryth drank her wine, “I wish you would make haste.”

Wulfgar nodded, “I heard about today and I will do my part.” He smiled menacingly, “Not everything must be true. It only needs to be believed.”

Ælfthryth raised an eyebrow and grinned. She acknowledged her approval.

Wulfgar sipped his wine and said, “I recognize the distaste, but you must swear your oaths to the king.”

Sipping more wine, Ælfthryth replied, “I know.”

Wulfgar smirked, “Do such to buy time.”

Ælfthryth looked at Wulfgar, “Events move as we hoped.”

Wulfgar nodded, “Yes, milady. They may even be further along than we expected.”

Ælfthryth smiled, “That is good.”

Wulfgar returned the smile, “The moment for a meeting is upon us.”

Ælfthryth nodded, “I take you are correct. When?”

With a devilish grin Wulfgar replied, “On your way home from Jorvik.”

Surprised, Ælfthryth asked, “Jorvik?”

Wulfgar chuckled, “Yes, after you swear your oaths. You could undertake a return trip through Appleby.”

Understanding, Ælfthryth smiled, “I expect you are right.”

Wulfgar snickered, “I shall see to the arrangements.”

September – Westmoreland - Appleby

Ælfthryth with her Steward Bishop Oswine of Bangor Fawr partook in the wine, breads, and cheeses as they waited in the solar. After a few minutes Bishop Ealdwine of Cartmel entered the room. The bishop greeted them and joined them in the drinking and eating.



Between sips and bites Ealdwine said, “Unusual for a liege lord to travel with their steward and not their chancellor.”

Ælfthryth looked at Oswine and grinned. Ealdwine had come first to test them. Ælfthryth took a measured sip and smiled at Ealdwine.

“A liege lord travels with those she trusts. Many times, in delicate situations she needs someone who will not act emotionally and knows discretion.”

Ealdwine grinned, “Yes, a trusted traveling companion who thinks as his liege does is valuable.” He chewed a piece of cheese and asked, “How did you find Jorvik?”

Ælfthryth smirked, “Not to my liking. I felt I was in a pit of vipers.”

Ealdwine chuckled, “A very appropriate appraisal of current life in the capital.”

Oswine then spoke, “I took notice that neither yourself nor your countess were present.”

Ealdwine nodded, “Yes, we do not have the constitution to withstand the king’s court these days. As Ofeig comes nearer to the age where the regency council will disband and those on council jostle for favor and influence while maintaining their own interest. It is as your duchess described a pit of vipers.”

Ælfthryth scoffed, “They play their games and plot their plots while we suffer.”

Ealdwine nodded to her, “Some more than others. Pity council achieved nothing in the king's name to end the languishing civil war that has afflicted your jarldom for over a decade.”

Ealdwine could see the resentment in Ælfthryth’s eyes as she responded, “I as many others from Gwynedd have pleaded for an end. I was told everything was being done that could be done and sent on my way like a child whose parents were lying to them about finding a lost toy.”

The voracity of the rage in the sixteen-year-old duchess surprised Ealdwine.

“It is improper, the contempt the king’s vassals are subject to from those in power.”

Ælfthryth nodded, “Disrespect from the crown to my family goes back to King Eadweard and his treatment of my grandfather and his uncle, Jarl Hlothere Eilifsson.”

Countess Wulfwynn chose this moment to arrive.

“Many in this room have been disrespected by the crown.”

She stopped before Oswine and smiled, “Is that not true Oswine Leofwealdsson?”

Oswine looked at Wulfwynn and replied, “Yes, milady. Some more than others.”

Wulfwynn took the goblet offered by Ealdwine and drank the wine. Keeping her gaze on Oswine she said, “If it had not been for King Rædwald you would today be Jarl of Northumberland.”



Oswine nodded but remained silent as Wulfwynn continued, “Deposing your father, Leofweald, was no way to treat the son of the legendary Jarl Ælfweald of Northumberland.”

Oswine cringed and responded, “There is no fault in your words.”

Wulfwynn sipped her wine and smiled as she turned to face Ælfthryth, “I see no love is lost for Arngrimr, the Council or King Ofeig by those in this room.”

Ælfthryth nodded, “Again you speak true. Words are meaningless without action to make them strong.”

Wulfwynn said, “You were correct, Ealdwine, the Duchess of Gwynedd is young and lacks the patience that comes with age.”

Ælfthryth glared at Ealdwine, “I did not come here to be insulted.”

Wulfwynn held her hand as a gesture of calm, “We mean no insult. The future has taken many years to plant and nurture and will need a little more time to bear fruit.”

Still annoyed and feeling she was being toyed with, Ælfthryth replied, “Unlike others, time is a luxury I may not have.”

Wulfwynn nodded, “I understand and with your levies we are very close to achieving our goal.”

Ælfthryth’s mood softened, “I apologize. I am impatient, but I have my reasons. To wait too long will only bring further ruin to Gwynedd. We are close to spent.”

Wulfwynn smiled motherly at Ælfthryth, “I am aware of your predicament. Your grandfather, Ealdmund, went to great lengths explaining it to us. His confidence in you has gained you this meeting and opportunity.”

Unsure, Ælfthryth asked, “What opportunity?”

Wulfwynn beamed, “Why to depose the House of Hvitserk.”

Ælfthryth took a breath as for the first time since her brother’s death she felt they had found a solution to end her misery and the suffering of her people.

She grinned back at Wulfwynn, “Long live King Swæfræd.”
 
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One has to feel a sense of pity.

All they have known is civil war - and by these actions that is all they are going to know for some time yet.

There is a sense of tragedy here, in a more formal meaning of that word.
 
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Gwynedd has become a sorry place. Civil war going on for a decade. The jarls and duchess are part of the House of Hvistrek but an Anglo-Saxon off chute. They have received no aid from the king or the regency council. You can understand why they feel the way they do.
 
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Chapter 9.45 1040 – September – Somerset – Bath

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Chapter 9.45

1040 – September – Somerset – Bath


The breeze carried the sweet smell of freshly fallen rain. A welcome relief to those standing in the hastily erected a pavilion in what was now a muddy field. For a moment, the stench of war and death was subdued other reminders remained. The trebuchets and other siege engines sat motionless for the first time in months.

Duke Osweald of Kent, Leader of the Revolt to place Ealdmund Osheresson on the throne of England, stood looking at the ruined walls of Bath with his hands cupped behind his back. His gazed turned to the shadows laying upon the ground. He huffed and began pacing back and forth across the pavilion. Lord Mayor Ruaidrí of Wessex, the Chancellor of the Revolt, rolled his eyes as the duke resumed his pacing. Osweald’s pacing for the past hour wore on the chancellor’s last nerve.



To Ruaidrí’s relief, a horseman approached. The rider halted, dismounted, and handed the reins to a groomsman who lead the horse away. He entered the pavilion. Ruaidrí smiling exclaimed, “Bishop Æthelweald, you are a welcome sight.”

The Bishop of Rochester grinned, knowing Osweald’s pacing wore on the Lord Mayor’s nerves.



Osweald stopped and looked at Æthelweald, “Any news Marshal?”

Æthelweald affirmed, “They approach.”

Ruaidrí asked, “Is he with them?”

Again, Æthelweald nodded, “Yes. The guards escorting the party appear to be for him and not the others.”

Osweald smiled, “They have made a wise choice.”

A moment later, a group of riders approached. The three rebel lords strained their eyes, watching the group as it arrived.

Ruaidrí spoke, “I see the banner of England. At the rear I see the pennant of the House of Northumbria.”

Æthelweald stated, “The emblem of House of Ludolfinger is absent.”

Osweald grinned, “As it should be.”

The riders neared the pavilion and halted. Several members of the party dismounted and strolled toward the gathered rebellious lords.

The first man to enter nodded to the rebel lords as he walked past them saying, “Osweald, Ruaidrí, Æthelweald.”

All three returned the nod. Only Osweald replied, “Bishop Beorhthelm of Muchelney.”



The next rider to come in glared at the rebels but did not say a word. Ruaidrí called out his name, “Baron Eadberht of Taunton.” The baron appeared to glare more intensely at Ruaidrí but remained silent.



Last, the Regent of King Humbert entered the pavilion. Osweald looked at the regent and said, “Bishop Ealdmund, I do not see Humbert.”

Glaring at Osweald, the Bishop of St Pauls responded, “He is not here. As his regent, I speak for him.”



Osweald nodded, “I pray he is safe and well.”

Annoyed, Ealdmund replied, “He is with my guards, safe from any that would wish him harm.”

Æthelweald felt insulted, responded, “None here wishes him harm.”

Eadberht growled, “Is that so? Then why rebel against your lawful sovereign?”

Osweald glared at Eadberht, “He is not of England, not of Northumbria.”

Eadberht spat, “He is the grandson of King Ælfgar the Wise.”

Osweald shook his head, “I have not the time or patience to argue this any further.” He turned to Ealdmund, “Will the regent lead these talks or will the fool,” indicating Eadberht, “of a Chancellor do so?”

Ealdmund looked at Osweald and said, “It was my belief we are here under a flag of truce.”

Ruaidrí spoke sternly, “You are, and no harm will come to your party as long as none violate the terms of said truce.”

Æthelweald spoke up, “Time to end this tomfoolery.”

Beorhthelm joined, “The business of war is nothing to make light of.”

Æthelweald nodded, “It is not, and I do not.” He looked at Beorhthelm, “Tell me Marshal is continuing a fight when there is no hope of victory, not fool’s play?”

Uncomfortable, the Marshal of England replied, “It is. But even if one man stands there is hope.”

As marshal Ruaidrí responded, “Only a fool speaks so. Where is your army, Beorhthelm?”

Beorththelm scowled at Ruaidrí but he did not speak. Ruaidrí continued, “The truth is you have none. Many were lost to Ofeig and Maud. The rest are in graves scattered throughout England. You have only small remnants of each of your own personal troops.”

“Enough with this blustering. We have important work before us,” stated Osweald.

The Duke of Kent looked at each of Humbert’s men and continued, “Your army is spent. Support wanes for your cause. We know the Regent for Earl Swegn of Dorset refuses to raise any further levies. All of Middlesex is under our control. Why tarry? None will accuse you of not doing your duty for Humbert.”

Each of the English lords looked beaten. Their heads hung low. Ealdmund after a few moments glanced at Osweald and asked, “Terms?”

Showing no emotion, Osweald replied, “As always. Humbert steps down as king and we recognize Ealdmund Osheresson as king.”

Ealdmund drew a lengthy breath and acknowledged, “Done.” With that one word, the English Civil War to Make Ealdmund King was finished.

Osweald nodded. A guard walked to a group of men who accompanied Humbert’s men but had stayed at a distance. The guard spoke to them. Several separated from the group and followed the guard to the pavilion. Only one man entered. When he did so Osweald fell to one knee and exclaimed, “Long live King Ealdmund!”



All others in the pavilion followed suit.

Ealdmund indicated they should rise. He peered around the pavilion at everyone in attendance. “Baron Eadberht and Bishop Beorhthelm, your services are no longer required.”

Eadberht and Beorhthelm looked at each other and then bowed to Ealdmund saying, “Yes, milord.” They quickly left the pavilion.

Ealdmund walked before Osweald and said, “In appreciation for your works, I hereby appoint you Marshal of England.”

Osweald bowed, “Thank you, Sire.”

Ealdmund then moved to stand before Ruaidrí and Æthelweald and said, “As you are vassals of Duke Osweald, I am limited in the rewards I can offer. Your contributions will not be forgotten, and Kent will provide for you as I direct.”

Both bowed. Æthelweald spoke, “Having you as king and the House of Northumbria restored is reward within itself.”

Ealdmund patted Æthelweald on the shoulder.

Ealdmund then directed his attention to Bishop Ealdmund, “Bishop your time as regent is no longer needed.”

The bishop nodded, “Yes, Sire.”

The king smiled, “However, your service to the kingdom is not at an end.”

Surprised, Bishop Ealdmund looked at the king. King Ealdmund continued, “I appoint you Stewart of the Kingdom.”

Bishop Ealdmund bowed, “I shall endeavor to serve to the best of my ability.”

Still smiling, the king responded, “I know you will.”

Bishop Ealdmund asked, “Sire, if I may?”

King Ealdmund nodded and commanded, “Speak.”

The bishop hesitated, “What of Humbert?”

The king looked at the assembled lords and ordered, “No harm is to come to him. His titles and lands as Earl and Duke of Somerset are his to keep. Is that understood?”

All acknowledged, “Yes, sire.”



Ealdmund appeared to have lost something and asked, “Where is the Duke of Lothian and the Earl of Essex?”

Osweald motioned to several guards as he replied, “They will be summoned, Sire.”

King Ealdmund chuckled, “If they knew why they were being called, they may not respond.”

Æthelweald asked, “Why is that Sire?”

The king smiled, “I plan to make Duke Leofhelm chancellor and Earl Sigeric spymaster. Once done, we can discuss our first order of business.”

Curious, Osweald inquired, “What is that?”

Ealdmund smirked, “Convincing the new Countess of Wiltshire, it is in her best interest to be part of England than our Nordic neighbor to the north.”
 
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All seemed proceeding as smoothly as these things go, until at the end a cat of a thought was launched into the harmonious pigeons.
 
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The House of Northumbria has been restored and starts off with dreams of reconquest.

Unfortunately the file I have the screenshots stored in will not open. Since many were taken during game play I cannot recreate them. This means for the next couple of chapters there will be no screenshots.
 
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Chapter 9.46 1040 - November – Cardiff - Glamorgan

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Chapter 9.46

1040 - November – Cardiff - Glamorgan


Anarawd slowly approached his father who stood in the courtyard lost in thought staring at a waterless fountain. His feet rustling through the dried leaves alerted Padern Anarawd was close. The son took a position to his father’s left. Neither spoke for a time.

“Father?” Anarawd asked uncomfortably.

Without moving his gaze from the fountain, Padern said, “Your grandfather, Jarl Emrys, the Great Marshal, built this fountain to mimic the one in the courtyard at the king’s keep.”

Anarawd responded in an awkward voice, “Yes, you have spoken of it many times.”

They fell into silence again.

“The priests say she dwells in a better place. At peace with no pain,” stated Padern.

Anarawd nodded, “Mother suffered long with the cancer. We all understood this day would come.”

Padern gazed at the ground, “At length we spoke of her death. She welcomed it as an end to her suffering. I thought I also accepted it.” He looked at his youngest son, “Now she is gone and the one thing I want is my Wulfhild here with me where I can gaze about her sweet face once more. Hear her beautiful voice again.”

Anarawd swallowed hard, his eyes watering, “I too miss her.”

His eyes and his fist clinched, Padern said, “Wulfhild is barely at rest in her tomb and the cruel hand of fate preys upon me like a ravenous beast feeding on my sorrow.”

Anarawd stood silent. He too experienced the pain of which his father spoke.

Padern raised his fist, opening it and placing it before Anarawd’s face. He growled as he shook his hand, “Five, five damned days.”

At first Anarawd feared his father might strike him, such was their relationship. As the third son Padern had little occasion for Anarawd and when he did, he was cold and unapproachable. Often, he was cruel.

Anarawd understood his mother’s death was not the only reason his father reacted as he did. He worked up the courage and replied, “Emrys had been ill for months. He hid it from mother and you so as not to trouble you more.”

Padern slammed his fist into his palm. “Trouble me less? How? I now have buried my firstborn alongside his mother.”

Anarawd tried to calm his father, “No one grasped how sick he was. None reckoned he would go to sleep and not wake in the morning.”

Padern grabbed Anarawd by the shoulders and with a tear rolling down his cheek asked, “Why? I want to know why? Was it not enough my second-born son was taken when he was only thirteen? Arthfoddw did not deserve the death brought to him by the Camp Fever. For twenty-six years I questioned why?”

Voice filled with cynicism, Anarawd responded, “You realize why the Camp Fever swept through Wales.”

Confused, Padern replied, “I know not what of you speak.”

Anarawd chuckled and walked to the low wall around the fountain and sat upon it, “You do but you deny it even though it is the truth.”

His annoyance growing, Padern glared at his surviving son, “Utter not in riddles.”

Anarawd looked at Padern, “Where indeed did the camp fever come from?”

Still glaring, Padern replied, “Scotland, down the west coast through Lancaster and Chester and into Wales and Mercia.”

Anarawd asked, “And who brought it?”

Padern burst, “I tire of your games.”

With a slight grin, Anarawd answered, “Soldiers returning from the Irish battlefields. Fighting the war for the glory of our illustrious king. A war that produced riches and lands for them and gave us only death in return.”

Surprised, Padern responded, “for that reason I have championed against the power of the crown and taken action to restrict it.”

Anarawd stood and faced his father, “Is that so? What of the war for Wiltshire? Did you not advocate for that adventure?”

Padern stepped back from his son and turned from him, “There were circumstances you would not understand that made the war necessary.”

Anarawd threw his arms up, “Circumstances? The war accomplished nothing. Countess Maud now calls King Ealdmund of England her liege. Öysteinn was killed for no cause.” He paused as a thought struck him. He felt he discovered a secret, “Or was there some nefarious reason?”

Shocked, Padern replied, “I know not what you…” Padern trailed off as his mind wandered into a dark place. He looked Anarawd in the eyes, “You think I wanted the war to kill Öysteinn.”

Anarawd stared back at his father, “Why not? His death ensured Ofeig would not appoint him as Marshal one day, thus replacing you.”

Padern’s face reddened in anger, “You know nothing.”

Anarawd stood fast, “Is that so? All knew Ofeig was about to offer Öysteinn a title and land.”

Padern laughed, “We undertook the war for Wiltshire to embarrass Rígán and give grounds for his removal.”

Anarawd did not fully believe it until now, “To put Arngrimr in his place. How is that grand planning working since Arngrimr sides more with Sigeberht and the king?”

Padern glared at Anarawd and remained quiet. Anarawd continued his gloating, “Let us not speak of Bishop Wistan and his blasphemy. I am sure you did not foresee such a turn of events.”

An evil grin came to Anarawd, “Father, you are losing control.”

Padern snapped back, “I have lost nothing.”

Anarawd giggled, “You will soon.”

Padern scowled at his son as he continued, “It is only a matter of time before Ofeig replaces you as Marshal.”

Padern eyes narrowed, “He dare not.”

Anarawd fought to hold his laughter, “Why wouldn’t he? You have tried to manipulate him at every opportunity. He has expressed openly all titles and positions in the kingdom should be held by those of Nordic decent.”

Padern shook his head no, “The Marshal has been Welsh for three generations. The last time a Norseman occupied the position, disaster followed.”

Anarawd laughed, “You assume the foolish actions of the long dead Jarl Anualf of Powys and the Countess Maria’s Rebellion will save you?”

Anger rose in Padern, but he did not speak.

Anarawd became smug, “You are a fool in many ways, dear Father.” Anarawd stared into his parent’s eyes, “Did you think you would get away with it?”

Perplexed Padern replied, “Get away with what?”

Anarawd scoffed, “Sigeberht and Arngrimr talk of a war for the glory of the king. And you follow.”

Padern narrowed his eyes, “What do you speak of?”

Anarawd chuckled, “Come father, we all know the Council and you look for a victim to subjugate. Who will it be? King Natfraich of Connachta, Queen Gwen of Cornwall, or King Ealdmund of England? Or would you dare go after King Thierry III of Aquitaine to take Leinster?”

Padern glared at his son, “The kingdom must prove its strength. Our enemies swarm about us like crows, waiting for a display of weakness to strike.”

Now it Anarawd mocked, “And so the champion of keeping the crown from doing harm from unnecessary wars declares war for the very reason they took the power.”

Padern stepped toward Anarawd, who did not flinch, “I do what is necessary for the kingdom.”

Anarawd shook his head in disbelief, “And how will the kingdom reward you?” He looked straight at his father, “The day is close when Ofeig comes for your titles and land. Such is your reward.”

Padern felt the urge to strike his son, “That day will never dawn. I have done far too much for this kingdom.”

Anarawd laughed, “You truly believe such dribble?”

Padern leaned close to his offspring, “What do you hold dear? Your worthless inbreed son?”

Anarawd showed no emotion as he replied, “Careful father, I am now your heir and Mawgan is my successor.”

Padern still tight to Anarawd said, “I will personally see that dolt dead before I allow him the chance to inherit my titles and lands.”

Anarawd chuckled, “You would. But you know fault lies with you.”

Padern backed away, “How?”

Anarawd smiled, “It was you who chose Wulfwynn to be my wife.”

Padern replied, “To give you some importance and a title.”

Anarawd shook his head, “Do not fool yourself. You wanted me gone. So, you sent me to be a consort.” Anarawd filled with anger, “A consort to a family in which incestuous relationships were common and where they marry their first cousins.” He glared at Padern, “No father Mawgan is your fault, an outcome of your contempt for me.”

Padern clinched his fists and growled at Anarawd, “I should have killed you when you were born, you worthless slug.”

Anarawd did not show it, but his father’s statement stung, and per his feeling he replied, “There are those who deem I have great value.”

Padern shook his head, “What fools would think that?”

Anarawd smiled, “Irishmen, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxons who tire of the rule of the Nordic pretenders and thieves.”

Padern looked at Anarawd, “You are a great fool.”

Anarawd smirked, “Am I? Many in this kingdom feel the time of the House of Hvitserk is waning. For the good of all change is needed. A cleansing of the land from invaders and their lackeys.”

Shocked at his son’s insolence, Padern said, “Careful of what you speak and of what you pursue.”

Anarawd replied, “We seek justice.”

Padern chuckled, “You call replacing Ofeig with his bastard great uncle Count Swæfræd of Gwent justice.”

Anarawd leaned into his father’s face and stared into his eyes, “We do what we must do to preserve what is right.”

Padern snickered, “Westmorland and who else? Countess Wulfrun of Leicester? Countess Katarina of Hereford?”

Anarawd smiled, “You forget Count Yngvar of Hylmerk.”

Padern laughed, “Hylmerk? What a fine collection of fools your spouse has collected. You will be dead and buried before you have enough strength to ask the king to look in your direction, much less overthrow him.”

Padern leaned into Anarawd and added, “Go home to your foolish wife. You play at games meant for adults, not pitiful children like yourself.”

Face red with anger, Anarawd fired back, “You do not understand the depth of our power.”

In a voice filled with contempt, Paden responded, “Do enlighten me, my child.”

Falling into his father’s trap, Anarawd roared, “Duchess Ælfthryth of Gwynedd and Jarl Ealdmund of Powys are with us.”

Padern hide his surprise, “A beaten and moneyless lass and her imbecile of a grandfather. A fine addition they make to your doleful menagerie.”

Anarawd stepped back from his parent, “I had a fleeting hope you would think of yourself as a savior to our Welsh people, but I see that is wrong. I leave you to your Norse king.”

Anarawd turned and walked away from his father. Padern stood in silence watching his son leave, anger filling every vein within his body. Anarawd had for all intended announced soon Wulfwynn would lead a rebellion against the king and council. They now had the strength with unexpected addition of Gwynedd and Powys. Doubt crept into his mind. The notion they had underestimated Anarawd and Wulfwynn filled him with ever increasing apprehension.

Appleby - Westmorland

Less than a month passed and Bishop Ealdwine of Cartmel entered the solar. Countess Wulfwynn of Westmorland and her husband Anarawd stood in the center of the room. They exchanged greetings.

Anxious Wulfwynn asked, “How were you received?”

Sadness appeared in Ealdwine’s face, “Not well, milady.”

Wulfwynn swallowed the lump in her throat, “Meaning?”

Ealdwine drew a deep breath and exhaled, “I am afraid the answer is war.”

Wulfwynn gasped.

Anarawd’s disappointment showed, “My father?”

Ealdwine shook his head no, “It was he who delivered their response.”

Anarawd asked, “What did he say?”

Ealdwine looked Anarawd in the face and replied, “He said, ‘He would see us burn in Hell.’”

Anarawd closed his eyes. His worst fears had blossomed.
 
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Two fools together.

I feel both contempt and pity for Padern. He is a disgrace to his father, but even so his life is a sort of tragedy. Anarawd - I mean he is right about so much of his father, but he cannot examine himself closely either.

But really, apart from the "event" at the end in terms of character this is all about Padern, and it is pitiable to see him like this.
 
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Two fools together.

I feel both contempt and pity for Padern. He is a disgrace to his father, but even so his life is a sort of tragedy. Anarawd - I mean he is right about so much of his father, but he cannot examine himself closely either.

But really, apart from the "event" at the end in terms of character this is all about Padern, and it is pitiable to see him like this.
I tried to make Padern slightly pitiful but his past actions overshadow his current situation. When it comes to Anarawd, Padern reaped what he sowed.
 
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Chapter 9.47 1041 – January – Ossory - Gowran

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Chapter 9.47

1041 – January – Ossory - Gowran


The fire in the hearth teased Countess Wulfwynn with its warmth as she rested on a stool in her tent. Marshal of Rebels, Mayor Sigeræd of Lowther, sat beside her drinking warm ale. The mayor handed the note he held to Wulfwynn stating, “Word from Westmorland.”

She accepted the notice, her eyes not turning from the fire, and replied, “What does my husband say?”

Sigeræd hesitated. A small smile came to the countess, “I know you read it. I see he addressed it to you.”

Sigeræd swallowed another drink, “Anarawd reports Fer-Fugaill’s scouts crossed the marches and are moving through Westmorland.”

Wulfwynn gazed at Sigeræd, “What of their army?”

Sigeræd glanced at the letter he held, “They mass at the border.”

Wulfwynn looked back at the fire, “They pay us no heed?”

Sigeræd watched the flames, “They disregard the threat.”

Wulfwynn sighed as she reached for the pitcher resting on a nearby table, “We sit here laying siege to Gowran and they ignore our presence.”

Sigeræd frowned and nodded, “At the time of Anarawd’s letter that appears to be the right assumption.”

The countess drank some of freshly poured ale and asked, “Why are we here and not fighting for our homes?”

Sigeræd drained his mug and replied, “Given the size of the force Fer-Fugaill has amassed, staying and defending our homes would cause a short and unsuccessful war.”

Wulfwynn looked at Sigeræd, “You did not always believe so.”

Sigeræd chuckled as he reached for the pitcher of ale, “An enemy army of over thirteen thousand troops has a way of making one change his views.”

Wulfwynn raised an eyebrow and asked, “Now you think Merab’s plan is correct.”

Sigeræd drank his ale and shrugged his shoulders, “What I think is immaterial. We have little choice in the matter. As Merab has stated our only hope is to either force Fer-Fugaill to split his troops or to stretch them out and attack when they cannot fight as one. Being half the size of Ofeig’s Army, we can maneuver quicker than Fer-Fugaill. We must wear them down chasing us through Ireland, Wales, and Mercia. When the time is right, we strike and cripple them.” He smiled, “And if we take a few cities along the way, it will aid us greatly.”

Wulfwynn with concern asked, “You bear no ill feelings that a mercenary commander commands our armies.”

Sigeræd shook his head, “If the Monrealian Band was not present we would have only half the number of soldiers we now have and sitting in Appleby while Fer-Fugaill lobs stones at our walls. I am aware of the reputation of the Monrealian Band and they come highly recommended by Jarl Ealdmund of Powys.”

Wulfwynn nodded and added, “Without Ealdmund we could not afford any mercenaries. I will not forget his generous contribution.”

Sigeræd agreed, “Yes, it should not.” He looked at Wulfwynn and said, “You asked if I bore ill will over not being the overall commander. I do not. I have lead men before, but it has only been as a commander of our levies against bandits or rebellious peasants. I am not the person to command troops in this endeavor. As a whole, we lack experienced commanders. The most qualified is Jarl Ealdmund, but his age and health keep him from the field. Duchess Ælfthryth’s captains have shown their incompetence in their mishandling of the long civil war between the Jarldom of Gwynedd and the County of Gloucester.”

“What of Count Yngvar of Hylmrek?” asked Wulfwynn.

Sigeræd took another swallow of ale, “He has served as a commander under Öysteinn and others. His record, however, is uneventful. Many times, they entrusted him with guarding the supply train or prisoners. Rarely did he command men in battle.”

They both in silence stared at the fire becoming mesmerized by the dancing flames. A few moments passed and Wulfwynn came out of her trance, “Are there any changes with Count Swæfræd?”

Sigeræd shook his head, “No, he remains at Gwent under guard. Padern ordered his brother Count Peredyr of Dyfed to watch him.”

Wulfwynn snickered, “Such a pity.”
 
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It's a pretty dire situation for the rebels: the best they can scrape together is limited, and without Ealdmund - who I am not sure the most trustworthy - it would be even worse.
 
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It's a pretty dire situation for the rebels: the best they can scrape together is limited, and without Ealdmund - who I am not sure the most trustworthy - it would be even worse.
They are in a bad way but all it takes is a little luck and a stunning victory or a shocking death.
 
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Chapter 9.48 1041 - February - Westmorland

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Chapter 9.48

1041 - February - Westmorland


Frustrated, Fer-Fugaill stormed into the command tent with his commanders Bishop Harold of Furness and Barhélémi de Médidan close behind him. Fer-Fugaill walked to the large table in the center of the tent. Harold and Barhélémi stood next to their commander. Fer-Fugaill looked over those assembled.

His eyes fell first upon Þegn Vagn of Warwick. Disgust filled Fer-Fugaill looking at the Steward of Jorvik. Fer-Fugaill discerned Vagn’s sole purpose with the army was to spy on him and report back to Padern. The result of the backing he received from Prince Sigeberht and Arngrimr. The general loathed the politics and plotting occurring within the Council and believed it had led to this war. He did, however, hope things would change once Ofeig became king without the regency council. Fer-Fugaill prayed for the removal and replacement of certain members.

The next person catching Fer-Fugaill’s gaze was Jarl Cenfus of East Anglia, the husband of Duchess Ealhswith. Cenfus was little more than a figurehead. Ealhswith was the ruler of East Anglia and spymaster for the realm. As a spymaster Fer-Fugaill did not trust her, and as one of Padern’s allies he trusted her even less. Cenfus had thus far proven to be competent in command of his wife’s levies, but Fer-Fugaill held lingering doubts.

The two men standing next to Cenfus were strangers to Fer-Fugaill in all but name. Jarl Hlothere of Mann arrived a week ago with his small levy. Word from Harold was Hlothere was a good solider, did as commanded with no complaints. Count Yngvar of Lincoln came only a few days before Hlothere. Yngvar had remained aloof during the days between his arrival and now. Fer-Fugaill could not make a judgement of the count. He knew not to trust someone who kept to themselves.

The last man Fer-Fugaill eyed nodded and smiled back. Fer-Fugaill returned the smile and nod. Out of all those present Condottiere Bassiano of the Company of the Rose, Fer-Fugaill believed he understood. A professional solider Fer-Fugaill knew Bassiano’s loyalties would stay as long as the gold promised to the mercenary captain was paid. Suspicious of mercenaries, Fer-Fugaill felt most comfortable with them. The Council contracted the Company of the Rose to give Jorvik a quick infusion of trained and ready troops. This became important once the Rebels hired the Monrealian Band.

Fer-Fugaill looked at the dispatch he held in his hand once again. As he studied the gathering, he stated, “Gentlemen, if you please.”

The group stopped talking amongst itself and paid attention to the general.

“We need to prepare to move the army.”

Vagn spoke without being asked, “Good, about time we invaded Westmorland.”

Annoyed at the interruption, Fer-Fugaill continued, “All scouts have been recalled and we await their return.”

Again, to Fer-Fugaill’s disdain, Vagn interrupted, “Scouts recalled? How? Why? We will not know what lay before us as we march to Appleby.”

Fer-Fugaill glared at Vagn, “If the Þegn would allow me to explain. We are not marching on Appleby.”

Cenfus now garnered Fer-Fugaill’s ire by responding, “We are not going to Appleby. Then where?”

Fer-Fugaill directed his glare at Ealhswith’s husband, who was clearly acting as instructed by his wife, “We will move southeast to Chester.”

“Chester?” Vagn and Cenfus called out.

Fer-Fugaill ran several scenarios for punishing Vagn and Cenfus for their continuing interruptions but thought better of it for the moment.

“We have confirmed the location of the Rebel army.” Expecting another interruption, Fer-Fugaill glared at Vagn and Cenfus. “They are not in Westmorland. The Rebels are not on this island.”

Unexpectedly Jarl Hlothere spoke, “They are in Ireland. That is why you wanted my ships.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded and looked at Hlothere, “Yes, on both statements.” Fer-Fugaill directed his gaze to the whole group, “To be specific, they are in Ossory laying siege to Gowran.”

Yngvar broke his silence, “That is pretty ballsy of them.”

Fer-Fugaill chuckled at the Count of Lincoln’s reaction, “It maybe but it is the situation we must deal with.”

Vagn again inserted himself, “Who will command the contingent left to besiege Appleby?”

Fer-Fugaill could read between the lines and knew Vagn desired such a charge, “No one.”

Before Fer-Fugaill finished, Vagn protested, “No one?”

Fer-Fugaill glared at Vagn, “Yes, no one. The entire army is routing to Chester.”

Cenfus sheepishly asked, “What of Appleby?”

Fer-Feguaill responded, “What of it? It will be there when we have dealt with the Rebel army.”

Before anyone could respond, Fer-Fugaill held up his hand and ordered, “Go to your respective levies and prepare them for the march. We head to Chester by midday. You are all dismissed.”

The group broke apart and left the tent. Fer-Fugaill called out, “Condottiere Bassiano, a moment please.”

Bassiano halted and turned and walked to Fer-Fugaill, “As you wish.”

Fer-Fugaill looked at the mercenary captain, “You did not speak.”

Bassiano grinned, “I was not asked.”

Fer-Fugaill smiled, “I am asking now.”

Bassiano rubbed his chin, “I think it brazened to forego any attempt to take the home of the rebel leader. However, I understand why you might not want to split the army.”

Intrigued, Fer-Fugaill asked, “why is that?”

Bassiano nodded, “Being frank, besides myself and Bishop Harold,” pointing at Harold who had remained behind, “the rest of these so-called leaders are not fit to command the digging of latrines. Given such a situation, I would trust none of them with conducting such a siege.” Bassiano grinned, “But I feel that may not be the only reason.”

Fer-Fugaill chuckled at Bassiano’s frankness. “You are correct,”

Bassiano nodded. Fer-Fugaill continued, “The Scottish army has crossed the frontier between Cumberland and Westmorland. They will have Appleby under siege within a month.”

Bassiano was proud of himself, “Is there anything else you require of me, lord general?”

Fer-Fugaill shook his head, “No not at this time.”

Bassiano nodded, “I then go to make my troops ready.” He bowed and left the tent.

Fer-Fugaill turned and faced Harold. The bishop grinned and said, “A rather blunt individual.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded, “He can afford to be.” Not surprised Harold had remained, Fer-Fugaill was seeing why Öysteinn had relied on him so much. Harold was an excellent second-in-command. He had a knack for understanding the situation without asking, and he had the guts to speak out when needed.

“You remained behind for a reason?” Fer-Fugaill inquired.

Harold smiled, “We are not traveling to Chester, are we?”

Fer-Fugaill chuckled, “We are going in that general direction.”

Harold nodded, “I suspected as much.”

Fer-Fugaill unrolled a map on the table and pointed. “We need scouts to proceed to the coast as quickly as possible and take boats south along the Irish Sea.”

Harold now traced a route and stopped, “To Dyfed and the St George’s Channel.” Harold looked up at Fer-Fugaill. “You do not expect them to continue the siege once they know we are on the move.”

Fer-Fugaill nodded, “Merab may be a mercenary, but he is not dumb. Once he knows we are moving, he will abandon the siege and withdraw from Ireland. He does not want to be trapped on that island.”

Harold nodded, “Dyfed. He must cross the channel before we cut him off.”

Fer-Fugaill frowned, “We can never get enough troops to Dyfed to prevent his crossing. Once he has landed, he will orchestrate a merry chase around Wales and western Mercia.”

Harold understood and took a deep breath, “Wear our army out. Stretch us out in a desperate pursuit of his smaller and quicker force.”

Fer-Fugaill agreed, “Attack when we are spread out or separated. He may not win a battle, but he can inflict casualties. Not all will be to men. He will undermine morale.” Fer-Fugaill looked at Harold, “It is the only means by which he can hope to defeat us.”

Harold knew Fer-Fugaill was correct. He had seen the same tactic used by the now King Ealdmund of England during the Wiltshire Claim War. “We must avoid such a scenario. We need to trap him and crush his army.”

Fer-Fugaill liked how Harold’s mind worked, “It is imperative we bring him to battle quickly.”

Harold nodded, “It will be difficult as they are in familiar territory in Gwynedd and Powys.”

Fer-Fugaill thought for a moment, “Perhaps we can use that against them and force them to come to us.”

Curious, Harold asked, “How?”

Fer-Fugaill stated without emotion, “Prepare raiding parties to strike against Gwynedd and Powys.”

Harold smiled devilishly, “They must protect their lands otherwise the locals will rise against them.”

Fer-Fugaill joined Harold in smiling, “Once they do. We have them.”
 
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I have to sadly agree with Bassiano's assessment of the others. To Fer-Fugaill is must be like herding sheep.

And I can understand why Padern would want to have a spy. Competency is one of the greatest threats he faces.
 
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I have to sadly agree with Bassiano's assessment of the others. To Fer-Fugaill is must be like herding sheep.

And I can understand why Padern would want to have a spy. Competency is one of the greatest threats he faces.
With the exception of Harold Fer-Fugaill has little to work with.
 
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Chapter 9.49 1041 – April

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Chapter 9.49

1041 – April


Ofeig studied the map resting on the table in the strategy room. At Ofeig’s request, Arngrimr and Sigeberht had taken an unused chamber and converted into a place to plan and monitor the war. No longer would the king, his generals, and advisors cram into the library.

Ofeig examined the wooden blocks that represented the Rebel army and the army of Fer-Fugaill. Based on the most recent week-old information, the wood blocks were on a collision course somewhere in County Powys.

Ofeig took his finger and placed it in County Ossory in Ireland. He then traced it across the St. George’s Channel and into County Dyfed. He looked up at his uncle, Prince Sigeberht.

“Once Merab knew Fer-Fugaill abandoned the invasion of Westmorland, he lifted the siege of Gowran and returned to Wales.”

Sigeberht nodded, “Yes, milord. Knowing Fer-Fugaill was marching to meet him, Merab had to evacuate Ireland. Merab trapped in Ireland meant Fer-Fugaill needed to only prevent the rebels from leaving Ireland. With troops not being used for that purpose, Fer-Fugaill could lay siege to any city in rebellion without worry of attack.”

Ofeig looked at the block representing the Scottish army. It now rested next to Fer-Fugaill’s army. “I thought the Scottish were going to stay in Westmorland and besiege Appleby.”

Sigeberht pointed to the Rebel Army, “At first that was Fer-Fugaill’s plan. But the rebel army has swelled in size to over six thousand troops. Fer-Fugaill has a little over eight thousand Jorvikian levies under his command. Fer-Fugaill seeks a battle to destroy the Rebel army. He convinced King Gilchrist to join his Scottish troops with his Jorvikians giving Fer-Fugaill almost fourteen thousand soldiers.”

Arngrimr spoke, “Now he must bring the Wulfwynnian troops to battle.”

All heads turned to the door as Jarl Padern, Marshal of Jorvik, entered the chamber. He carried a dispatch with him. Ofeig’s eyes narrowed as he watched the jarl approach. Ofeig could only think of how in ten months’ time when he was king outright, he could at last rid himself of the traitorous Welshman.

Padern stopped when he reached the table and bowed.

“Sire, Lord Regent, and Prince, I bring a messenger from Fer-Fugaill.”

Ofeig thought his heart skipped a beat. He wondered if this was the tale of another missed opportunity or Fer-Fugaill had caught and battled the elusive rebels.

Arngrimr looked at Padern and ordered, “Bring him forth.”

Padern turned and nodded. A man entered the chamber.

Seeing him, Arngrimr exclaimed, “Þegn Vagn.”

Sigeberht stepped toward Vagn and Padern. “What news do you carry Vagn?”

Ofeig gazed at Þegn of Warwick with suspicion, unsure he could trust an ally of Padern.

Vagn looked around the room and smiled. “After Merab lead Fer-Fugaill in circle for the better part of a month, a blessing came to Fer-Fugaill. Without such a windfall, the Lord General would have never forced the Rebels into combat.”

Arngrimr asked, “Why did you need luck?”

Vagn’s reply dripped with smugness, “Merab is a very skilled general himself. Since his force was half the size of Fer-Fugaill’s he could move quicker. He always seemed one step ahead.”

Annoyance growing at Vagn’s recitation, Sigeberht said, “Tell us about this fortune.”

It was obvious Vagn was trying to tarnish Fer-Fugaill. “After several days of heavy spring rain, it washed out a number of bridges crossing streams and rivers out. Merab found himself trapped near Mathrafal.”

“Merab proved himself to be a capable general. He chose a very defendable position on the side of a hill, forcing our troops to fight uphill. Fer-Fugaill threw our soldiers against Merab’s well placed defenders. Three times they broke our charges. At last Fer-Fugaill committed the reserves, and they turned the Rebel flank. The flank turned. The Rebels collapsed.”

Smiles and nods filled the chamber. Ofeig breathed a sigh of relief but, he felt there was more by the way Vagn acted.

Ofeig probed, “Þegn is there more?”

Vagn nodded and smile, “Yes Sire there is.” He again looked around the room.

“During the rout, Countess Wulfwynn found herself separated from her troops. They asked her to surrender, but she fought. In the ensuing melee Flavio, the Marshal of the Company of the Rose killed her.”

Sigeberht cursed, “Damn her. She knew she was going to die.”

Confused, Ofeig inquired, “She is deceased. Is that not helpful?”

Sigeberht shook his head, “If she surrendered or taken alive, the conflict is over. Dead her heir becomes leader of the rebellion and the fighting continues.”

Ofeig looked around the chamber. None desired to ask the obvious, so he did, “Who is Wulfwynn’s heir?”

No one spoke. The silence hung heavy in the hall. At long last, Sigeberht responded, “Eight-year-old Mawgan.” He stared straight at Padern, “Jarl Padern’s grandson.”

Ofeig’s mouth dropped open as he peered at the Jarl of Deheubarth. Padern’s face was stone cold, showing no emotion. Revealing nothing of his feelings, Padern replied, “He is my grandson by my third born son, Anarawd.”

Ofeig’s mistrust of Padern was now reaching a new low as he asked, “Who is regent?”

Without changing his appearance, Padern answered, “Anarawd.”

Ofeig looking at Padern said, “Your son?”

Padern concurred.

Ofeig’s gaze became more concentrated, “You oppose him?”

The first break came in Padern’s demeanor as he replied in a hushed and uncertain tone, “I have no choice. Do I?”

Ofeig continued with his grilling, “And he? Will he battle his father?”

Slow and deliberate with a hint of sadness, Padern nodded, “He made it crystal clear the last time we spoke, he will fight.”

Silence hung heavy in the room. Sigeberht turned his attention back to Vagn, “What of the Rebel army?”

Vagn frowned, “I fear over three thousand escaped to fight another day.”

“Three thousand is large enough to cause havoc,” a worried Arngrimr said.

Vagn agreed, “Fer-Fugaill feels the same. He aims to destroy them.”

All present acknowledged their approval.

After the meeting, Padern retired to his chambers. Once there as he stood before the hearth and the small fire within, he sipped some ale. His most trusted aid entered the room.

The aide said, “You summoned me, milord.”

Not looking, Padern commanded, “Go to Appleby with all due haste. I need to speak with my son.”

The aide without hesitation replied, “As you command, milord.”

The aide bowed and left the apartment. Padern heard the door shut. He threw the last of the ale on the fire in disgust.

*****

Almost two weeks later Padern, dressed in a dark cloak, stood in the narthex of a ruined church near the Westmorland-Jorvik border. The Northmen had destroyed the church and the surrounding villages during one of their first raids. They never rebuilt it and the village as the inhabitants were either slain or taken as slaves.

The sound of someone approaching sent Padern to reach for the hilt of his sword under his cloak. He turned and faced the advancing man. When he was several feet from Padern, the man withdrew his hood revealing himself to be Anarawd. Padern removed his hood.

Anarawd looked at his father saying, “You wanted to talk.”

Padern responded, “It is good to see you.”

Anarawd replied, “I am here to hear you talk, so talk.”

Padern, realizing there was no difference in Anarawd, reacted, “You have not changed.”

Anarawd scoffed, “Why would I change?”

Padern shook his head, “I thought the death of your wife would have had made you rethink your ways.”

“The martyring of my wife,” Anarawd chuckled, “She died for the cause.”

Padern replied, “Cause? What cause?”

Anarawd laughed, “Look around you.” He gestured to the ruins. “This is the work of the Northmen. The very Northmen you follow.”

Anger building, Padern responded, “I serve my king.”

Anarawd snickered, “Serve your king for how much longer? Ofeig comes of age soon. How long do you think he will keep you around once he is lord and master of the Council?”

Padern glared at his son, “I have done what was necessary for the kingdom and his survival.”

Anarawd shook his head, “And you will be surely rewarded.”

Padern fought the urge to hit his descendant, “What of your offspring, Mawgan? Are you not his regent?”

Anarawd replied, “I am.”

Padern smirked, “And how do manipulate him?”

Anarawd smiled, “He is the leader of our cause and I act accordingly.”

Padern scoffed, “How can he be a leader? The boy cannot take ten steps without losing his breath. He can barely swallow food. He is not a leader, but your pawn.”

Anarawd leaned into Padern, “He is what he is. You married me to Wulfwynn with no consideration to the inbreeding of her family. He will most likely not live to see his tenth birthday.”

Now Padern got into Anarawd’s face, “That would be convenient for you since you are his successor.”

Anarawd smirked, “And I am your heir as well.”

Padern scowled at Anarawd, “Perhaps I should take care of that now.” He reached under his cloak for his sword.

Anarawd laughed, “And then the poor inbreed will be your successor.”

Padern stopped and gawked at Anarawd. He spat at the ground at his son’s feet, threw up his hood, and stormed out of the ruins, his ears full of Anarawd’s laughter.
 
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Padern's eggs are all hatching at once, and he does dislike the clamour they are making. It is hard to feel all that sorry for him, given he has in large part made this uncomfortable bed in which he is lying - but even so, I do - a bit anyway. Thus do great families fall.
 
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Padern's eggs are all hatching at once, and he does dislike the clamour they are making. It is hard to feel all that sorry for him, given he has in large part made this uncomfortable bed in which he is lying - but even so, I do - a bit anyway. Thus do great families fall.
Things are beginning to unravel for Padern. However, he has a few tricks left.
 
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Chapter 9.50 1041 – August - Jorvik

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Chapter 9.50

1041 – August - Jorvik


Furious, Ofeig slammed his fist onto the table with all his might. The contact made a loud cracking sound, like distant thunder rolling across the sky. Items on the table endured his fury as they jumped and scattered. Cups rolled about and papers went askew, a few landing on the floor. Those in attendance stood in silence looking at one another and the fifteen-year-old king before them

“I may not yet be king in my own right, but this is intolerable,” Ofeig roared. “Never should this have happened.”

“Your Highness,” Arngrimr began. He never finished as one look at the enraged Ofeig brought the regent to silence.

Sigeberht inhaled slowly as his nephew reminded him of his father, King Rædwald, when the latter flew into a rage. Deep down Sigeberht harbored a sinking feeling this outburst would be a harbinger of things to come. The scheming, the plotting, and manipulation were hardening and driving the young man into someone determined to be his own man perhaps in ways one should not venture. Sigeberht glared at Padern and Ealhswith, laying the blame at their feet.

Ofeig continued his tirade, “Jorvikian blood, we spent good blood.” Banging the table again. This time with less force, “Are you telling me the Lord General Öysteinn gave his life for this farce?”

Trying once more to reason with Ofeig Arngrimr stated, “they swore No oaths. No guarantees given.”

Ofeig glared at Arngrimr, “Oaths, guarantees be damned. It was on the backs of my soldiers which gave Maud her title. She owned us, her allegiance.”

Arngrimr protest, “Under feudal law there was no recourse to force her to accept vassalage.”

Ofeig’s glare became more intense, “What of our armies? Were they not in Wiltshire?”

Arngrimr continued to resist, “Yes, but…”

Ofeig interrupted, “But what?”

Arngrimr swallowed, “They held no authority.”

Ofeig shook his head and threw his arms up, “Were they unarmed? Were they sleeping or under a spell?”

Arngrimr looked around the room for help. Finding none he stammered, “No, Your Grace. Forcing her vassalage by a force of arms would be considered unlawful and recognized as an act of tyranny by the nobles and the Church.”

Ofeig scoffed, “The blood of my soldiers, the sacrifice of my Lord General far outweighs any label of tyranny.” Ofeig turned his glare to Padern and Ealhswith. “Allowing them to be abandoned is the true tyranny.”

Shocked Arngrimr responded, “But the Church?”

Ofeig chuckled, “The Church. Given time and gold, all will be swept aside.”

Arngrimr began to speak but Sigeberht stepped before him, blocking him from Ofeig’s view. The prince knew nothing would be gained. Directing his gaze to Ealhswith he asked, “Why would Maud accept vassalage under King Ealdmund?”

For a moment Ealhswith panicked. She had the answer but was unprepared to respond. She took a moment to gather herself. Before Ofeig spoke she answered, “There was a show of force by the English.”

Ofeig sneered, “A show of force?”

The king’s actions had unnerved Ealhswith. Within a year Ofeig would no longer be shackled by the regency council which was a bad omen for her and her fellow conspirators. She studied Padern, but he showed no emotion, not displaying his inner thoughts.

Her mouth feeling dry, she replied, “Knowing we are busy elsewhere, Ealdmund had his invitation delivered by a thousand troops on the border.”

Ofeig shook his head. He peered down at the table, “So much waste. So much waste.” He glanced up, “It is as if the war never happened. Wiltshire is still English.” Looking at Padern, then Ealhswith, and finally Arngrimr Ofeig said, “Curse you, damn you all.”

Silence filled the strategy room. Ofeig wondered if he had overstepped himself, but he realized he did not care. Time was coming where he would rule, not these fools. He shifted away from the table and walked to the large map hanging on the wall. It showed the kingdoms of the Isle, Jorvik, England, Scotland, and Cornwall. He clasped his hands behind his back and stared hard at Wales.

He asked, “What of the war?”

He turned and faced Padern. For a moment he thought he saw Padern flinch. Ofeig grinned: You see a reckoning is coming.

“Lord Marshal, you said you had word. We gather here to hear you.”

Ofeig’s conduct today had been unsettling to Padern. He wondered if he was losing control or had lost it. Padern’s mind devised escape plans and schemes. The king’s question had shocked him back into the present.

“Fer-Fugaill defeated the rebels near Abberfraw. He is relentlessly pursing them.”

Ofeig nodded, “To where do they retreat?”

Padern answered, “Westmorland.”

Confused, Ofeig asked, “Did we not drive them from the county last month?”

Padern concurred, “yes, Your Grace. Fer-Fugaill defeated them at the approaches of Appleby.”

Ofeig enquired, “And they seek to return. Why?”

Padern shrugged his shoulders, “I know not and Fer-Fugaill did not offer any reasons. They blocked the routes south to Powys and Bedford.”

Ofeig looked at Padern, “I want this war done.”

Padern nodded.

Ofeig turned back to the map, “Thank you.”

All understood his meaning. Arngrimr all but ran from the chamber. Together, Padern and Ealhswith left with haste. They walked down the corridor in silence. Once they were sure they were alone, they ducked into the empty dining hall.

Padern looked around the room with caution. Assuring himself none other than Ealhswith and he were present, he nodded.

Ealhswith let out the breath she had been holding for some time, “Ofeig grows bolder and bolder each day.”

Padern concurred, “With Sigeberht’s encouragement, I am sure.”

Ealhswith shook her head, “Control is slipping away. He will come for us.”

Padern growled, “Arngrimr is no longer reliable. He fears the king and the end of the regency. Appointing Prince Eilif to the Council and losing Bishop Wistan has left us in the minority.”

Ealhswith paced nervously, “When the regency is done, Ofeig will move on us. He has stated such.”

Padern frowned, “I fear you speak the truth.” He rubbed his chin and said, “When need to deflect his interest to something else. Something close to his heart.”

Curious but fearful, Ealhswith probed, “What could such a thing be?”

A sinister grin came to Padern, “Lost oaths.”

Confused, Ealhswith asked, “Lost oaths?”

The smirk became larger, “Maud’s lost oaths.”

Ealhswith shook her head, “They are long gone. Destroyed.”

The smirk grew into a smile, “Perhaps not.”

Surprised, Ealhswith responded, “What? How? I saw their burning.”

Padern replied, “Are you sure they destroyed all?”

Now beginning to doubt herself, Ealhswith answered, “Yes,” She hesitated, “As far as I know.”

Padern almost chuckled, “What if I told a copy survived?”

Ealhswith narrowed her eyes, “And I suppose you know where it is.”

Padern feigned shock, “How would I know about such a document?”

Ealhswith grew annoyed, “Toy, not with me. My patience run thin these days.”

Padern asked, “Are you not still searching for them as the king ordered.”

Ealhswith eyed Padern sideways, “You know there is nothing. But the king asked, I would respond, ‘yes, with all my powers.’”

Padern gazed at Ealhswith, “What if you report they found a copy?”

Ealhswith not trusting Padern replied, “And where would these oaths be discovered?”

Padern smile grew huge, “Arngrimr.”

Finally understanding, Ealhswith returned the smile.

*****

Sigeberht spoke, “You must be more controlled.”

With his head down, Ofeig turned to face his uncle, “I grow weary of their arrogance and falsehoods.”

Sigeberht nodded, “I too. I would like to see their titles striped from them and them rotting in the dungeons.”

Ofeig looked at Sigeberht, “When I am king, that shall be their fate.”

Sigeberht shook his head, “You cannot.”

Annoyed at his uncle’s response, Ofeig replied, “Why not? I will be king in my own right.”

Sigeberht looked at Ofeig, “They are powerful lords with many lands and vassals. They command large levies.”

Ofeig sighed, “Then they go unpunished.” He threw his left arm up, “The great war they championed cost Rígán his place, Öysteinn his life, the lives of scores of soldiers, and the gold spent. For what? So, Maud could rule as a vassal of King Ealdmund.”

Sigeberht began to argue, but a figure appeared at the door. Both Sigeberht and Ofeig glared at him. Undaunted, the individual stated, “I bring a message from Aquitaine for the Chancellor.”

Surprised at the courier and his boldness, Sigeberht approached him. A few steps before the herald Sigeberht halted. The prince sensed a familiarity with the bearded man. He was too formal to be a simple messenger.

Sigeberht said, “Duke Bertrand of Bourbon?”

Bertrand smiled, “I wondered if you would recall me.”

Sigeberht smiled, “As one Chancellor to another I would hope I could.”

Bertrand nodded. Ofeig approached and asked, “Why would the Chancellor of Aquitaine pose as a courier?”

Bertrand looked at Ofeig, “I do not pose as a courier. I am one.”

A wave of dread and concern filled Sigeberht, “Why did you come bearing a message.”

Bertrand handed Sigeberht a letter, “I regret to inform you your aunt Princess Bodil Eilifsdotter, widow of King Gargamel, passed onto God. Cancer taking her.”

Sigeberht swallowed, “Thank you. You need not brought this yourself.”

Bertrand grinned, “I know. I bring other dispatches we can discuss later.”

Sigeberht nodded, “Very well. We shall see you have accommodations and a chance to freshen yourself.”

Bertrand smiled, “Thank you.”

Sigeberht called to a guard and instructed him to attend to Bertrand’s needs. Afterwards Bertrand left with the guard.

Sigeberht leaned against the wall. Ofeig seeing his uncle do so asked, “Did you know Bodil well?”

Sigeberht sighed, “Yes, as a young boy. She was my first tutor.” Ofeig could glimpse a tear forming as Sigeberht continued, “She was always so sad. I remember such.”

Concerned and curious, Ofeig questioned, “Why, uncle?”

Sigeberht took a breath, “Your great aunt married a French noble, and they had three children together. They made him a bishop and their marriage annulled. They sent her back to Jorvik without her children. They took them from her and made them wards of the Church in her former husband’s bishopric.”

Shaken, Ofeig replied, “That is horrible.”

Sigeberht nodded, “Yes it was. After spending several years tutoring your father and other children, your father had her marry King Gargamel of Aquitaine. The hope being as Queen of Aquitaine she could take her children back.”

Curious, Ofeig asked, “Did she get them back?”

Sigeberht shook his head, “Unfortunately King Gargamel died in a joust after only being king on his own for less than three years.”

Ofeig stood silent. He could not find any words. Finally, Sigeberht put his arm on Ofeig’s shoulder and said, “Let’s see if we can get something to eat. I fear we have almost missed the noon time meal.”

Ofeig smiled and walked with his uncle out of the room and toward the kitchen.
 
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Ofeig is a young man, with the fire of youth. It may be that fire will never leave him, but it may also be that in time he will mellow. And - I feel this is important - he does listen to those he trusts. Also, if his regency has shown anything it is that he can "play along" when needed. I don't doubt he will never want to do so again, but he can, if it is required.

Meanwhile he gets right to the centre of the issue at hand with the audacity of youth. The conspirators best indeed beware.
 
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