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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 1 Halfdan May 867
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    Chapter 1 Halfdan



    28 May 867 outside of Durham

    Halfdan Hvitserk “the Whiteshirt”, son of Ragnar Loðbrok stood in the entrance of his tent and watched as the passing storm rolled off to the east. The rain had come and washed the dirt and filth of the camp away. The stench of war had temporarily been replaced with the sweetness of fresh rain. His army of Northmen had been here surrounding the walls of Durham since the end of February. He was growing anxious as the siege drug through the spring and into summer.

    It had been over two years ago that Halfdan and his brothers had raised the Great Heathen Army and landed on the coast of England to avenge the death of their father Ragnar Loðbrok in the snake pit of King Ælla of Northumbria. King Burghred of Mercia and King Æthelred of Wessex immediately joined with King Ælla to defend England against the Great Heathen Army. Since the initial landings and battles Halfdan had carved a piece of England for himself. He was now the king of the Petty Kingdom of Jorvik. Not long after Halfdan launched his invasion of the County of Dunholm King Artgal of Strathelyde joined with the Anglo-Saxons against the Northmen.

    Not only the Siege of Durham worried Halfdan mind. The Kingdom Mercia had again raised an army and invaded Jorvik. The Mercian army commanded by Ulf had besieged the city of Jorvik in mid April. Halfdan at first contemplated lifting the siege and attacking the Mercians. After some thought he dispatched his son Ragnarr with 7700 men to deal with Ulf. The last news he received was over a week old and was that Ragnarr was within striking distance.

    Halfdan realized that someone was behind him. He turned slowly, ready for anything, as an experienced raider would due. He untensesd as he saw his brother, Björn who was now King of Sviϸjod standing there. Björn was stood there stoically showing no emotion.

    “A message from your son Ragnarr arrived.” Björn uttered. Björn must have seen the flash of concern that speed across Halfdan’s face. Björn smiled and continued, “He caught Ulf and his Mercians near Skardaborg 4 days ago and crushed them. Over half the Mercians were either killed or captured. The rest scattered to the winds. Ulf has been captured and the siege of Jorvik lifted.”



    For the first time in weeks Halfdan relaxed. He clasped his brother on the shoulder and boasted, “Let’s find us something proper to drink and toast Ragnarr’s victory.”
     
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    25 August 867 outside of Durham

    Halfdan had rose before dawn. Today was the day. Durham would be his. One more assault is all that was needed he felt. He was sure the sacrifice of last night was well received by the gods and that they favored him.

    They had better; King Ælla was proving to be more trouble than expected. A month ago Björn had sent a large raiding party into Northumbria commanded by Guðmundr of Nerike. Unfortunately they found a large Northumbrian army commanded by Earl Sæxbald of Lothian near Lindisfarne. It took all of Guðmundr’s skill and determination to escape the trap and return to their ships. The fact that Ælla still had troops in numbers to command concerned Halfdan and made all the more important Durham was taken now.

    Halfdan approached his commanders. They stood ready and waiting.

    “Let the attack begin” Halfdan commanded. The roar of the Northmen was deafening.

    Tonight Halfdan did not have to sleep on the cot in his tent. Tonight he would sleep in the bed of the Earl Eardulf of Durham who had managed to escape from the city as it was stormed by the Northmen. Halfdan slept well that night or at least as well as a man who knew the war was far from over. As he slept a storm was again gathering to the south.

    21 September 867 Jorvik

    Ragnarr Halfdansson Hvitserk first cursed the Christian god that he had allowed Mercia to raise more troops and force him to remain defending Jorvik instead of being with his father in Dunholm. He did, however praise Odin on the victory that was won today.

    Ragnarr has spent the last several months trying to catch the Mercians. Baron Harold of Warwick had gathered the remains of Ulf’s army and recruited more troops. Harold lead Ragnarr and Guðmundr of Nerike, who had joined Ragnarr after Guðmundr’s failed raid on Northumbria, on a wild chase over eastern central England. Finally the combined armies of Jorvikians and Sviϸjodians brought the Mercians to battle not far from Jorvik. The Northmen annihilated the Mercian army to a man.



    Now Ragnarr felt he finally could rejoin his father in the conquest of Northumbria.
     
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    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    King Halfdan continued to push the Northumbrians. On 6 November 867 after a two month siege St Cuthbert fell to the Northmen. The last major Northumbrian town, Hartlepool, was taken on 8 January 868. King Halfdan was now in control of the County of Dunholm.

    Not all was good for Halfdan. More enemies joined against him; Chief Dúnchad of Urmhumhain at the end of October. November was particularly rough as more and more Gaels joined the Anglo-Saxons including Chief Eógan of Tuadhmhumhain, Chief Cathalán of Ulaidh, Chief Máel-Duraid of Tír Chonaill, and Chief Congalach of Airgíalla. December saw King Áed of Mide joined the cause against the Northmen.

    As the year drew to a close Halfdan readied his attack on the County of Westmoreland.

    15 February 868 near Appleby, County of Westmoreland

    “Charge”, yelled Halfdan as he ran toward the Northumbrians and Strathcldians massed before him. Two thousand Northmen followed him. The Northumbrians and Strathcldians had surprised the Northmen with an attack on this cold morning. They had nearly succeeded in rolling up the left flank of the Northmen.

    Halfdan ducked a swing from a Northumbrian sword. As he rose and the Northumbrian stumbled past off balance from his thrust, Halfdan brought his axe down breaking the attacker’s back. There was no time to relish his victory. Another Northumbrian was upon him. He parried the sword with his wooden shield and sliced into the soldier's side with his axe. He yanked the axe free and found another charging him. A smile crossed Halfdan’s face as he thought it is going to be a glorious day of battle.

    As the sun passed midday the sounds of battle moved away from where Halfdan stood covered in sweat and blood. The once frozen ground has turned into a bloody quagmire. Halfdan had been in the thick of the battle since it began that morning. The Northumbrinas and Strathclydians who faced him were foolish he thought. His army outnumbered them 3 to 1. Yet their commander Oucydd ap Rhun, a Strathclydians, ordered an attack. Halfdan did have to admit it was brave and the Northumbrinas and Strathclydians fought well.



    Halfdan watched as his brother Björn approach. His brother was dirty and covered in sweat and blood but not a scratch on him. Their father had named him well; Björn Ironsides indead.

    “There shall be great celebrations and drinking in the Great Hall of Valhalla tonight! Another army of Northumbria and their cursed allies sent to their Christian god,” said Björn trying to lift his brother’s spirits for he knew the truth.

    “Yes the day is ours,” replied Halfdan, “Oucydd ap Rhun did not expect to win. He was only looking to delay us. He sacrificed his army not to kill a few hundred of us but to slow us down. It will take us several days to get moving again and look,” Halfdan said pointing at the darkening western sky, “a storm approaches.” Halfdan sighed, “I fear by the time we reach Appleby they will be fully ready for a siege. We will take Appleby but it will take time. Time we do not have. It will allow the Anglo-Saxons and their Gaelic allies time to mount attacks on Jorvik and Dunholm and perhaps even us.”

    The two kings walked across the field. A courier came to them. Halfdan turned to the courier. “Find my son Ragnarr and tell him to come to me.”

    The courier nodded. Björn had a questioning look.

    “Brother”, Halfdan began, “I fear Guðmundr may need some help in and around Jorvik. I must tell Ragnarr that he is needed to defend Jorvik again.”

    Björn nodded, “He will not be pleased but he will do his duty. He knows what is at stake.”

    Halfdan looked at the gathering sleet pellets in his outstretched hand. He shook his head in disgust and pulled his fur skins tighter. He thought to himself, “Are the gods with us or against us?. A good snowfall I could understand and use.” Looking at the sleet covering the field, “This will only create more delays and by morning we’ll have freezing rain. What the Northumbrians couldn’t stop, a few white pellets will.”

    He looked at Björn, “Why did our father ever come to this gods forsaken island?”
     
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    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    In April Chief Coipre of Laigin joined the fight against the Northmen.

    After the 1st Battle of Appley King Halfdan sent his son Ragnarr south to Jorvik with 9,000 Northmen to defend Jorvik. Halfdan had received word that a large force of Gaels had landed in Lancaster and were marching across the county toward Jorvik.

    Unknown to Ragnarr the Gaels split their forces. The majority went toward Westmoreland and a small force toward Jorvik. The plan was that the small force would draw off Ragnarr and Guðmundr of Nerike, while the larger force joined with the Northumbrinas and Strathclydians to attack Halfdan at Appleby.

    Ragnarr, however moved quicker that the Gaels anticipated and caught the smaller force near Skardaborg. In the ensuing 2nd Battle of Skardaborg Ragnarr crushed the Gaelic army that consisted of troops from Taudhmhumhain and Urmhumhain commanded by the Taudhmhumhain, Dorst on 17 March 868.

    Guðmundr joined with Ragnarr and they pursued the larger Gaelic force. On 2 May 868 near Lowther the Jorviks and Sviϸjodians caught the Gaelic army composed of troops from Tyrconnellian, Orielian, Ulster, Northumbria, Mide, and Strathcylde under the command of Earl Sæxbald of Lothian. The Northmen shattered the Northumbrians and their allies.



    May would bring additional enemies into the battle against King Halfdan as Chief Tigernán of Bréifne, King Hywel of Deheubarth, and King Rhodril II of Gwynedd.

    Ragnarr and Guðmundr joined King Halfdan in the siege of Appleby. As Halfdan had feared the siege drug on through the summer and fall. Finally on 2 October 868 Appelby was taken.

    As Halfdan dreaded the Anglo-Saxons again invaded Jorvik from the south. This time instead of sending Ragnarr, Halfdan decided to go himself with 12,000 troops to deal with the threat. He sent Ragnarr with the remaining army to move toward and besiege Lowther.

    On 15 November 868 King Halfdan attacked the Anglo-Saxon army comprised of soldiers from Wessex and Sjæland under the command of Earl Alfred of Dorset. Halfdan crushed Alfred’s army at the 2nd Battle of Jorvik ending any further threats to Jorvik from the south.



    In late November Ragnarr besieged Lowther.

    The Northumbrians gathered the remains of their armies and their allies in a final effort to relieve Lowther. Commanded by the Northumbrian general Ælfgar Ælasson army of soldiers from Orielian, Northumbria, Mide, Strathcylde, and Laigin attacked toward Appleby. King Halfdan attacked Ælfgar Ælasson in what would be called the 2nd Battle of Appleby on 9 December 868. Ælfgar Ælasson’s army was destroyed and along with the hope of Northumbria.



    Lowthar fell to the Northmen on 26 January 869.
     
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    3 February 869 near the border of Westmoreland and Cumberland

    Halfdan brought his mount to a stop near a group of Vikings. He handed the reins to one of them as he dismounted.

    “This way”, gestured one of the warriors leading the King toward a group of five men sitting amongst the trees surrounded by several heavily armed Vikings. The hands of the five men were tied and they sat looking dejected and beaten. At first they looked like common soldiers trying to flee to Cumberland and hoped for safety.

    “Something didn’t seem right with group.” said the Viking who lead the King to the men. “They tried to pass themselves off as common soldiers but it obvious that they are nobles.”

    The Viking was right. Even though they were dirty. They were still cleaner than most soldiers. They clothing and armor fit poorly. There mannerisms also gave way to the fact they were not an ordinary soldier.

    Björn joined Halfdan in front of the prisoners. They walked and examined each one. At the third one Björn stopped. A sinister smile crossed his face. “King Ælla of Northumbria.”

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    On 3 February 869 King Ælla of Northumbria was captured and surrendered to King Halfdan. Under the terms of the surrender King Halfdan gained control over the Counties of Dunholm, Northumbrialand, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancaster.





    Several weeks after the surrender when all the sons of Ragnar Loðbrok had gathered they enacted their revenge of King Ælla by performing the blood eagle on him.
     
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    Excerpts from The Genealogy and Family History of the House of Hvitserk

    Halfdan Ragnarsson Hvitserk,known as “the Whiteshirt”, was the 3rd son of Ragnar Loðbrok and Aslung and was born around the year 825.

    He had three sons. However the name of their mother or mothers has been lost to time.

    The sons were:
    • Sigfrið Halfdansson; born 843

    • Guðfrið Halfdansson; born 844

    • Ragnarr Halfdansson; born 845
    In March of 869 Halfdan married Sigrid. There are no records or mention of Sigrid’s linage. It has been speculated that she was the daughter of one of Halfdan’s commanders.

    It was said that the marriage happened because of Halfdan’s lust for Sigrid. Not long after the wedding the marriage disintegrated into a loveless match. Both Halfdan and Sigrid had numerous affairs.

    Halfdan’s affair with a women named Kraka resulted in a daughter named Halla who was born 6 December 871. Halfdan acknowledged her as his bastard daughter. Many said out of spite to Sigrid.

    Halfdan took Gytha, the wife of Ælfwald Rose, Spymaster of Lindsey as a concubine in November of 871. She had been captured during the Siege of Lowther in 869.

    Sigrid’s affairs on the other hand turned out much more tragic. She contracted syphilis at some point. King Halfdan found out in November of 871 and had her imprisoned. In effort to save face King Halfdan had the Court Physician Dan treat Sigrid. Unfortunately Dan botched the treatment leaving Sigrid in worse condition. In a rage Halfdan had Dan beheaded on 30 November 871. Sigrid never recovered and died under house arrest on 22 March 872.

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    Responding to pressures from his commanders and earls Halfdan organized a raid on Westfriesland that began in September 869. The raid would last for 17 months. The cities of Alkmarr, Egmond, and Hroon were sacked along with surrounding countryside.

    A second large raid was organized in May of 871 on the County of Loon. After pillaging the countryside the city of Loon was sacked on 26 April 872.

    Excerpts from the Annals of the Catholic Church in Medieval Britain

    Under Halfdan subjects who were Christian were allowed to continue practicing. However, their churches had to pay a large “tax” to the King which was basically all their gold including relics, candlesticks, crucifixes, and chalices. The churches had to use wooden crosses, basic candles, and common cups for their ceremonies. At one point Halfdan commented that he was forcing them to be meek and humble like their god commanded.

    Missionaries, however, were a different thing. They were hunted and imprisoned. Several were executed as examples. There was to be no conversion of the Northmen to the Christian god. The Northmen were expected to stay truthful to Odin, Thor, and Freya.

    In January of 867 Bishop Bernard of St Denis who was in the service of King Charles II of west Francia landed in Jorvik and began preaching and trying to convert the Northmen. His activities were quickly brought to King Halfdan. Bernard was arrested and thrown into King Halfdan’s dungeons. Bernard remained in the dungeons for over two years. Halfdan may have taken a strong stance against missionaries, but he was also a ruler. Since Bernard was sent by King Charles II Halfdan figured that there was some value to the Bishop. In March of 869 Bishop Bernard was ransomed to King Charles II.

    There is an interesting story regarding one of the Bishops who became a vassal of King Halfdan . The two major raids undertaken by King Halfdan were lead by Bishop Osweald of Cartmel. Osweald was a respected commander of Jorvik. During the Gaelic invasion of Lancaster he joined with the Northmen. Osweald and his people had little love for King Ælla of Northumbria and saw his allegiance with Gaels as an afront to the Lancastrians and Westmorelandians who had suffered under raids from Ireland in the past. When it came time for the raids Osweald volunteered to lead and Halfdan selected him. Osweald’s raids on Westfriesland and Loon were very successful. As a result Osweald’s churches were not sacked. They did, however, have to pay taxes which Osweald did with the booty from raids and the war with Northumbria.
     
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    13 October 872 Jorvik

    “Enough”, Halfdan slammed his fist onto the arm of the throne half rising from his seat. “I have made my judgement clear. If either party does not care for it then they can discuss it with the headsman’s axe.”

    Halfdan slowly lowered himself into the seat. Nails were being driven into his head. He rested his forehead in his right hand. No more petty squabbles for today. “That is all for the day.”

    Those present murmured a protest. The King had rules on only a few cases and there were at least 10 more to be heard. Sensing their reluctance to ending the audience, Halfdan stood up and angrily yelled, “I said that is enough.” Waving his arms, “Everybody out.” He gave them a cold hard stare and then turned and stormed out of the throne room.

    Halfdan felt short of breath. He wanted to get outside and enjoy the crisp fall air. He ignored the courtiers and exited into the courtyard. He decided that he wanted to see the river and surrounding countryside. As he crossed the courtyard a pain slammed into his chest. He almost staggered. He regained his control and began to climb the stairs. Almost at the top another pain hammered his chest. This one far worse than the first. He struggled to make it to the top. He crossed the walkway to the parapet. He took a deep breath and looked out into the countryside. Another pain came. This one he thought isn’t so bad. He spun around and leaned his back to the parapet. Suddenly his legs could not support him and he slowly slid down the wall. “It must be later than I thought for it is getting dark,” he thought. Then total darkness came.

    Halfdan at last joined his forefathers in Halls of Valhalla.
     
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    Chapter 2 Sigfrið



    13 October 872 Jorvik

    Sigfrið cursed the knock on his chamber door. He tried to ignore it but the knocking continued and got more intense. He looked at his bed companion, Gytha, his father’s concubine. He noticed her face was full of fear. Had Halfdan found them out and sent his guards or worse himself to confront them.

    Sigfrið got out from under the covers. Another knock. “I hear you,” he yelled at the door.

    He picked up the furs from the floor and threw them over himself. He picked up the axe that was there also and hid it under the fur. Gytha’ eyes were wide with fear. He turned and looked at her. She knew what the look meant. Be quiet and hide. She laid down in the bed and pulled the covers over her along with animal skins.

    Sigfrið moved slowly toward the door like a hunted animal looking for an escape.

    “Who is it?”

    A voice from behind the door responded, “Birger.”

    Sigfrið swallowed. It was his father’s favorite bodyguard. This could only mean trouble. Sigfrið gripped the axe tighter.

    Birger sternly called through the door, “Lord Sigfrið I insist that you opened the door.”

    Not good thought Sigfrið but what choice did he have. He unlocked the door and braced himself for men barging into the room. Nothing. Once the door was opened enough he could see Birger standing their with two other guards. No swords were drawn, no axes were showing. As a matter of fact everyone looked sad and serious at the same time.

    Birger looked Sigfrið in the eyes and said, “You must come with me.”

    Sigfrið still trying to feel the situation out responded, “By whose orders and where to?”

    “To the Council Chambers by order of the Steward of the Kingdom.”

    “Do you know, why?”

    “Yes, Milord, your father the King is dead. You are now King and the Council awaits your orders.”

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    Upon the death of King Halfdan, Sigfrið Halfdansson inherited the Petty Kingdom of Jorvik and the County of Jorvik. Guðfrið Halfdansson inherited the County of Northumberland. And Ragnarr Halfdansson inherited the County of Westmoreland.

    Sigfrið spent the first few months of his reign organizing his counselors and watching his brothers. Schemes were every where. Luckily Guðfrið and Ragnarr were busy trying to rule their new counties.

    Bishop Osweald’s raid on the County of Loon was still ongoing so that provided some distractions. It also kept a sizable piece of the levies busy and out of the kingdom.

    Sigfrið spent a great deal of time improving the County of Jorvik and Baronry of Richmond. He improved the defenses of the county. He also encouraged markets and trade. He knew that in order to crush the Anglo-Saxons he would not only need troops but money.

    Sigfrið sent small raiding parties into Mercia particularly the County of Lindsey. He also sent parties into East Anglia. The purpose of these raids was not so much for loot but for information. He wanted to know how many troops were stationed there. How quickly they could respond and who their leaders were. All was being readied for the next war with Mercia. He now just had to wait for the Raiders from the Continent to return with their loot and troops.

    Of course nothing goes as plans. In late December of 873 raiders calling themselves Barid’s Host landed in Cumberland. Sigfrið quickly raised an army and marched from Jorvik to Cumberland. The raiders proved to be difficult to bring to battle. Finally on 14 February 874 Sigfrið trapped the raiders lead by Gunnarr the Battle of Burgh and wiped them out.



    While Sigfrið was pursuing Gunnarr Osweald and his raiders returned. They had sacked Loon, Hesbaie, Maastricht, and Hasslet. They also raided Kleve, and Sticht. The raid brought a large amount of loot that Sigfrið’s treasury needed.
     
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    Excerpts from the Annals of the Catholic Church in Medieval Britain

    Unlike his father Sigfrið was less tolerate of the Christian faith. In many places he had the church buildings seized. Where there was resistance he had the priest killed and buildings razed. Open displays of Christianity were frowned upon and in certain counties such as Jorvik and Dunholm they were for all intents and purposes forbidden.

    On side effect of these policies was the surrounding Christian kingdoms more determined to drive the Northmen out. However, their petty squabbles both secular and religious kept them from everything but talk.

    In early December of 873 King Hugh of Scotland finally made an attempt at reining in the heathen. He sent Bishop Ross to convert them Ross barely arrived in Jorvik before he was arrested and thrown in the dungeons.

     
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    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    Finally Sigfrið felt the time was right and on 2 April 874 he launched the Jorvik-Mercian De Jure War over Lindsey against King Burghred of Mercia. Sigfrið thought he would be able to quickly launch attacks into Mercia and quickly overwhelm them. However, gathering his forces proved to be a problem. Only Dunholm and Jorvik levies quickly answered the call to arms. The other counties Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Lancaster were slower in responding. The Anglo-Saxons were reluctant to take up arms for a Norse king against other Anglo-Saxons. Even in Northumberland and Westmoreland ruled by Sigfrið’s brothers had trouble recruiting. Finally after some threats and promised increase in spoils the levies mostly filled their quotas.

    The delay, however, allowed King Burghred to launch a strike on Jorvik. Thinking that the Anglo-Saxons subjects of Jorvik would not fight against him he attacked with only 3000 troops. Burghred made it to the same battlefield that Mercians spilt their blood in the previous war before Sigfrið brought him to battle on 11 July 874. It was not much of a battle. The Jorvikians outnumbered the Mercians 7000 to 2600. Burghred lost all but 839 of his soldiers and was sent scurrying back toward Derby.



    Sigfrið decided to ignore the remnants of the Mercian army and launched his invasion of Lindsey. By mid September Sigfrið was besieging Gainsborough. The siege lasted through the winter and into the spring. Sigfrið did not concern himself with Burghred. Sigfrið sent raiding parties into Derby, Leicester, and Northampton. Chasing these raiders kept Burghred and the local Barons busy and brought in some needed loot. On 22 March 875 Gainsborough was taken and over the next week sacked.

    Burghred knew he needed to do something. He needed more time for his negotiations with Wessex and East Anglia to bring them into the war. In desperation he decided to attack Jorvik. His plan was to disrupt Sigfrið’s supply line, burn crops, destroy roads and bridges, and cause chaos behind the Jorvikian lines. He gathered up the little remains of his army and with a little under 1100 men launched what he called an invasion but was little more than a large raid.

    Sigfrið more or less knew what Burghred would try. He had representatives working to keep Wessex and East Anglia out of the war. Sigfrið was working from a position of strength. He basically had the strongest army in England. In addition many in Wessex and East Anglia remembered the outcome the last time they tried to fight Northmen over someone else’s kingdom. Of course a little gold and silver went a long way too.

    Sigfrið divided his forces. He sent his brother Ragnarr toward Lincoln with the intention of taking the Bishopric. Sigfrið himself with 7000 troops headed back to Jorvik.
     
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    25 April 875 outside of Skardaborg

    Sigfrið sat uptop of his horse watching scene unfolding in front of him. He was proud of himself. Over the last several weeks he masterfully herded Burghred to where he wanted him which was between the walls of Skardaborg, the river and Sigfrið’s army. Only a few hours ago he ordered the attack.

    Mayor Kettilmund of Skaraborg rode up to the King. “I am surprised that you did not lead the attack yourself.”

    Sigfrið turned away from the battle and looked at the Mayor who considered a worm and tolerated him only because of the taxes he collected. “Down there is butcher’s work. There is no honor in that type of slaughter.” The King looked harder at the Mayor, “I did not see the garrison attack from the city.”

    Kettilmund began to sweat a little. He was holding them back in order not lose any doing the real dirty work. They would come out when it was time to loot the enemy.

    “I, I am sure they have attacked.” stammered the Mayor, “By your leave I will check on them.”

    Sigfrið dismissed him with a wave.

    Something had caught his eye on the battlefield. “Damn” he uttered as he spurred his horse toward the battle. It took him a few minutes to negotiate the field and find who he was looking for.

    Marshal Hroðulfr, Chief of Dunholm was wiping the blood of his blade as the King rode up. He acknowledged the King and said, “A glorious day.”

    “For now” snapped the King. “Look”, he pointed toward a group of Mercians on a small rise surrounded by Jorvikians. There were several banners including Burghred’s present. The group was slowly being cut down.

    The King continued, “I want Burghred alive. A dead Mercian King does me no good. A dead king cannot surrender or give me what I want.”

    The sounds of battle faded over the next couple of hours. Sigfrið laid on his cot in his tent waiting. Suddenly there was a commotion in the camp and the noise approached his. The Captain of Sigfrið’s guards threw open the tent flap and steped in.

    “Begging your pardon, my King, they are here.”


    “Good, good” Sigfrið said as he rose from the cot. He put his arm around the captain and ushered him out of the tent saying, “Let’s go.”



    They walked to another tent. This one was open on all sides. A table was placed in the center with several pieces of parchment. There was also a raised dais with the Kings chair upon it. Several servants stood waiting. As Sigfrið walked past the table he glanced at the parchments and smile. He remembered that his father told him the Anglo-Saxons were very formal about treaties and wrote them down so they would be honored and remembered. Sigfrið climbed the dais and sat down, leaning his sheathed sword between his legs. He signaled one of the servants who left the tent.

    The servant returned with Marshal Hroðulfr, Mayor Kettilmund, and several other commanders. A battered Mercian was with them.

    Sigfrið greeted the Mercian, “Welcome to my tent King Burghred of Mercia. Can I get you some food or drink?”



    Burghred stood silent. A servant brought a cup of water. At first Burghred resisted but he realized how thirsty he was and took the cup and downed its cool refreshing contents quickly. The servant took the cup.

    “Good, Good,” Sigfrið continued, “We have some business to attend to and then you may be on your way.”

    Burghred looked surprised. He thought he would be executed. Sigfrið saw the surprise and smirked, “You thought I would kill you. No, no, I am very merciful. Unlike Ælla you did not murder a member of my family. You only occupied some land that is rightfully mind.”

    Sigfrið let his statement sink in before continuing, “There are some documents you need to sign and seal.”

    Burghred finally spoke asking, “What are they?”

    “One is confirming your surrender and that you will be released for a favor along with any of your levies and vassals that survived the day. The second agrees to the favor which is that you will leave Lindsey and turn over all lands and vassals to me.”

    Now Burghred smiled, “I cannot make these official since I do not have my seal.”

    A Jorvikian soldier then approached the table and placed the seal before Burghred. “This was found amongst King Burghred’s belongings when we were sent to protect those belongings from falling into the wrong hands.” A slight snicker could be heard but Sigfrið maintained a straight face.

    Burghred looked as if he had been punched in the gut. He sighed and began signing and sealing the documents. Sigfrið had already signed and sealed them.

    Once he was done Burghred was escorted from the tent.



    Hroðulfr approached the King, “You should have him killed.”

    “No”, responded Sigfrið, “As I said before I need him to be on the throne of Mercia. He is a weakling. He will be busy for years trying to keep his throne from various factions that will arise because of this defeat. We will reinforce the idea that all we wanted was land that was rightfully ours by aiding him to keep his throne when it is threatened. Also I do not want his heir Beorhrfrith Beortwulfsson to become king. Beorhrfrith is the Chancellor of East Anglia. He is very close to King Eadmund of East Anglia. With him on the throne Mercia will be allied with East Anglia and that will make our plans for East Anglia all that more harder. With Burghred on the throne of Mercia, Mercia is no longer a threat for many years to come.”

    Sigfrið patted his marshal on the back and walked out of the tent very pleased with himself.
     
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    Excerpts from The Genealogy and Family History of the House of Hvitserk

    Sigfrið and Gytha of Lindsey began their affair when almost from the time she was brought into the court of King Halfdan as a prisoner. She was captured during the Siege of Lowther in 869. She was the wife of Ælfwald Rose, Spymaster of Lindsey and pregnant with his child when she was captured. Harold Ælfwaldsson was born born while she was still a prisoner on 20 June 869. In June of 871 Gytha and her son were ransomed. Countess Leofflæd of Lindsey’s regent Mayor Uhtræd of Boston paid for the child but refused to pay for Gytha. Some say this was at the request of Ælfwald Rose who ad their marriage annulled a couple months later. She was made a concubine of King Halfdan in November of 871 Sigfrið and Gytha continued their affair in secret after Gytha was made a concubine of King Halfdan and after Halfdan’s death.

    Sigfrið’s Council kept pressuring him to take a wife and sire an heir. Sigfrið wanted an heir to stop the various plots that involved his brothers who currently were his heirs. Finally he choose Gytha as his wife and they were married on 7 March 874.

    The marriage was a happy one. It was said that they truly were in love. However, it did not produce an heir right of way.

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    During the war with Mercia the County of Lancaster was raided by Steinn of Gotland. They landed on 29 December 874. They fled by 9 January 875 in the face of resistance from the Lancastrians.

    On 6 June 875 raiders lead by Sigurðr of Færeyar landed in Lancaster. Again facing stiff resistance from the local lords the raiders fled 16 June 875.

    With the war over the Northmen were again clamoring for adventure. On 21 June 876 a large raiding party left Jorvik under the command of Sigfrið’s brother Chief Guðfrið of Northumberland. The target of this raid would be the Iberian Peninsula. They raided Coruña in September and Lishbuna in October 876. They remained in the county of Lishbuna until the city of Lishbuna was taken and sacked. They then moved into Alcácer do Sol in November 877. Disaster struck when the raiders were attacked and defeated by an army of Umayyads commanded by Sheikh Lope of Nájera at the Battle of Alcáçovas on 21 December 877. No sooner did they arrive back in Lishbuna that were attacked and defeated again by Sheikh Lope of Nájera at the Battle of Lishbuna on 10 January 878. They decided to leave for home but stopped to raid Porto in January and Santiago in February. There Chief Ragnarr of Westmoreland took over command of the raid. Guðfrið was seriously wounded and could no longer physically command. Under Ragnarr they raided Viscaya in April 878, Thouras in July, and Kernev in Ocotber. Ragnarr decided for one more raid before returning home and landed in Devon in January 879. This was almost the end of him and the Northmen as they were defeated by Army of Cornwall commanded by Hillel of Qumm Oualad at the Battle of Exeter on 8 March 879. The remaining Vikings returned to Lancaster 21 March 879. Despite the defeats the raid was profitable with over 250 gold add to the Sigfrið’s coffers. And just in time too.

    Another adventure that Sigfrið approved of was Chief Hroðulfr’s Dunolmer Conquest of Sussex War against Count Eadric of Sussex who was rebelling against the King of Wessex. The war began in April 878 and end in September when Count Eadric surrendered to KIng Æthelred and the Casus Belli was no longer valid.

    On 24 April 877 King Burghred of Mercia inherited Suffolk and it became part of Mercia. This created a problem for Sigfrið’s plans for East Anglia as the kingdom now only consisted of the County of Norfolk.

    On 11 May 879 raiders lead by Birger of Gotland landed in Lancaster. They were caught by Ragnarr and his army before they could flee and defeated at the Battle of Preston 13 June 879.

    Excerpts from The Genealogy and Family History of the House of Hvitserk

    The marriage between Sigfrið and Gytha still had not produce an heir by the spring of 879. Sigfrið was beginning to panic. With his brothers waiting in the wings he desperately needed an heir. In the summer of 879 he Karaka as a concubine. Not much is known about Karaka before she came to the court. Sigfrið noticed her and decided that she would make a nice concubine.

    After a year with Karaka still no heir. Sigfrið then took Simin was a Bedouin. She was captured during the sack of Lishbuna during the Iberian Raids. Another year past and still no child.

    Finally in May of 881 Karaka announced she was pregnant. Sigfrið was overjoyed. However, the feeling did not last. A daughter, Þordis, was born 30 December 881. There still was no heir.
     
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    Excerpts from The Annals of the Catholic Church in Medieval Britain
    In November of 875 Sigfrið called for the Blot, as it had been more than nine years since the last blot his father had called. As part of the blot, Bishop Ross was sacrificed by hanging. Bishop Ross thus became the first martyr of Jorvik.

    Bishop Ross’ death did little to deter the Christians’ desire to convert the heathen Northmen. In February of 877 Bishop Henri a missionary in the service of King Lothaire II of Lotharingia was imprisoned. Bishop Henri would die in the dungeons of Jorvik three years later.

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles


    By May of 881 Sigfrið’s felt his plans for East Anglia were ready and on 29 May 881 he declared Jorvikian Conquest of Norfolk against King Eadmund of East Anglia. Sigfrið’s bullying and favors of the other Anglo-Saxons kingdoms kept them out of the war despite Eadmund’s plies.

    King Eadmund marched out to meet the Jorvikians. King Sigfrið soundly defeated King Eadmund’s army at the Battle of Lynn 1 July 881. Unlike Mercia and Northumbria, the cities and towns of Norfolk were not well fortified. Thetford fell after a short siege on 5 December 881. Elmham was also quickly taken, falling on 28 February 882.

    Seeing no way out, King Eadmund surrendered on 4 March 882. In a little over 11 months Sigfrið had conquered the County of Norfolk and the Petty Kingdom of East Anglia.



    Excerpts from The Genealogy and Family History of the House of Hvitserk

    In June of 881 Simin found that she was with child. On 2 January 882 Skuli was born. At last Sigfrið had an heir. Simin would bear a second son, Knut, on 2 April 883.



    It was said that even during the time when Sigfrið was using the concubine his love or Gytha and her love of him did not diminish. While she was extremely disappointed in not being able to bear him a child or an heir, she understood the importance of Sigfrið having an heir. Throughout the rest of their lives they continued to try to have a son. It was said that if Gytha did have a son Sigfrið would make him his heir despite Skuli and Knut being born before him.
     
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    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    During the war with East Anglia and even before the war Count Sæxræd of Cumberland was constantly involved or leading various plots to undermine Sigfrið. Just as the war was ending Sigfrið decided to gather together some others who were tiring of Sæxræd and plot to have him killed. On 4 November 882 the plot was fulfilled as Sæxræd was shot and killed by an archer during his morning ride. Unfortunately for Sigfrið, the person who arranged everything was captured and under torture confessed that Sigfrið had ordered the killing.



    Needing replenish the treasury after the conquest of Norfolk Sigfrið authorized a new raid. This raid would be lead by Mayor Arncytel of Lynn. The raiders left Jorvik in early September and sailed up the Rhine. They sacked Cologne and Dietz before returning to the English Channel. They then raided Zeeland, Mortain, and Évreux. In April of 884 they landed in Saintonge. The raiders were defeated by the army of the Duchy of Poitou commanded by Duke Ramnulf III at the Battle of Royan on 13 May 884. Fleeing Saintonge they continued southward raiding Asturias de Santillana, Coruña, Santiago, Niebla, Cadiz. In February of 885 they began raiding Cebta. Before they could flee they were attacked and defeated by the combined armies of Idrisid Sultanate (Sultanate of Mauretania) and Qutid Emirate at the Battle of Xauen on 1 July 885. At that point they decided to return home, reaching Jorvik in September of 885 bring over 300 gold with them.

    Excerpts from the Annals of the Catholic Church in Medieval Britain

    Even with previous deaths the onslaught of missionaries continued. In December of 885 Eric, a preacher sent by King Donald III of Scotland, was thrown into the dungeons. KIng Carloman of Aquitaine sent Bishop Ebbon to convert the Northmen. Unlike the previous preachers Ebbon entered through Lancaster and worked in the western portions of the County of Jorvik. He even sent up a small mission before he was arrested and sent to the dungeons.

    A few members of the court were beginning to wonder if the days of the Old Gods were numbered. No matter what they did the preachers and missionaries kept coming. Also in the d counties that were Christian before being conquered very few converted to the Norse gods. However, many Northmen were secretly converting to Christianity.

    Excerpts from The Genealogy and Family History of the House of Hvitserk

    In December of 886 Simin realized that she was pregnant. In February of 887 to much rejoicing Gytha announced that she was with child also. Simin gave birth to a daughter on 2 July 887 named Malmfrið. Disappointingly Gytha gave birth to a daughter named Vigdis on 20 September 887.

    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    Needing gold to begin his next conquest Sigfrið sent out another raid into the world. Again the raid would be lead by Mayor Arncytel of Lynn. The raid left Jorvik in late August 886 heading toward the Rhine and then along the Channel and the Bay is Biscay. The raiders struck Breda, Cologne, Mortain, Cornwall, Dyfed, Devon, Viscaya, and Asturias de Santillana.
     
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    27 July 888 Jorvik

    Sigfrið felt good and content with the world. It had been a growing feeling for the last couple of years. His plans for expanding Jorvik and its influence were progressing well. He had just received word that Arncytel’s raid was going better than expected and they would be returning earlier than hoped for and with a huge haul of gold; the biggest thus far. He needed the gold to finance his next objective which was the conquest of the County of Chester from Mercia.

    The time to strike another blow to Mercia was at hand. King Æthelred II had inherited the crown from King Burghred after after Burghred died of cancer in 877. King Æthelred II restored the House of Wiglafing to the crown. The tile had been lost to King Beorhtwulf of the House of Beorning who overthrew King Wigstan Wiglafing. Burghred who was of the House of Mercia eventually ousted Beorhtwulf in 852. King Æthelred II hold on the throne was precarious. Several powerful earls made claims to the throne and schemes were abundant. Additionally King Æthelred II heir was his only child and daughter Æthelhid who had been born in 879.

    Wessex was on the verge of splitting in two as Hwicce was poised to declare itself a separate kingdom. Northumbria was having continuing problems with Scotland. The petty kingdoms of Wales were in a constant state of war or disarray. Jorvik was emerging as the prominent power in England and Britain.

    Sigfrið had few worries with in his kingdom. Taxes were being collected on a regular basis and the amount had been steadily increasing. There had been no factions formed against the king for over five years now.

    Sigfrið was content in his personal life. He had his great love Queen Gytha. Although she had not produced an heir they did have their daughter Vigdis whom he tottered over.He had two sons from his concubine Simin giving him an heir. To him the concubines were a necessary instrument of the state he needed to produce an heir since the gods did not favor Gytha. Perhaps the fault lie in the fact that she was still a Christian.

    Recently the task of raising the boys had been given to Sigfrið’s half sister Halla Halfdandottir. He felt that it was more important that they be raised by someone who believed in their gods and not Allah as Simin did.

    Sigfrið entered his bedchambers hoping to find Gytha still awake. She was his confidant and truly the only person he fully trusted. She was already in bed asleep. Another evening of the matters of state had kept him away from his love. He changed and got into bed. Careful not to disturb her. That night he dreamt of crushing Mercia.

    Morning came and Gytha awoke. She quickly and quietly got out of bed and used the chamberpot. She got into back into hoping for a good start to the day. She snuggled close to Sigfrið and softly called his name.

    No response.

    She repeated his name a little louder. Sometimes he slept very deep when he had had an evening of tough discussions with the Council as he did last night.

    Still no response.

    She now said his name out loud. He did not move.

    She yelled his name and tried to rouse him. No response.

    She started screaming his name at the top of her lungs. Tears rolling down her face. The guards outside the door heard the screams and knew something was amiss. They opened the door and began to enter. The first guard saw the Queen and the King and stopped. He turned to the other guard and ordered, “Go get the Court Physician, now.”

    Five minutes later the Physician with Halla right behind him burst into the room. The Queen was kneeling on the bed holding his hand to her face weeping.

    The Physician walked over to the King, “With all pardons Milady.”

    Halla helped Gytha out of bed. Halla supported the Queen as she leaned on her whimpering.

    The Physician finished his examination and looked at Halla and shook his head. He looked at the guards and said, “Send messengers to the Council. The King is dead.”

    Gytha began to cry profusely.

     
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    Chapter 3 Skuli

    28 July 888 Jorvik

    Halla Halfdanddottir left the King’s bedchamber once she was sure Queen Gytha was being cared for by the Queen’s ladies in waiting. She proceeded down the hall at a brisk pace. All of sixteen years old and her brother had placed so much on her. She was Spymaster to the kingdom, and had be the defacto mother to Skuli and Knut for the last two years since their mother Simin was deemed unfit.



    Her mind was racing. There was so much to do to secure the safety of the Princes and thus the realm. Her uncle Chief Ragnarr of Westmoreland has been appointed regent by Sigfrið to appease Ragnarr for not having a Council seat. Neither Sigfrið or her ever dreamed that Ragnarr would ever be regent. Because of the smallpox epidemic raging through the kingdom Ragnarr had left Jorvik and returned to Westmoreland and was in seclusion. What was important to Halla he was not here and also not a member of the Council.

    As she traveled through the castle she came upon several of her shieldmaidens. She stopped and choosing her words carefully since did not want the word of the King’s death spreading any quicker, “Where are the Princes?”

    One of the shieldmaidens responded, “With Simin having their once a week breakfast with her.”

    “Good,” Halla replied, “all of you go to them and tell the guards not to let anyone in the room or out of it until I say so. The three of you stay there also.”

    “Yes,” they responded.

    “Now go quickly.”

    The shieldmaidens hurried off down the hallway.

    Halla continued down the corridor and then turned a corner. She was face to face with Marshal Hroðulfr. The old general looked distressed.

    “Is it true?” he asked.

    “Yes” Halla responded sadly. “We have some problems to take care of right away.”

    “Yes,” he responded and waited for Halla to continue.

    “We need to address the Ragnarr problem. My brother never dreamt in darkness nightmare that Ragnarr would actually be regnet.”

    “Thank the gods he is in seclusion in Appleby.”

    Halla shook her head, “We need to make sure the news takes time to reach him.”

    “How?”

    “My brother did not make me spymaster for no reason, “ she smirked. “How should can the Council be assembled?”

    “Everyone but Chancellor Hakon are here in Jorvik. I sent a messenger to Hakon who was traveling back Jorvik from Durham. He should be here tomorrow.”

    “Good, good.” she responded.

    Halla’s mood changed. She took a deep breath and her eyes watered. “Now I have to do the worst job ever. Tell two young boys their father is dead.”

    Later that evening Halla sat in her chambers looking at her dinner which she had barely touched. This had been perhaps the longest day of her life. First finding her brother dead and then telling the Princes of their father’s death. Six year old Skuli took it very hard. It took Halla almost two hours to console him. Five year old Knut, however, stood silently staring out the window.

    Halla also thought about what had been accomplished. She had managed to keep her brother’s death quiet. Only the immediate family, the Council, and those charged with preparing his body knew. She needed to keep it that way for at least another day. Tomorrow would be the most important day of her life and the in her opinion the kingdom.
     
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    29 July 888 Jorvik

    When Hakon arrived in the morning he was rushed into the Council Chambers. The Council meet for a little over an hour behind closed doors. They emerged and announced that their would a royal audience in the afternoon.

    At the appointed time the throne room was full of people. Rumors had been circulating all day. Now it was time to find out.

    The Captain of the Guard called the room to order. The Councilors entered the room from the left of the throne. They walked past the throne and took up their normal positions to the left. Some of the audience noticed that one member was missing.

    Next servants carrying the infant daughters of Sigfrið, Malmfrið, and Vigdis. Then Þordis, Sigfrið’s daughter by Karaka came in. She was followed by Knut and Queen Gytha. To the surprise of many Gytha did not take her normal seat next to the throne. Lastly Skuli and Halla entered. Skuli walked in slowly and hesitantly. There was an audible gasp from the assembled when he sat in the throne.

    Halla stepped forward. “Two nights hence the Valkyrie came and took our beloved King Sigfrið to join his ancestors in the Halls of Valhalla.”

    This time the gasp from the audience was very noticeable. A few women broke into crying.

    Halla continued, “In accordance to the law and by order of the Council, I, Halla Halfdandottir, have been appointed regent until King Skuli reaches the age of 16.”

    She let that sink in. There were a few murmurs from the audience.

    Halla then shouted, “Long live King Skuli!”

    The room responded “Long live King Skuli!”

    Once the cheers died down the royal family and Councilors left in reverse order of their arrival through the door they entered.

     
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    Excerpts from the Jorvikian Chronicles

    In January of 889 the raiders returned. Sigbjörn took over leadership of the raid after Mayor Arncytel of Lynn had to return to Lynn. They raided Coruña and then were soundly defeated at the Battle of Lugo 24 December 888 by an army from León.



    After the battle they decided to return to Jorvik. The raid was successful adding 342 gold to the treasury.

    Halla continued to consolidate power and have any who opposed Skuli or her eliminated. One persistent problem that kept dogging the young king was his appearance. He looked more like his mother’s people who were Bedouin instead of Norse. Many traditionalists did not like the boy because his skin was more of an olive tan. Some even went as far as to call him cursed by the gods. Halla strong resented this talk and took a harsh line with anyone she found repeating it. Ironically the Christian lords did not seem to have an issue with it.

    Halla was well aware of her brother’s plans for taking the County of Chester since she had helped formulate them. She knew that there was not much time to launch those plans. However a golden opportunity arose when King Æthelred II of Mercia died and his underage daughter Æthelhild became queen. Mercia was in turmoil. They had a queen and a regent. Plots and counterplots were everywhere.

    On 3 April 890 Halla with the unanimous support of the Council declared war on Mercia in the name of King Skuli for the Conquest of the County of Chester. The Jorvikian armies quickly crossed into Mercia. The Mercians scrambled to form some kind of defense but all their infighting had weaken not only their military but their trust of one of another. The Jorvikians under the commanded of Sigbjörn swept aside a small Mercian army at the Battle of Cambridge on 28 May 890.



    Continuing the campaign Sigbjörn defeated the main Mercian army at the Thetfrod on 11 August 890.



    Leicester was taken and sacked on 27 February 891.

     
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    30 April 891 near Jorvik

    King Skuli was very excited. He was going hunting again. Two weeks ago he almost got his first kill. A rabbit jumped out the bush in front of him. He let his enthusiasm get the better of him and missed. His arrow flew two feet over the rabbit. Since then he worked hard on his archery with his instructor. Today he would get his kill, Too bad Aunt Halla won’t be here, he thought. Halla was south with Marshal Hroðulfr dealing with the war with Mercia.

    Just after dawn the hunting party entered the woods. For several hours they moved and waited. A doe came close but disappointingly stay out of range. The last time they moved to a new location Skuli found himself alone with leader of the hunting party. Skuli could not remember his name.

    As he was trying to remember the leader whispered and pointed. A large rabbit came out of the brush. Skuli took a breath and aimed. He drew back and at the right moment left an arrow fly. The arrow struck the rabbit in the flank. Skuli is overjoyed.

    The young turns with pride toward the leader. Skuli is surprised to see the man aiming his bow at him. The man mouths, “I am sorry,” and lets the arrow fly. The arrow strikes Skuli in the throat. The young king dies almost instantly. The leader seemingly melts into the surrounding woods as he hears voices approaching. He has done his job and it is time to disappear.



     
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    Chapter 4.1 Knut the Regency





    2 May 891 near Nottingham

    Halla stared in disbelief at the note in her hand. She did not know whether to scream, cry, or go into a rage.

    Marshal Hroðulfr approached. See her distress and discomfort, “What is wrong?”

    She handed him the note. He read it. His eyes got big in disbelief.

    “How could this happen?” he asked.

    “I do not know, but I will find out.” she replied.

    “Knut is now KIng and Helgi, Steward of Norfolk is regent.” he said.

    Halla replied, “ Helgi is a good man as Steward of Norfolk and Regent of the County of Norfolk, but not as regent to the King.”

    “You are correct. We must fix this as soon as possible.” He then thought, “We must leave for Norfolk today and then for Jorvik and convene the Council to select a permanent regent. However, if we leave and the army finds out it will destroy morale. The Mercians are on the run but this could give them the advantage.”

    Halla was deep in thought and then offered, “Not if we tell them the Mercians had King Skuli assassinated. It will strengthen their resolve.”

    Hroðulfr smiled. He had to keep reminding himself that Halla was only 20 years old. Her brother had chosen wisely when he made her Spymaster and secretly ensured that she would be regent if anything happened to him.

    She continued, “We will go to Jorvik. My shieldmaidens will go to Norfolk and escort Knut and Helgi to Jorvik for the official ceremonies.”

    Hroðulfr agreed and orders were sent.

    Halla kept reminding herself that even though it was a dark time, the light of day always followed the dark of night.
     
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