It was chaos at dawn's first light. Bjorn stamped up the plank with Tuni close behind, “Danes to arms, DANES TO ARMS!” he bellowed. Two more men, fully armed, were accompanying our leader. Paedhar grabbed my spear and knocked it against the plank , “GIVE ME YOUR ATTENTION MEN!..The town of Jorvik is under Siege”, a murmur amongst the crew was instant, “We'll make haste attack them.” He turned and pointed with the spear to the others “These Thegns, Iarund and Swen, are from the Sea Giant, they have battled the Saxon many-a-time. Jorvik is but a horse's trot north” arching his back “FULL BATTLE DRESS!!” Paedhar commanded.
I rolled up my blanket and bound it to my belt, slipped on Skinnende and jerked the strap tight. As I bent over to grab my spear and ax I noticed thorrshammer swinging from my neck...I paused. “Thorrshammer surely swings for us lads!” I said aloud as I belted my ax. “Indeed” my old friend Bjorn replied.
“You won't need it...” a gruff voice spake. “What, my cloak broach?” I replied, turning to see Swen. The Thegn grabbed hold of my blanket roll, “Here,this...and the cloak...leave it on the Raven.” He flung his hand toward the Raven, “The guards will need it more than you.” He stepped away and resumed his position behind his long ax.
Behind, the mates clamored to ready themselves, and behind the mates were more mates, and behind those mates were even more men, all of them warriors preparing for raid. Paedhar jumped on the Raven's back to retrieve his helm and spear, “Swen...you and Iarund take my boat crew, march for Jorvik, I'll catch up on horseback.” Swen nodded and questioned Iarund, “And our horses?”
“Readied!” he replied. “How many oars are you?” said Swen to Bjorn. “Kusi has twenty four oars, Thorrvard the same...and eight stay here” Bjorn pointed down.
“Twenty and twenty makes forty?” interrupted Gurdsen in the rear. “Right, forty spears”.
“Forty spears...forty warriors...three lines with ten spears, and...” Swen babbled quietly to himself, “and a wall.” He lengthened up and filled his lungs with air. “WAAARRIORS OF DAAANELAANND!!...I TOO,WAS I YOUR POSITION, but now I am a soldier of DANELAG!... Hold strong, keep our wall of shields tight...Stand prowess, keep your blades fierce,” drawing his sword, “LOOK TO THE HORIZION MEN!” Swen pointed skyward. “YOU TOO WILL BE SOLDIERS OF DANELAG THIS NIGHT!!!” The proud Thegn donned his helm as the mates drummed there shields. Leaning toward me and Thorrvard he said clearly, “Ready your crews, we march to Jorvik.”
We marched quickly through the port town of Dania, up the mound through her fortified gates, and back down. The ramparts were impressive. Bjorn tossed a hunk of cheese to me, I bit my share off and tossed it to Thorrvard. Then I pulled some boss bread from my shield, stuffed it in my mouth and washed it down. Outside the walls we marched faster, and again faster so the horses had to trot. Jeers and chants were herd calling through the trees from the long line of warriors behind. Suddenly, Iarund shouted and picked up a gallop, Swen followed and as the horses moved out, our forty oars began to run, for what we did not know.
“Bjorn!” shouted Thorrvard, “Where'd they go?” I could hear the clank of metal to metal through the mist, it was close up the trail. “BJORN!!” I shouted louder, out of breath, “WHERE?...SWEN?” “I...I CAN'T SEE 'EM!” huffed Bjorn. A fight was now clearly heard, somewhere up ahead, we dodged our way through other crews, men halted on the trail. “VEJLE WARRIORS! Over here!” it was Swen with Iarund, still mounted. “BLOOD?” yelled Thorrvard “Aye, 'da first Anglelish blood 'dis morning” Iarund motioned, chin to the air “'LOOK DOWN YONDER LADS...dey were guarding da river crossing.”
“The Fyn boys got 'em” commented Swen, “It's good to be back in Danelag!”
We hiked up and away from the river, and into open land toward the last hill crest before the shire of Jorvik. The sun, still low in flight, pierced the early mist from afar. I glanced to the east, I could see thatched roofs in the distance, perhaps an Anglelish village. My thoughts drifted back to the dock, “STRENGTH, hold the wall of shields tight” he said, “PROWESS, swing fierce your blades!” Swen was a Dane for sure, his tongue was pure and a mainlander was he most likely. The tongue of Iarund was corrupted but understood.
“By the Gods...where's Paedhar at?” pronounced Alef from my rear.
“And can you hear that?” added another. A chant started, danes up ahead on the crest were thumping their shields and our rush hastened as a few Saxon arrows screamed by.
“We're close!” said Thorrvard glancing at me with a grin. I ran tall for a few paces to try and get a glimpse of the Saxons down on the vale.
“Anything..?” questioned Bjorn.
“All I can see is Chief...”
“THE ENEMY!!!” interrupted Swen standing high in his stirrups. “HAAALT!” pulling the rains, he darted his head at us, “MAKE READY TO FIGHT!” and dismounted his horse.
“I said...all I can see is Chieftain Karungr...atop his steed” repeating as I caught my wind. A few more arrows screamed by.
Tilting my head back to adjust my helm strap, I saw Paedhar's helm over the warriors heads in front of us. He had already seen our position and was glancing back between muscling the reins of his anxious horse.
“PAEDHAR!” I shouted and waved my shield whilst the mates reacted jubilantly from the rear. Our leader has some words with ol' Chieftain Karungr and the other Jarls, then wheeled his mount in our direction and maneuvered his way toward us.
“Kusi, Thorrvard!” commanded Swen. “Assemble your men, form a wall of shields.” he elevated his long ax and bellowed, “WALL OF SHIELDS!!!”
“NO!” Jarl Paedhar countermanded, slowing the trot of his steed. “We shall run them down, KILL EVERYTHING!” He tossed his spear to Iarund and dismounted into the grass, ripe with morning dew. Paedhar whispered in his horses ear as Saxon arrows flew near, and finally passed the reins to Tuni.
“AATTTAAAACK!!!” All of the sudden Chieftain Karungr, with sword and shield overhead, began the charge down hill, thegns covering his flanks. Thorrvard screamed “THORRR!” as our hoard lurched forward gaining pace. “MAKE WAAARR!” I roared clapping spear to shield and I saw those Anglelish Saxons down on the vale. Their warriors ran few. “We'll crush 'em!” I thought. Our Vejle boys scrambled down into the ensuing chaos amidst the many danes, soon at a full charge, and racing to be the first to clash with the enemy Saxon.
As told by Kusi Sighfrith. To be continued....
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