Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Campaign Starts - The Saxon Story

The house was full to capacity. The snows had not yet started yet the fire in the pit was roaring and making the room stuffy and close. The old man's hacking cough had most of the men attempt to lean away from him until he spoke. His voice was still a strong, deep rumble. He clapped his right hand on the shoulder of his son. The fingers were grotesquely swollen from the gout. He began to speak to his assembled men. "I will not survive this winter. I am turning over command to my son, Hengst. Now that we have a home here in Bernicia, it is time to expand. Hengst will take you into battle in the spring. I count on you to uphold him as you once served me."

The door burst in on the hall. The flames of the great fire were nearly extinguished from the rush of air from the open door. Two men strode into the room. The room fell to a hushed silence as they watched the men approach the table and nod to the old man. Heca and Brihtric looked over the group gathered in the hall. Heca spoke, "Greetings Aethelgeard. May Woden bless you and your family. Please proceed. We wish to offer our support great ealdorman." Heca was the speaker of the twins. Brihtric simply stroked the sleeping snake wrapped around his neck. The two men were reputed to be powerful wizards.

The old man nodded. He slowly turned to the large beast of a man, "Eadbald, you have been my champion. Will you serve my heir?"

The huge man was fierce in battle and loyal to a fault. However, he was as sharp as a sponge. He started at the dying ealdorman for several moments until the answer came to his lips, "Yes my lord."

Turning to each of the two nobles that were in his retinue he repeated the question and had them swear oaths to Hengst. Once the oaths were finished, the mood of the gathering turned festive. Several of the household guard cheered the old man and Hengst. But Hengst just stared into the fire. He was already planning his first action. Taking the corrupt kingdom of Eburac from Eliffer would be difficult. The crafty Briton had many spearmen but also many enemies. His sons appeared to be competent warriors in their own right. The Picts were a sore spot for them as well as the men of Gwenddoleu. It was impossible to figure out their politics. But his most important asset was his uncle - Wulfgar. Wulfgar commanded the foederati in the town of Deira. They were supposed to protect Ebrauc from ... well him. But blood is more important than gold. Just need to find the right time.

Less than four weeks after the party, the men had reassembled for his father's funeral. Before the pyre had burned itself out, he outlined his plan to his father's, now his, men. "It will begin with a raid...."

After laying out the plan, the two nobles Osweald and Leofwig simply nodded. "At the first sign of spring, we head south. The land is ripe for the picking. We will press toward the town of Catraeth and see what is to be had. We will pay King Ida his due and carve a kingdom of our own."

Hengst was tall and strong. He has always been a capable athlete and born of a proud noble lineage just as his two nobles. He had just celebrated his 28th year in what the Christians were calling 549AD. His father's death left him in possession of all of the loot gathered from the conquest of Bernicia that his men had gathered and possessed a Tribunes Tribute.

Osweald on the other hand was short and wiry. Yet at 34 years of age, he was a veteran warrior of many battles and a master at arms. Leofwig was of a similar build to Hengst but younger at just 23 years. Leofwig is a man of an iron liver. It is a trait that will have to be watched closely. The slowcoach Eadbald is a mountain of a man and the eldest of these men at 36 years. Yet his strength was as great now as it had been ten years earlier.

Each of these men had been dwarfed by the reputation of Hengst father. A situation Hengst was prepared to remedy quickly. They would rise in reputation even if it cost him his life. The twins had rejoined him. One stood to either side. No words were spoken but apparently, the two wizards had just pledged support to Hengst.

The roles were assigned. Osweald would command the Gedridht while Leofwig would command the Geoguth. They had a small group of skirmishers to act as scouts. The twins insisted on going with them. It was going to be a very interesting year.