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|A Saxon's Tale (standard:adventure, 3499 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Aug 08 2007||Views/Reads: 2120/1197||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|It was more than sixty days since Eadwynne had wept as we left, begging us not to go. But as I kissed her, and our daughter, Leofwynne, I promised her we would return.|
A Saxon's Tale ©2007 Ian Hobson 10th Century AD After another night in the open and a morning's weary travel, we bid farewell to the others from our group and left them to take the western track towards the main settlement. We headed north and followed a steady uphill path, taking a short-cut over the hilltop. Edglaf walked ahead of me carrying my axe and a sheathed sword he had taken from a dead Dane. I carried my grandfather's sword and the water; we had no food left. The wound in my side still felt very sore, but it was healing. The battle had not gone well. We had outnumbered the enemy by almost three to one, but they were mostly seasoned warriors, not woodsmen and farm workers like us. My son, Edglaf was barely fifteen years old but, like me, he worked Lord Athelred's land, and Lord Athelred was sworn to Lord Byrhtnoth, so we had no choice but to go and fight as ordered. Besides, the Danes were here to steal the land, our livelihoods, and our women too. Before the battle I'd sharpened the sword; it was old and heavy but well crafted, and the only weapon we owned. It was a big sword, made for a big man: my grandfather. I gave it to Edglaf, telling him to stay at the rear. I was in the middle behind Lord Athelred's men at arms, but in front of other men less able, or less willing, to fight. I carried my axe: I was a woodsman and better at wielding an axe than a sword. Edglaf stopped just short of the crest of the hill we were climbing and waited for me to catch up. During the battle I'd taken a spear thrust below my left armpit; a glancing blow that had cut through my leather jerkin and grazed my ribs. I'd swung my axe at the spearman, splintering his wooden shield and breaking his arm, but still he made ready to thrust again. That was when, to my surprise, I found Edglaf at my side, swinging my grandfather's sword like he was born to it and killing my attacker with a thrust to the throat. As a young man I had fought beside my own father, but never with such ferocity. It was Edglaf's first battle and his first kill, and I was proud of my son, but also a little worried: he killed another Dane that day - before the battle was won and the Danes defeated – but with just a little too much eagerness, I thought, though I had also killed another. I prayed to God that he would stay with the land and not become a warrior like my mother's father. As Edglaf stood and watched me climb he looked so like his mother. It was more than sixty days since Eadwynne had wept as we left, begging us not to go. But as I kissed her, and our daughter, Leofwynne, I promised her we would return. I made the same promise to my mother, but there were tears in her eyes too. ‘Wound still hurting?' Edglaf asked. ‘A little.' I rested for a moment - pondering on what I would say to the widows of the two men who had not returned with us - and then we walked the last few paces to the top of the hill together; and there below us was our valley. It was a relatively new settlement, a half-day's march from the main one. I looked first for the tall trees just beyond the foot of the northern slope, and then for the clearing just below. It seemed that a mist shrouded our small dwelling, and I couldn't make out its shape or see the yellow of the thatch. Then dread filled my heart as I realised that what I had thought was mist was smoke. And, my wound and tiredness forgotten, I began to run down the wooded slopes with Edglaf following. *** We passed other dwellings as we crossed the valley floor; all of them smouldering ruins. Then we came across the first body: old Wiglam, I'd known him since I was a boy. His throat had been cut and his clothing ripped open. He was a poor man; I doubt that his attackers had found anything on him of value. His dog lay nearby, its head almost completely severed from its body. There were more mutilated and half Click here to read the rest of this story (283 more lines)
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