The Cleansing of the North
Osberht's wound was healing slowly. It pleased him that he now managed to walk to his high seat most days without much pain. He sat with the Taethle and Brothers to hear of their travels to Anderida. He has interested in what had happened at Aelle's Assembly and had asked them several times to go over the story about things he wanted more details on. It was clear that some part of the story concerned him but he would not talk about it. Now that he was a KingsThane, Osberht told them he needed to make arrangements for the provisioning and defence of the three settlements of Caedering, Caelctun and Glawmaed. They had agreed the twenty warriors sent by Cerdic would go to Glawmaed to protect it from attack. Taethle also agreed she would be Thane of Caelctun and she and her warriors would go there. Osberht would remain in Caedering which would become the centre of an area that would co-operate and support each other. Osberht thought it was a good idea to ask Connal to join them in a ruling council to cooperate in growing crops and raising animals for trade. Cissa Cæster and Pontus Cæster had big populations which demanded constant food and they could all grow wealthy on trading food and raw materials.
The Brothers listened to Osbert's plans but pointed out that the major obstacle to this happening would be the British Burgh in the Forest of Moen. They needed to think about how to deal with that.
Wulfhere was also keen to visit Bronwyn and discuss a marriage contract with Connal. He wasn't sure if Connal would agree to it but he wanted to ask as soon as possible. He had the fine enamelled cloak broach that he had bought at great expense in Anderida. Osberht gave them permission to go since they were now his Huscarls and he wished Wulfhere luck with his discussions.
It was almost harvest time so they felt that they should hurry to get to Glawmaed. No-one has any time to discuss anything while the harvest is being brought in. Uthric suggested to Osberht the need to build more homes in Caedering. He was particularly keen to have a home for Meire and Hrothgar away from his mother. Osberht agreed that the building would go ahead when they returned from Glawmaed. The population of Caedering had increased and it was likely the Caelctun might only become a fortified outpost so that people from there might come to Caedering.
The Brothers travelled to Glawmaed and were greeted by Connal. He had heard from some of the merchants how they had dealt with Garm and was pleased that the threat was now over. He still was concerned that Anyon had not been dealt with and no-one was clear what his intentions were. The Brothers were of the same opinion and had discussed it with Cerdic when they had met. Wulfhere said that he had asked that Glawmaed be protected and was keen that any warriors sent north by Cerdic would be stationed here.
Connal thanked him. He was certain that Anyon was aware he had sworn allegiance to Cerdic and he was equally sure that Anyon would see him as a traitor. Connal said that he worried about his people who would suffer if Anyon attacked. They discussed various options over a meal and agreed they would press Osberht and Taethle to take action after the harvest.
Wulfhere said that he had come on other business too. Uthric and Dunstan had never really seen Wulfhere tongue-tied and they were amused at his reticence to speak. Uthric offered to help but Wulfhere said that as he still had a tongue, he could speak for himself. He told Connal that he would be keen to make a marriage contract with Bronwyn. Connal said that in his opinion this was the worst kept secret in Glawmaed. All of the village appeared to know about his interest but as Connal had not yet discussed it with Bronwyn and she would still need to agree. Connal said he was aware of Wulfhere's qualities and he would be happy to have him as a son-in-law. However, Wulfhere needed to be aware that although Bronwyn was intelligent, good at household management and rather beautiful he often found she had a sharp tongue when things did not go her way. Connal wanted to be sure Wulfhere was aware of her deficits as well as the strengths of his daughter. Wulfhere said he was of the opinion that the benefits far outweighed the disadvantages.
Bronwyn was brought in and asked her opinion. She was agreeable to the match and Wulfhere gave her the enamelled Broach he had bought in Anderida. They agreed the marriage contract and would meet again to arrange the dowry with the wedding feast to be held in Spring. The Brothers promised to come back soon to discuss the dowry.
Harvest is a difficult time for all the villages and it requires backbreaking work from dawn until dusk. Everyone in the village is involved in bringing in the harvest except those too young to walk or too old to work. Afterwards the village comes together to hold the Harvest feast. The last bit of grain harvested is beaten to kill or chase away the evil spirits and then it is planted where the next years grain will grow to ensure a good harvest. The feast is always a joyful affair and despite all the uncertainty over the last year the harvest was good.
The Brothers were asked to tell the tale of their fight with the Bannucmann and their most recent dealings with the Bretwalda Aelle and how they humbled Ealdorman Coelfrith. It was noted that in Dunstan's telling of the tale of the Bannucmann, Offa now played a less prominent part than before. No-one seemed to mind and the Brothers’ reputation in Caedering increased.
In the days following the Harvest feast, 0sberht, Taethle and the Brothers discussed the British threat. They were aware that Cerdic was expecting them to attack and they laid plans for the battle now that Caelctun was at peace.
Their discussions were interrupted by Drefon the Smith from Glawmaed. He was bloodied and wearied. He told that he had escaped the attack by the British Warband on Glawmaed. Connal had asked him to come to get help from Osberht. When he left the villagers were still defending the wall and he hoped that somehow, they had managed to hold off the attackers. He feared that Glawmaed would be sacked and destroyed. Osberht ordered an immediate gathering of the warriors and the call up of the Fyrd. To get some information he asked the Brothers if they would scout out the situation and meet the army in the woods to the east of Glawmaed where they could plan the attack.
They could smell the burning long before they could see anything. They lay in the undergrowth and watched as the victorious British Warband were putting severed heads on top of stakes which they had arranged in a semi-circle facing the path to Caedering. Dunstan thought they were making a ghost fence and he was worried that it might cause some difficulty to their army because they didn't have a leæce to counteract the hagorún. Wulfhere and Uthric said that they thought Dunstan was being over-dramatic and it was only to scare them. However, when they saw the British Drýicge putting the heads on stakes and Wulfhere acknowledged that perhaps Dunstan was right. The Drýicge was tall and dark haired. She wore a long loose robe embroidered with hares and gibbous moons. Even from a distance they could tell she had power in the way she walked and gestured.
They met Taethle and Osberht in the forest that shielded them from hostile eyes and told what they had seen. They agreed that they needed to attack and make the best of things in the hope that they could save their friends in Glawmaed. Dunstan and Uthric were pessimistic about Connal’s chance of survival. They expected that he might be among the heads on the stakes. Wulfhere was concerned about Bronwyn. He was worried that if she was still alive she was likely to be caught up in the new fighting if they had to assault the palisade.
They moved out of the trees and advanced in two shield walls. Taethle had her seasoned warriors and Osberht took charge of the Fyrd. The Fyrd were nervous but Osberht steadied them with encouraging words. They advanced toward two British Shield walls which had formed up to counter their advance. When Dunstan counted the enemy both Shield Walls had many more men. He thought that this might turn into a difficult fight.
The Shield Walls stopped 50 paces apart and two men walked out from the British line, they were followed by the dark-haired Drýicge. Osberht and Taethle went forward and Osberht asked Uthric to come as a translator. The tall man introduced himself as Anyon the War Leader of the Britons. Osberht introduced himself as the KingsThane of Caedering and asked Anyon to withdraw. He told Anyon that Glawmaed was under the protection of Cerdic and Osberht and that he would resist any attempt by the Britons to remain here. Anyon replied that all this land had belonged to his ancestors and therefore he had no intention of leaving. Osberht said that he had hoped to resolve this dispute reasonably but if Anyon would not agree then the matter would be settled by fighting. Osberht said he thought this was a pity because too many more good men would have to die on both sides. However, he felt sure that the Saxons would prevail. Anyon just laughed and said that when they told the tale of his victory, Osberht would be remembered for his sense of humour. Uthric noticed that Anyon's translator was wearing the enamelled cloak broach that Wulfhere had given to Bronwyn on the day of their wedding contract. He worried that something untoward had happened to Bronwyn but decided that now was not the time to tell Wulfhere.
Both parties returned to their men and both gave encouragement to prepare their warriors for the upcoming battle.
The Drýicge began hoping around on one leg, leaning on her staff for balance, making faces at the Saxon war bands and screaming how the demons of the underworld would feast on their souls. Some of the men of the Fyrd asked Uthric what she said but he refused to translate. After a while she stopped and brought out two young Saxon prisoners. Wulfhere thought they were some of the men that Cerdic had sent to Glawmaed. The Drýicge held a black stone knife and in a quick motion slit one man’s throat along the blood to pool on the ground. She then used a hazel branch to sprinkle the blood on the British warriors. Dunstan did not like this hagorún.
Two warriors lifted the body of the young Saxon and tossed it into one of the burning outbuildings and Drýicge danced around the blaze. The other prisoner had been left alone by his guards and although hobbled by ropes that secured his hands and legs, he took the opportunity to try and run to the safety of his own friends. The Drýicge stopped dancing and screamed. A long spout of fire from the bonfire shot upwards into the air and arced towards the escaping prisoner engulfing him in flame. He writhed briefly before lying still, flames still burning him.
Osberht could see the terror on the faces of the Fyrd and they began to move backwards. He left the front rank and beseeched them to stand and fight. He had his back to the Britons and did not see the arc of fire that shot towards him, engulfing him in bright flame. The Fyrd turned and ran. For the Fyrd, facing a Shield wall was difficult enough, they were mostly farmers or hunters but facing scinncræft was too much and they fled.
The Brothers were with the Fyrd and although terrified ran to Osberht and tried to put out the fires. They wrapped him in a cloak and rolled him on the ground. Taethle made the decision to retreat too. She was now outnumbered at least three to one and although her warriors would probably have fought and died for her, she thought living to fight another day was a better option at this point.
She ordered the warriors to retreat slowly to provide cover for the Hrothgarsons as they carried Osberht wrapped in a cloak towards the trees. The British moved forward but Anyon could not convince them to charge and they were content to hurl javelins and abuse at their retreating foes. Fortunately, no further flame engulfed Taethle or her men but the advancing Britons were getting closer. Eventually when she saw the Brothers had made it to the trees, Taethle gave the order to run and the Shield Wall broke. The Britons followed. Some of the Saxons were caught but most escaped into the forest to regroup at Caedering.
Taethle knew that she did not have much time before the Britons arrived. She sent scouts into the woods in all directions. She ordered the woman and children to go to the safety of Caelctun and sent a guard of ten men of the Fyrd. The rest she organised to defend Caedering.
Osberht still lived but he was badly burnt over his body. She sent him to Caelctun with Eadgyd to look after him. Eadgyd gathered as much butter and animal fat as she could and covered the burns. Meire helped her and gave Osberht a sleeping draught that allowed him some peace. His groans were causing the children to cry. Meire also prepared some water that she had in a crystal phial collected from her pool far in the north and gave it to him as he slept.
It was not long before the scouts returned and hard on their heels were the British warriors. The Britons formed up in four Shield walls and Anyon could be seen exhorting them to attack. Taethle had her warriors behind the palisade on the fighting platform and encouraged them to defend their village.
The British attacked along the length of the wall hoping that the defenders had not enough warriors to defend it and would be disheartened by the burning of their Thane. Their first attack was easily repulsed with some loss on both sides. The Britons took some time to regroup and Anyon led them in another charge. Taethle had learnt from the first attack and had stiffened the Fyrd with her own warriors where the fighting was fiercest. The Britons suffered severe losses and the Saxons held firm.
The Britons regrouped and contented themselves with burning and looting the buildings outside the palisade. Dunstan was annoyed that their new house had been burnt but consoled himself that things could have been worse.
Wulfhere noticed that 20-30 Britons left the main group and went through the forest to Caelctun. He told Taethle and they were concerned that although they could hold against the enemy in Caedering, Caelctun only had ten of the Fyrd and all their women and children.
Taethle reckoned they were still outnumbered at least three to one, but she admitted it was hard to count through the smoke of burning buildings. She knew that they were trapped. They could hold here for weeks as they had enough food and water but they could not get out. She discussed what needed to be done with the Brothers. Caedering was likely to hold, however Caelctun was weak and could easily be overwhelmed.
It was agreed that Wulfhere would lead three men and try to get to Caelctun to help organise the defence. Taethle thought only 20-30 lightly armed troops had gone towards Caelctun and they were likely to be the British Fyrd. The Fyrd were good to make up numbers but could not be relied upon to attack fortified positions. Uthric volunteered to try and get to Cerdic in Portus Caester and get reinforcements. He was the best woodsman in Caedering and thought he could get past the enemy or outrun them if he was seen. Now that Garm was dead he thought he was the fastest runner in the three villages.
Wulfhere was worried about getting into Caelctun. His plan was to climb the cliff face that did not have a pallisade and he expected that one or two of them would fall to their deaths but thought the risk was worth it. Dunstan agreed that he would stay in Caedering and help lead the Warriors. With Osberht badly injured it would allow Taethle to provide a steadying influence for the Fyrd and to organise them into defensive groups.
Uthric used the second attack as cover to slip over the walls and into the forest. He was seen by some scouts but used his knowledge of the game trails to outdistance them. He went south hoping to get to the old people’s road to the east of the north-south junction. If the road was clear he hoped to run to Pontus Caester and arrive after nightfall. If the road was blocked by British warriors, he could go through the southern forest. It would be safer but longer. When he got to the road he travelled west but near the junction he saw 30-50 British warriors over 1000 paces away. He ran south and disappeared into the forest. They saw him but only made a half-hearted attempt to chase him.
Wulfhere used the same attack to slip out through the woods. Fortunately, the scouts didn't chase him but followed Uthric. He and his three companions made their way north going down the rock face near Caedering by an old and twisting path and turning east to follow the cliff face towards Caelctun. There was smoke rising above them when they got to Caelctun but they could not see what was happening above. They cautiously climbed the cliff face. The defenders heard them climbing but recognised them and threw down ropes to help climbing over the more difficult parts.
The British outside had not attempted to attack. Taethle had probably been right, they were lightly armed Fyrd. Most lacked a helmet or armour and some had no shield. There were even one or two who had scythes or mattocks instead of spears. They had contented themselves with burning buildings outside the palisade and watching the defenders. Wulfhere decided that he would arm everyone in Caelctun to pretend they had more warriors than they had. He asked the women to put on helmets and to wear men’s clothing. He told them the idea would be to fool the enemy until help came. He hoped that they would not need to defend the walls as he doubted they could resist an attack.
Wulfhere found that his situation was more complicated by the fact his mother had gone into labour and was likely to give birth soon. He therefore ordered every woman who was not giving birth unto the walls and the men he organised into a small mobile group to go to wherever there was an attack. He tried to count the enemy but was not sure of the numbers because of the smoke. He had to be content to wait and see what happened. He thought that as a last resort if the walls were breached he should try to get as many as possible to escape down the cliff face. He ordered ropes to be found and attached to allow women and children to escape while he and the warriors made a last stand.
Meanwhile in Caedering, Dunstan was discussing if they should try to make a sally if the conditions were right. In three attacks on the wall the defenders had killed or injured over 30 enemy for the loss of three injured on their side. Dunstan and Taethle thought the odds might be more even now. They hoped that if they could keep the majority of the enemy here then Caelctun would be safe. Dunstan worried what would happen if Anyon attacked Caelctun and captured the woman and children. and how that might impact on the husbands and fathers in Caedering.
At sundown a tired Uthric approached the guards at Stuf's Hall and demanded urgent admittance. The guards refused him but fortunately Stuf heard the commotion and come out, sword in hand, to find out what was happening. Uthric named himself and said that he had travelled from Caedering in the north for most of the day and had important information to give. Stuf recognised him and told the guards to let him through.
Uthric told him of the events in Glawmaed and the retreat to Caedering and Caelctun. Stuf was quick to assess the situation. He agreed that Uthric could take
forty warriors north to help at Caedering. He asked about the location of the British Burgh and its defences. He said that he would move against that as it was likely to be denuded of troops if so many were in Glawmaed, Caedering and Caelctun. Uthric tried to explain were the British Burgh was but became confused about distances and locations. In the end Stuf grew impatient and said he would follow the Moen and he was sure that he would eventually come across it.
At Caelctun Wulfhere saw that the Britons were massing for an attack. He brought forward the men of the Fyrd and placed them opposite the British forces. The War Leader was marshalling his troops, talking, cajoling and intimidating the men to get them to attack. It looked to Wulfhere that the Britons were reluctant and he thought that a good thing. He knew that the defenders could be easily overwhelmed if the enemy attacked at different points. If they managed to get over the palisade it was likely that all the defenders would die. Fortunately, their general reluctance to fight meant he knew where they would attack and could reinforce that with his Fyrd.
After several hours of cajoling the Britons moved forward to attack. It was a rather half-hearted attempt and they were easily repulsed after a few were killed or injured for no loss to the defenders. Wulfhere was heartened by the defence and was of the opinion the War Leader was unlikely to get his men to attack again.
Uthric was travelling north and was occupied by the thought of how he might deal with the troops at the road junction. He was concerned that even with his forty Warriors he knew that he was likely to be outnumbered. Therefore, his plan was that they should attack with surprise. Unfortunately, there was no way he could sneak up on the enemy without being seen therefore he thought that he needed to set an ambush in the forest and get the Britons to come to him. He arranged his warriors inside the forest and together with two volunteers went towards the road junction but could find no trace of the enemy. Uthric wondered if they had gone to Hamafunta and he thought it might be a good thing to keep Coelfrith on his toes. He thought briefly about going up the road to Glawmaed but decided that it would be best to go to Caedering to help with the defence.
In Caedering, Dunstan found his opportunity to counter-attack. Some of the enemy troops had left and there seemed to be less outside the palisade. He agreed with Taethle that he would take the warriors outside and form a Shield wall. Taethle would use the Fyrd to guard the gate and act as a rear-guard should Dunstan’s troops be forced to retreat or be defeated. The enemy formed an opposing Shield Wall and to stall for time Dunstan left the front rank and offered a challenge of individual combat to anyone who would accept it. He was not disappointed when Anyon stepped out to take up the challenge.
Dunstan watched him approach and wondered if he had done the right thing. Anyon seemed confident and capable. He handled his weapons well and wore better armour than Dunstan. He thought if he received a death blow here he would miss out on a lot of things he planned to do. He was somewhat discouraged by his thoughts.
No words passed between them as they traded blows. Anyon was quickest and he hit Dunstan twice as often as Dunstan hit him. Dunstan knew he was in trouble. Anyon’s blows came in faster and although Dunstan parried his shield was slowly falling apart. Anyon thrust hard with his spear at Dunstan's head. Anyon had used the same killing stroke hundreds of times but to his astonishment his spear missed. Dunstan had stumbled on a tussock and the stumble had saved his life. Anyon had put all his strength behind the thrust expecting the resistance as the spear entered Dunstan's eye and into the brain but instead he overextended and pulled a muscle in his arm.
Dunstan's riposte should have been parried but Anyon was blinded by his helmet and the spear tip cut open his arm to the elbow. Anyon fell and the chin strap of his helmet broke blinding him. Dunstan accepting his luck speared Anyon in the chest.
He had barely time to celebrate his victory. Rather than be dismayed the Britons were incensed by Anyon's death and charged forward to protect the body of their fallen leader. Dunstan's comrades pulled him back to the safety of the Shield Wall and the Saxons counter-changed the British. Both Shield-Walls met with a sickening clash. Dunstan thought later that the British had not kept their discipline as they charged. Their shields must not have been overlapping for the Saxons penetrated deeply into the British formation causing twice as many casualties. The British held but were pushed back and the Saxons moved forward. There was a wall of dead and dying men and the ground was slippery with blood which made it treacherous to maintain balance and fight. Almost by mutual consent both walls drew apart. Dunstan took the pause in fighting as an opportunity to move back towards the gate thinking that he had achieved his aim. The British leader was dead and they had made the Britons less confident of victory by pushing their Shield-Wall back.
Dunstan noticed the Drýicge was beginning to light a fire and he remembered what had happened to Osberht at Glawmaed. He feared that the battle would be lost through scinncræft. He shouted at Taethle that she should charge the Britons with the Fyrd as he exhorted his own warriors to change formation into the Swine's head. Dunstan said later that he was glad that the warriors had not seen the Drýicge at her work or else they may not have charged.
Dunstan’s Swineshead smashed into the British Shield wall seconds before Taethle’s Fyrd hit them in the flank. The Britons disintegrated under the impact and their cohesion feel apart. Most turned and fled while screaming Saxons hunted and killed them as they ran through the forest. When Dunstan had time to look for the Drýicge, she had disappeared. He let his men hunt the scattered Britons through the forest before recalling them with a horn blast. They had been frustrated at hiding behind the palisade and vented their anger on the panicking Britons.
Taethle congratulated Dunstan. He had won a famous victory by quick thinking and resolute action. She said she doubted if she could have done better herself. She thought that Dunstan was on his way to be a great War Leader despite being so young. She did think however that he might need to work on encouraging his men to attack the enemy Shield-wall. Dunstan had attempted to give a rousing speech to inspire the men. He admitted that perhaps he had been trying too hard and it had been over the heads of most of the men. Taethle suggested that simple messages are often best as the men can repeat them. She suggested that something like ‘killing the enemy’ or perhaps ‘defending your families’ are generally good. She thought that invoking the need to protect the cows was generally not a moral boosting topic and the average warrior did not care if the withies would be destroyed. But she felt it was important to try these things out and she had no doubt with more practice he would improve.
The warriors were tired after their fight and glad to be alive. They were dismayed when another War Band appeared out of the forest. Dunstan rallied the men and pushed them into the Shield-wall to face their new foe. They relaxed when they realised the new Warband were Saxons led by Uthric. Dunstan went to greet his brother, who he thought did not look pleased about something.
Uthric said that he thought it would have been polite of Dunstan to wait until he arrived and let him join in the fun of the battle. He complained that he had run all the way to Portus Caester and had come back only to find out he wasn't needed. He had encouraged the warriors to move faster with stories of silver and fame to be won. He now had to tell them the fight was over and he was not sure he could find the right words to be able to help them with their disappointment.
Dunstan said that they were unlikely to be disappointed for long because they could soon have another opportunity to fight. He told Uthric of the War band that he believed to be at Caelctun and noted that smoke was now rising ominously from the direction of the village. He said he had a bad feeling about events there which might mar their victory in Caedering.
Uthric was concerned that Meire, his son and mother were all in Caelctun and he hoped he would not be too late. He told his men to wait under the trees and went forward alone to see what lay ahead. The scene that met him was one of devastation. Buildings were burning and there was a line of dead men set out in a row. Uthric was relieved to see defenders still on the walls and was surprised to see so many having been told by Dunstan that there were less than ten of the Fyrd defending Caelctun.
He estimated that he was facing a Warband of about 50 men but only some were formed up in a line facing Caelctun. Over half were sitting on the grass resting. He suspected that he could bring his own warriors through the forest under the cover of the smoke and charge the enemy, catching them before they had a chance to react.
Uthric had the Warband form up in a rough shield wall on the edge of the forest. He knew that in charging over the intervening ground to engage the enemy, they would not hold their shape but he was banking that he could catch the enemy by surprise. He was helped by the fact that the defenders started banging their spears on their shields which distracted the enemy.
The enemy had still not seen Uthric's War band but they were beginning to form a Shield wall in reaction to the noise from the palisade and whatever threat the defenders of Caelctun were planning. Uthric drove his warriors forward only screaming their war cries in the final seconds before the War bands crashed together. Uthric had told the men nearest him to target the big man who was organising the enemy War band. He thought that if they could kill the leader the rest would lose heart and flee. The Britons barely reacted to the charging Saxons and those that turned only saw death. Uthric’s men howled as they killed and they cut down the War Leader. The British lines disintegrated and the Saxons killed those that were too slow to run away.
Uther and Wulfhere greeted when the battle had finished. Wulfhere told of the defence of Caelctun and how he had been unsure if they would survive. Uthric embraced Meire and their son Hrothgar. He discovered that Hildegard had given him another new brother who she had named Beorthric. Wulfhere thought that Dunstan might have something to say about this situation.
Wulfhere appointed Modig War leader and returned with Uthric and his Warband to Caedering. They met with Taethle and she informed them that she was keen that they keep the momentum and press their advantage with an attack on Glawmaed. None of them were sure how many of the British force remained. They thought they could account for over 120 men dead or defeated and they still worried that the Drýicge had not been found. She could yet turn a victory into a horrible defeat.
Uthric thought that now they were safe from attack he should tell Wulfhere that he had seen a man wearing the enamelled broach Wulfhere had bought for Bronwyn. Wulfhere was silent and admitted he was worried that Bronwyn may have met her death. He thought that a second such loss of a woman he was betrothed to did not bode well. He wondered if the gods were perhaps trying to tell him something. Uthric said that she was probably well and had just been imprisoned. The Britons did not generally kill women and children. Wulfhere reminded him that Anyon would have been perfectly aware that she was Connal's daughter and he might have made an exception for her. He also pointed out that the Drýicge had no such compunction about killing people. He hoped that Bronwyn's head was not on a stake. Uthric said he hoped that it would be the same for Connal and Lucnot but he had little hope for either of them.
Taethle gathered all the warriors and the Fyrd together and told them they had one more battle to defeat the Britons and free Glawmaed. She promised that after that they would have peace for a while and their families would be safe. The warriors cheered and even the Fyrd seemed to be keen to go into battle. Dunstan thought that he could learn for Taethle's speech.
Taethle divided the men into three separate groups. Uthric kept the men Stuf had lent him. Dunstan and Wulfhere commanded Taethle's warriors and Taethle commanded the Fyrd. She told the brothers that she would keep the Fyrd as a back-up should either Warband get in trouble and need reinforcements.
They approached Glawmaed as quickly as possible. They were concerned that if their approach was too slow it would give time for the Drýicge to use her magic on them. They had remembered how devastating it had been for Osberht and were not at all keen that one of them would be her next target. Taethle had difficulty in getting the Fyrd to advance as they also remembered the Drýicge’s fire magic and they lagged behind the two Warbands of warriors. In the event it did not matter. Although there were over 50 Britons present at Glawmaed they ran as soon as they saw the Saxon Warbands.
They liberated the Glawmaed captives who had been held in the Chieftain's Hall. Bronwyn was among the released prisoners and she was glad to see Wulfhere. Her father had been killed by Anyon along with other village leaders. She was not sure where Lucnot was. He had escaped the original assault and she hoped that he was in the forest with some of the other men.
After a brief conference, Taethle sent the Brothers and 50 warriors towards the Burgh on the Moen River. She suspected that Stuf may have already attacked it but she thought that he may need help. As was usual for strangers in the forest of Moen, the Warband quickly became lost and after a quarter of a day’s march they found themselves at the strange pool with the wildflowers and butterflies. Dunstan suggested that they all put some hack silver in the pond and be careful not to trample the flowers. He warned the warriors that they should not attempt to take any of the treasure from the pool. He and Uthric stood guard to make sure no-one attempted it.
After they gave the silver, the way became easier and they made good time. They began to come across bodies of dead Britons as they got closer to the Burgh. Eventually they ran into some of Stuf’s warriors who took them to him. Stuf was glad to see them and asked for their news. They told him of the battles they had fought, the death of Anyon and the escape of the Drýicge. Stuf told them he had found the Burgh which the Britons had called Llys to be lightly guarded. He was of the opinion that Anyon had too high a view of his own abilities and little tactical or strategic sense. He had risked everything in an all-out attack and had failed.
Stuf said that they now had now an opportunity to expand to the north which they would accept with open arms. First though they needed to deal with Dumnonia They all looked across the Moen. Dumnonia was a rich, plump land and they were all keen to re-distribute those riches to the poor Saxons who were not so fortunate.
Stuf told them that he would leave warriors at Llys under the command of a Thane called Arnod and that they were to send the warriors he had lent Uthric to Arnod as soon as possible. Wulfhere said that there was still a considerable threat from the Britons and perhaps it would be useful to keep 20 in case of further raids. Stuf agreed.
He said that Wulfhere could act as Thane of Glawmaed until Cerdic made a decision. The Brothers should come to see him for Yule feast.