Joined: 20 Jan 2006
|Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:39 pm Post subject: The Anglo-Saxon chronicles - part 1
|The thegn Aeldward led six boys of his cynn into Cynwine’s longhouse in the town of Sleswick to present them before the Cyning. They were:
Wulfwine – An Arian Christian. Strong, handsome and sober. Skilled in battle and a fine orator (Cam).
Aelfrith – A large, mean-spirited and arrogant boy who looked like a devil, but played the harp like an angel (Mike).
Aethelgild – a good-natured energetic fellow, fond of drink and food and the son of the Ealdoman Aescwald (Tim).
Geat – a ceorl. Strong, brave and a tremendous horseman (Geoff).
Oslaf – a tall, handsome and lusty thegn. So of the Gerefa Oswg. Descended from the god Ing (Angus)
Arawiig – another ceorl. Weak and clumsy, but extremely generous (Nik).
The boys had been chosen to travel to Ingen with Frithwald, Cwichelm’s greatest hunter, to track Eald Beornheah, the Old Man of the Forest. This creature was an ancient and fearsome bear, who had once taken Cyning Cynwine’s eye. It was the Cyning’s wish that Eald Beornheah would be served as the featured dish to farewell for Cwichelm, Cyning of Husum, and others who had decided to make a new home for themselves in Britain.
As the boys waited for their audience they overheard Cwichelm’s thegn Uxfrea trying to persuade the Cyning to join his Saxon brothers in Britain. Uxfrea promised that the Britons’ were soft and their land arable and ripe for the taking. While he spoke the scop Heordberht sang sweets song of Britain which promised much. The old Cyning’s adder-drapped Godere, Leofsige, whispered to him from the shadows and appeared to convince Cynwine that he and his people should remain in Sleswick.
Once Uxfrea and the scop were led away the boys were introduced to the Cyning and given a place at the long table which filled the hall.
Frithwald woke the boys early the next morning, his moustache still stained with mead from the night before. He instructed them to gather some theows who were to travel with them. The boys gathered the slaves and then mounted their horses and joined the hunter.
The theows began to have problems wrangling the hunting dogs once they entered the forest and when Frithwald observed the tracks of a red deer he decided to take the boys on a hunt while the dogs were bought back under control. He raced off, leaving the boys to straggle behind in his wake. Most of the boys managed to follow him, although a couple fell behind and lost the trail. Aelfrith and Wulfwine were the first to find Frithwald and the deer, and the three of them slew it quickly.
The next day the hunt for the Eald Beornheah began in earnest. Wulfwine was the one who found his trail, and Frithwald was proud of the boy. The great bear was tracked quickly. The Eald Beornheah did not flee when the Saxons came upon him, but instead turned and attacked. Frithwald was sent flying backwards by a swipe of the great bear’s paw, blood spraying from a rent in his tunic. The boys rushed to protect the wounded hunter and drew their great axes. Although the bear was strong, he could not stand against six such strong Saxon arms and the axes they wielded.
The boys’ cries of triumph deafened the trees. The theows were bought up and instructed to carve the great beast into joints which could be carried back to Sleswick. However, before they could be set to work the sound of men could be heard. On a hilltop above the boys and the slaves a man bearing a great spear appeared and swore an oath in the Danish tongue when he saw them. He ran back over the hill and some of the boys set off in pursuit. From the rise they were shocked to see Danish ships beached in the inlet and hundreds of Danish warriors marching in the direction of Sleswick. Amongst them was a wolf the size of a horse which struggled wildly against the chains which bound him.
Arniig and Wulfwine ran to their horses and made all haste for Sleswick. Aelfrith and Aethelgild instead raced for a signal fire at a nearby lookout while Geat instructed the theows to bind the bear for transporting. But one of the slaves, a Dane, instead made a dash to join his compatriots. Geat threw a spear and felled the runaway with a single blow.
Four Danes rushed up the hill to prevent Aelfrith and Athelgild from lighting the signal fire. Oslaf and Geat abandoned the bear and the theows and rushed to protect their friends. Aelfrith was struck unconscious by a Danish blow and Aethelgild was also badly injured, but their friends fought the warriors off and set the fire ablaze.
The signal fire alight, the boys began to ride to Sleswick, but had to move slowly because of Aelfrith and Aethelgild’s wounds. Ahead of them the unencumbered Arnwiig and Wulfwine rode like the wind, but could not beat the first wave of Danes. They arrived in time to see Danish warriors bursting into the town.
Arnwiig and Wulfwine raced into Sleswick and made their way to the Cyning’s longhouse. They overheard Oxfrea urging Cynwine to withdraw and to join the migration to Britain.
A Dane appeared around a corner and Wulfwine charged him, the boy slaying the full-grown warrior with a single blow. The boy barely had a chance to relish his first kill though, before a second foe felled him with a blow to the head. The boy collapsed unconscious.
As Aelfrith, Aethelgild, Geat and Oslaf approached their home they first heard the sounds of battle, and then observed a number of their countrymen fleeing west. The boys decided to split up. The wounded Aelfrith and Aethelgild would just prove a hindrance in battle, so those two decided to head west towards Imber – where they would await either their friends or news of their demise. Geat and Oslaf continued towards Sleswick in the hope of protecting the town, or failing that, to kill as many Danes as they could before they were overcome.
Geat and Oslaf arrived in the town as eight Danes reached the Cyning’s longhouse.
In the longhouse Arnwiig stepped forward to defend his Cyning while Uxbrea attacked the Danes like a man possessed. His limbs stretched longer, his veins bulged, his feet turned backwards and black liquid squirted from his head as he fought – and five of the Danes met their end at the tip of his spear. Uxbrea’s heroism was not enough though, there were too many Danes and Cyning Cynwine fell to their spears.
As the old Cyning fell, Arnwiig took up his famous spear and slew another Dane with a single mighty blow.
Geat and Oslaf then arrived and the remaining Danes retreated, but the boys knew that any respite was only temporary. It was becoming clear that the battle was lost. While they wondered what to do Oslaf and the scop Heordberht calmed the raging Uxbrea.
A howl was heard. Arnwiig peered around the corner of the longhouse and saw the mighty wolf they had seen earlier tearing limbs from one Saxon warrior with its teeth and swatting aside others with its paws as if they were fleas.
In a last gesture of defiance Arnwiig hurled the famous Ecgswith, Spear of Thunor and weapon of the fallen Cyning, at the great beast. The weapon sang through the air and impaled the beast through its jaw. The creature looked confused for a second and raised a paw to its slavering mouth before slumping to the ground. Danish warriors howled their dismay and anger and the boys took the opportunity this pause afforded to gather the fallen Wulfwine and fled their home as fires began to take hold of some of the buildings.
All six of the boys were reunited in Imber. They then joined the exodus of their countrymen to the West. As the people fled the ravening Danes, stories of Britain; her riches; and her lazy, indolent inhabitants were told and retold. Arriving at the port of Husum the people of Sleswick were quick to take up the offer their Cyning had rejected, and to join the great migration to Britain.
Arnwiig. Wulfwine Aelfrith, Aethelgild, Geat and Oslaf joined the crew of a longboat. Wind and waves lashed their faces as they stared hungrily to the West. Few even bothered to turn as Humber vanished into the mist and rain behind them. Their eyes were too busy straining forward to catch a first glimpse of their new home.
My favourite roleplaying memory - "Daisy at Colonus", two drunk cowboys and a pantomime cow in a 'reinterpretation' of Sophocles greatest play.