Under The Hrafnsmerki
Ubba Splits His Forces
Ubba felt supremely confident as he sailed out of Lynmouth Bay, and into the Lyn river. By morning he would have the fortress on Wind Hill surrounded, and with the knowledge that he had recently obtained from torturing a Wessex peasant, he now knew that the fortress had no source of fresh water within its confines. All he had to do was lay siege to the fortification and wait them out. He had already decided that should they surrender he would be generous and kill only the leaders, but if the Wessex army attacked he would crush the thirsty warriors, killing them to the last man.
However, if the Ealdorman Odda abandoned the fortress before he arrived, and retreated into the woods, he would chase them through the Countisbury countryside all the way to the Mercian border if necessary. Whichever strategy the Wessex leader chose his Danes would quickly and completely destroy them before moving north to meet up with Guthrum's army to defeat Alfred the king of Wessex.
After sailing approximately a mile into the Devon countryside the Lyn river split. One source headed south and west, while the other headed east. As he pulled the tiller hard to steer his ship east, Ubba could not help but notice that the wind died down to a barely perceptible breeze. As their sails went limp he ordered his men to break out their oars and begin rowing up river.
Ubba also gave his men a stern warning.
" Pull your oars as quietly as you can ! We do not want these Christians to hear us coming ! " he commanded his men.
As Ubba's ship glided up the Lyn river toward the rear of the hill fortress, his eyes scanned the surrounding countryside for anyone who might be monitoring the movements of his vessels. He relaxed a little when he did not see anyone in the hills, or on the farms that bordered both sides of the river, but he kept up his vigilance none the less.
" It appears that these Wessex cowards have all scurried into their hilltop fortress like frightened mice ! How convenient to have them all trapped in one place ! " he whispered to himself with a smile.
Unfortunately for Ubba the people of Wessex knew this land far better than he. Odda's scouts secretly tracked and reported every move and position of his ships back to the Ealdorman of Devon without ever being seen. The commander of the Wessex army was apprised of where the Danes were at all times and was well aware of what they were doing.
The river became shallower when it changed from a southerly course to one that was almost due east. This did not, however, hamper the progress of Ubba's long ships which were built to sail on waters with a shallow draft. What Ubba was concerned about was the fact that the waterway was becoming narrower in this section, and that a small band of Wessex archers could suddenly appear and rain down arrows upon his ships. He was sure that he could easily run them off, but he did not want to waste time chasing them away. Ubba wanted to arrive undetected at night so that Odda and his warriors awoke the next morning to find themselves completely surrounded.
The commander of the Heathen army need not have worried. No one arrived to harass them in this narrow stretch of the water, and when the Lyn river turned north it widened giving them slightly more protection from archers, provided they stayed in the center of the waterway.
The Danes reached the northern most point on the river just as midnight fell over the Wessex kingdom. With a confidence that rivaled that of his father Ragnar when he laid siege to Paris, Ubba beached his ships, left a small contingent of men behind to guard them, and headed on foot with his army north to the base of Wind Hill. Once again, to his great satisfaction, and relief, he did not come upon any of the Wessex folk. Now, however, despite his army seemingly being alone in the dark he had the uneasy feeling that they were being watched.
Carefully, and quietly, Ubba personally positioned his men around the southern end of the fort. He ordered them to be quiet, and to the dismay of his warriors he refused to allow them to light any fires to warm themselves against the cool damp Wessex night. Ubba was absolutely determined that Odda be totally surprised when he awoke the next morning, and if it meant being uncomfortable for one night,... well,... so be it !
What Ubba did not know, however, was that his well thought out plan had already been severely altered by the enemy !
- End Chapter 7
- Next : Chapter 8 : " Glory Waits For No One ! "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.