Under The Hrafnsmerki
Like A Hammer Dropping On An Anvil
Patrekr fully understood that they did not have to defeat the enemy in their front, but instead simply had to hold them off long enough for Ubba to surround the hilltop fortress from the south. Then these Britains would be trapped in place and would not dare to attack for fear of being wiped out. Patrekr was not too concerned also because he did not hear or see any movements inside the fortress in his front.
Odda and Edred directed their warriors, many of whom were inexperienced, to the north wall. Both instructed their men and women to keep their heads low and insisted, under penalty of death, that they be absolutely quiet. Each informed their warriors that every sound they made could, and would, cost their army more lives in the coming battle. If the Heathens knew they were coming they would be ready waiting.
" Surprise is the key that will unlock our victory this day ! " Odda whispered to his warriors as they quietly filed passed.
Edred tried to be as confident of victory as his commander, but it was hard not to be skeptical as their brave Wessex men and women made their way into place. Unlike the Danes, who carried fine swords, shields, spears, and long axes, some of their peasant farmers had only pitchforks, hammers and small axes with which to fight with. And almost none of the peasants had shields to defend themselves.
While Edred saw only the inadequacies in the Wessex army, Odda looked into the eyes of each man and woman who had moved passed him to the wall. On their faces he saw a determination and tenacity that his subordinate had missed. And in their eyes he gleaned the bravery in their souls that gave him the confidence to order his army over the wall.
" For God and kingdom ! " he screamed as he rose up and jumped over the wall to lead his army forward.
Patrekr, as were most of the Danes, was sitting and relaxing in his place in line when suddenly a loud roar came from the fortress above him. The hoots and hollers, from many voices, were so so loud and alarming that it quickly awakened the several Danish warriors who had dozed off in the afternoon sunshine. Patrekr's men, though startled by the sudden appearance of the oncoming English horde, were able to form up in battle ranks before the Wessex army was halfway to their position. As the commander, of his division of Ubba's army watched the enemy approach, he could not help but notice that they looked more like a mob than an army. What worried Patrekr, however, was not how they looked, but how many of them were still streaming over the wall even as the first wave reached their position.
The Wessex army came down upon the front line of the Heathens like a hammer dropping on an anvil. Unfortunately the affect was more like a great wave crashing upon a beach. And much as a wave dissipates, and then recedes, so did the Englishmen,.... at least at first. The age old adage that there is strength in numbers was most appropriate on this sunny Wessex afternoon. While the first waves of the Wessex army were quickly brushed aside the enemy's numerical superiority of nearly five to one soon became a burden far too much for Patrekr's small force to handle.
It quickly became apparent to Patrekr that his warriors were in trouble. Despite the wisdom of his arrow-shaped defensive posture, which allowed him to stack his warriors six to eight men deep, the enemy's relentless onslaught was beginning to thin out his ranks, and in several places the Britains had already forced their way through. Patrekr almost laughed out loud when he thought of how Norse skalds spoke of battlefields running red with blood. He had always considered that line of their poetic diction to be a great exaggeration, but as he looked down to pull his sword out of a Wessex warrior, he saw a small stream of blood hit his boot and flow down on both sides of his foot. Though lulled into inaction by what he saw for only a short moment it was long enough for a thrown axe to hit him square in the forehead which split his skull wide open, killing him instantly.
Patrekr never felt his men carrying him back into the relative safety of the center of their position, not did he witness his lines folding back upon themselves until only two choices remained for the Danes. And when it came down to dying in battle, or surrendering to the enemy, they all chose the former. In the end only one Heathen remained standing. Wielding two large axes, he held off twenty times his number until Odda ordered his warriors to back away from the battle-crazed Beserker. Archers were ordered forward, and as they loosed their lethal arrows at their target this enraged warrior raised his axes to the heavens and screamed for everyone to hear.
" Odin ! I am Ormsteinn, son of Harald, set a place for me at your tables in the golden halls of Valhalla ! "
Ormsteinn stood defiantly erect for a few moments with at least a dozen arrows sticking out of his body. When a final arrow struck him in the face the great warrior fell backward like a felled tree. Despite the severity of his wounds, in death, Ormsteinn still held on firmly to his weapons.
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : The Hrafnsmerki Falls
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.