Under The Hrafnsmerki
Now, finally it would be his turn for glory. As he watched the waves lapping up against the prow of his dragon ship he fantasized that the bow of his ship was his army, and the sea that parted before it was the enemy. He grinned as he contemplated that just as his ship cut through these waves, so too would his warriors slice through the Wessex army destroying them all.
Ubba had already enjoyed much success in battle with his brother Ivar. Together, thirteen years before, they had invaded East Anglia, and the very next year captured the town of York. A year later they succeeded in defending the town against the Northumbrian commanders Aella and Osberht, killing them both in the process. Then in 869, with some help from Halfdan, the brothers defeated the army of the East Anglican King Edmund at Thetford in November of that same year.
Though he had led divisions of the Great Heathen Army into battle he seldom received the glory and honor that his brothers had gained. Now, however, with Guthrum allowing him to lead twelve hundred men on his own to Devon, aboard twenty three ships, he at long last had a chance to outshine his brothers by helping Guthrum to defeat their toughest enemy in Britain, King Alfred of Wessex. After he vanquished the English in Devon he would then head east chasing King Alfred into the clutches of Guthrum. And when all was said and done the Danes would rule from Northumbria to the southernmost tip of Wessex ! And his name would be etched on rune stones to honor his exploits, and his glorious deeds would be remembered forever.
Ubba stepped down from the bow of the ship and walked back to the stern. Patrekr offered him the tiller, but the commander of the army shook his head letting his subordinate know that he was not ready to resume the role of steersman of the long ship. For he had come to the stern of the ship for another reason.
Ubba opened the chest and carefully removed the Hrafnsmerki that his sisters had made for him. As he held the flag out in front of him the sea breeze caught hold of the material and blew it away from him allowing it to flutter proudly in the wind. Ubba smiled when he noticed that the flapping of the flag made the raven seem as though it would take flight and fly off the Hrafnsmerki.
" If only a Wessex fleet would sail out to attack us. Then I could test the witch's victory spell ! " he whispered to himself.
After a long moment the commander of the Heathen Army carefully refolded the Hrafnsmerki and placed it back into the chest.
" No need to use up any of its magic here at sea ! " he told himself as he once again locked the chest.
Ubba was about to get himself a drink from the water barrel when he heard the words that every seaman longs to hear.
" Land ahead commander ! LAND AHEAD !! " the warrior yelled out gleefully.
Ubba ran back to the bow of his ship and carefully studied the distant shoreline to his left. There he saw a rocky shore with a rounded hill above it. Landing there could be dangerous, especially if the Wessex forces were waiting for them on the hill above. As he scanned the horizon a more promising section of the coast to land on appeared to the west. There, a narrow but sandy beach reached out into the bay. It looked as if would be perfect for beaching their warships !
When the commander of the army looked further west he spotted something even more intriguing. A small waterway appeared to penetrate into the Wessex countryside. Ubba was already thinking that if this river turned east he could possibly use this waterway to move his warriors inland to either build a base camp or possibly even get behind any forces that might be using the hills to the east as a defensive fortification.
" Steer towards the beach to the west Patrekr ! " Ubba yelled back to his second in command.
Yes, my lord ! " he obediently shouted back.
As they neared the beach the Danes noticed that a group of English warriors, probably Thanes of King Alfred, were gathering there to meet them. Ubba immediately called for his warriors, the first thirty in each ship, to make a shield wall to cover the rowers in case the English decided to shoot arrows at his ships as they approached. The precaution was warranted as it turned out, for the Wessex warriors let loose a barrage of arrows at his ships, which angered Ubba greatly.
" Cowards ! Do you see how these inferior people are afraid to fight us fairly ! We will brave their arrows, and show them the sharp steel of our swords when we reach their beach ! " he assured his men.
Ubba turned and yelled back to Oddkell, his best archer, and pointed toward the English bastards.
" I wish to capture one of those creatures ! Injure an Englishman so he cannot flee ! " he commanded his archer.
Oddkell made his way to the bow of the ship, and aimed at a target through a small opening in the shield wall. When he was ready he signaled his fellow warriors and they dropped their shields to give him a clear shot. Once the arrow was let loose the shield wall went back up once again protecting him, and the rowers, who pulled with all of their might to reach the shore as quickly as possible.
Ubba laughed as the Thane fell on the beach.
" Were you aiming for the groin ? " he asked.
Oddkell could not help but grin at Ubba.
" My lord, you asked me to stop him from fleeing,.... and he does not appear to be going anywhere. " he told Ubba happily.
Ubba slapped Oddkell on the back and was about to congratulate him when their long ship ran aground on the beach. Without delay, and with a deafening roar, all sixty warriors jumped over the side of the ship, running though the surf, and across the sand, towards the English warriors. At first it appeared as if they would stand their ground, but when a second , and then a third long ship dispersed its cargo of Danes onto the beach most of the Wessex warriors broke and ran, leaving only a small contingent of men to face them.
As the Englishmen ran away Ubba walked over to the injured Thane and place the point of his sword up against the man's neck.
" Tell me what I want to know and I will let you live ! " he told the terrified warrior.
" Everything my lord,... I will tell you everything that you wish to know ! " he replied through gritted teeth that reflected his agony.
" What is this placed called ? " Ubba asked.
" It is known as Lynmouth, in Devon, my lord ! " he replied, trying not to writhe to much from his pain.
" Where is the local army camped ? " Ubba then asked.
The injured warrior pointed to the east.
" We have fortified Wind Hill, my lord. " he answered reluctantly
Ubba looked off to the west, but left his sword point against the warriors neck.
" Does that river just west of here flow behind this,... " Wind Hill " ? " he asked eagerly.
The Thane lowered his eyes in shame.
" Yes, my lord, it does. " he told the commander of the Danes.
" Thank You ! " Ubba told the man as he drove the point of his sword through the man's neck killing him.
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : All Alone !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.