Vikings: Revenge (The Great Heathen Army series Book 3), page 1
Table of Contents
The Great Heathen Army series – Book 3
By Ceri Bladen
‘Vikings - Revenge’ Copyright © October 2017 by Ceri Bladen
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This is a work of fiction. However, some of the people and events in this work of fiction actually happened and some are the product of the author’s imagination. The author acknowledges the trademark status and owners of various items used by the author, which have been used without permission. The publication on/use of these trademarks is not authorised, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
*While the author has a great love of history, she is not a historian. Some historical facts, the author has chosen to change.
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Without the love and understanding of my family, my books would never happen.
Thank you for your never-ending patience — I love you!
I’d like to thank Shirley Miller for her help and observations. They are much appreciated.
A special thank you to Val Tobin, herself a very talented author. Check out her books on Amazon - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Val-Tobin/e/B00KC5S69K
To my readers
Thank you for choosing this book to read, following the adventures of Ubba and Rosfrith. I hope you enjoy it.
If you would like to give feedback on the story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Or, if you have the time, a review of the book on Amazon.com or any of their sites, would be very much appreciated.
April 873 - Returning to Ranaricii
Summer 876 - Ranaricii
Weodmonað (August) 876 - Dunhill Fortress
876 – Viking occupied Wareham
Summer 877 - Ranaricii
Ærra Geola (December) 877 - Dunwich Fortress
January 878 - Guthrum’s camp – Gleawcesterscīr
February 878 – Somersæte (Somerset) Woods
Thrimilce (May) 878 – Battle of Edington
Thrimilce (May) 878
Chippenham - Inside the besieged stronghold
July 878 -Dunwich Fortress
Late summer 878
April 873 - Returning to Ranaricii
Ubba widened his stance and braced for impact, waiting for the large swell to roll under the longboat. They were leaving the shores of East Angles and although the weather was kind, the water was choppy near the coast. He expected, that once they left the shoreline, the ocean would calm. When he caught the sound of a continuous scream on the wind, he swivelled his head towards the ships in their wake His blue gaze narrowed. He assumed the cry was the maid, Blyth, who he’d brought with them from Dunwich Fortress. She’d protested from the moment she knew she had no choice but to come. Not that her Lord said anything when she was manhandled into the cart. Ubba let out a huff and shook his head. If Blyth was this much trouble, it was no wonder Bryan kept his mouth shut and let them take her — her screams were ear shattering. Even from his ship. But, if she wasn’t careful, his crew would spook — worried that she would wake Ægir, the sea jötunn — and might end up throwing her overboard. He pulled his gaze away because, in reality it didn’t matter to him if they did. He’d wanted to kill her as soon as he’d realised she was involved in Bard’s scheme. But, his conscious thought better. He couldn’t kill a woman, however he felt about her. So instead, he’d brought her with them to become a servant in Ranaricii and he had the satisfaction of knowing that her life as a Viking thrall — away from everyone and everything she knew — wasn’t going to be easy. When her incessant screaming suddenly stopped, no doubt with some help, he put her out of his mind. He had other things to concern him.
Finding it difficult to stay still on the bobbing ship, he made his way over to the keel. He took a cup from the barrel, which was tied to the mast, to quench his thirst. When another wave crashed over the sides, he flicked his gaze upwards and said a silent prayer to Ran, the sea Goddess. He wanted to go home and desperately needed to get his wife, Rosfrith, back, for her strength to improve. She was so weak, the thought that she might not even make the journey crossed his mind on a number of occasions. His hands clenched, as he cursed her brother and Bard, once again.
Not long after they left the coast, and the oars were, once again, able to reach the water with ease, he glanced behind at the distant coastline. He felt some tension leave his body. He was glad to be leaving. He strained to check on the ships that followed. He was satisfied they were keeping pace. Their sails were lowered at present, the wind too choppy to be of help, but once it had settled into one direction, he was expecting their speed to pick up tremendously. It was the first day of summer, Sumardagurinn fyrsti, so he expected quite an easy crossing, despite the brisk wind, but it would be cold once the sun left the sky. He just hoped it wouldn’t be too uncomfortable for his Rosfrith. She hated sailing at the best of times.
Ubba noticed the sun had gone behind the clouds. Luckily, earlier on, he’d covered Rosfrith with extra furs. Not that she noticed; she was fast asleep. He would love to sleep but he was even too tense to sit, so he walked towards the boatswain who was in charge of the safety of the ship and the people aboard. He noticed the captain was using a Larvikite stone to find the direction of the sun in the overcast weather. When Ubba noticed him nod to himself, he relaxed. They were evidently going in the right direction and if the Gods were on their side, they would be home in about three sailing days. His eyes narrowed when a thought crossed his mind. He hoped the boatswain wasn’t one of the people sending messages back and forth between Ranaricii and East Angles for Bard. He was an excellent sailor, so it would be a shame for him to go missing at sea.
He glanced to the side. “Eirik.” He nodded a greeting before his gaze settled on the water.
“It seems to be getting windier.” They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking over the side of the ship.
“Ay, but the gusts are dying. We might be able to put our sails up soon.” He let a smile flick on his lips. “Get us home, sooner.”
“Ay, with any luck. The men can have a rest from rowing, too.”
Ubba’s eyes narrowed on the waves a
“I was in the dark. I must find out what happened in order to stop any future plots.”
“I don’t know all the details, yet, Sire.”
Ubba straightened and looked at Eirik. “None of us do, but I need to find out who knew about Bard’s plans and if he has any more.” His brows gathered together.
“I don’t know why he turned out to be so disloyal. I’ve only just, myself, realised the extent of his deception. Wherever I can, I will help, Sire.”
“Good.” Ubba inhaled the sea air through his nose, before exhaling through his mouth. He let the silence sit for a while, before he felt his stomach tighten. He pushed his chest out. “Eirik, everyone who was involved has to pay. One way or another.”
“I understand, Sire.”
“I will think upon it.” Ubba felt the tightening in his chest as his mind became gloomy. He turned back towards the sea, and thought about what must come. How did he even start finding out who was involved? He knew about the main people, but he’d learned from experience that the lesser players could sometimes do more damage. He could have stayed in Briton and dealt with Bryan, Bard, and Guthrum, but he was more concerned about Rosfrith’s health. The stresses of having twins and grieving had clearly taken it out of her. She was weak in body and mind. She had to go home to build herself back up before he could contemplate revenge on the others — if she made it home. His jaw clenched. Mayhap, some of his frustration would have been eased if he had killed her brother for his part in the schemes, but Rosfrith’s pleadings had put a stop to that. He’d replayed the scene over and over in his mind, obsessing how it could have ended differently and how he could be well on the road of retribution, but there was nothing he could do now. He would, however, find a way to repay Bryan — even if it fell short of piercing his skin with a blade.
Over the crashing of the waves and creaking of the ship, Ubba listened to Eirik. When he finished, he straightened and rubbed at the stiffness in his neck. He stopped, when he caught the tail end of a wail. Not for the first time, he wished one of his men would put a gag in that Blyth’s mouth if they weren’t going to throw her overboard. He let out a snort to control his impatience. She should have been stowed on the last vessel, not the one riding behind them. “That’s all you know?”
Eirik nodded. “Ay, but at least we know the connection. There are so many people involved.”
Ubba folded his arms across his large chest, his expression was pinched. “Some surprising ones, too, for I have done them no harm.” He looked towards the boatswain who was supervising the raising of the sail.
Eirik’s gaze followed his Sire’s. “Ay, but some were just pawns in the game.” He looked back at Ubba. “I nearly was, too. I met Bard in East Angles.”
“Ay, but you told me as soon as you knew something was amiss.”
“I will need you to keep quiet about this information, Eirik. Not a word — not even to Asmund, and certainly not Gunnar, if he visits from Skåne.” He raised his brow, knowing the previous closeness of their relationship
Eirik nodded. “I appreciate the need for silence.”
“We will start planning when we reach Ranaricii.” He looked back towards the ocean, his jawline tautened, and flexed with suppressed anger.
When the sun finally set, a shiver played over Ubba’s forearms. The wind had become colder now it was darkening. Even the stars seemed to be refusing to come out in the chill. He glanced at the moon and stifled a yawn. He needed sleep – but he knew it would take a long time coming – his mind too full for peace. Perhaps, tomorrow, he would relieve one of the men from their rowing duty. It could tire his muscles, and hopefully, pacify his mind. He turned towards the stern, where Rosfrith lay. When he neared, he saw she was awake. He smiled at her, trying to take no heed of her pale face in the moonlight. When he sat, he gathered her in his arms and placed a kiss on her head. “I’m glad to see you awake, my love.”
“I fear I could sleep forever, Ubba.” She gave a weak sigh.
He tightened his grip. “Not forever. Just until your strength has returned. And it will, you can be sure of that.”
“I can only pray it will.”
He placed his chin on the top of her head, and using his free hand, pulled the furs around her. “It will and then we can find our barns.”
“Sleep now, my love, for with the new day will come new strength.” He felt her relax, and within a moment, she was back to sleep. As she slept peacefully in his arms, he stayed wide awake – his mind occupied with how much information he wanted Rosfrith to know. Did he want her to be aware of others, apart from her brother, who were out to destroy her? Would he be putting her at risk by not telling her? He didn’t know what to do for the best, but he knew he had to have her guarded when they returned. If she wasn’t by his side, the only other person he trusted was Eirik Ulfsson. When she stifled a moan in her sleep, he pulled her closer. Ay, he wasn’t going to let her out of his sight, so easily, ever again.
Summer 876 - Ranaricii
Three years later…
Ubba’s icy gaze narrowed and his jaw tensed. He put his hands on his hips and unconsciously widened his stance, flexing his leg muscles. In an attempt to control his annoyance, he filled his lungs with the fresh air before letting it out quickly. He didn’t want to be angry with his wife, but against his wishes, Rosfrith was pushing herself. What was it with her? Did she always want to disobey him? His nostrils flared. He was sure the Gods had sent her to him to keep him on his toes. He tore his gaze away when he felt the familiar thud in his chest and the tightening of his stomach. He knew far well why she pushed herself so.
He closed his eyes for a moment in order to damp down his annoyance. He needed to support her, not criticise. He’d tried to protect her, but she had her own way of dealing with her losses. He opened his eyes and noticed her wave. He strode over and nodded briefly at Eirik. His longest-serving friend could see the displeasure on his face, but wisely kept quiet. Ubba was annoyed as it was Eirik’s job to protect her while he was tending to the accounts – not allowing her train to improve her fighting skills. He looked back and forth between them. He’d let it go — he was wise enough to know Rosfrith could twist his men around her little finger, especially Eirik, who evidently had a soft spot for her. “Wife, have you not had enough training for today?”
He watched as she lunged again. He was about to protest to her vigour, but stopped short when she turned and gave him a beaming smile. After all their years together, and even the sweat on her brow, didn’t curb the desire he had for her.
“Let us start again.” She walked over and placed a kiss on his lips. “Góðan morgun. Sorry, I wanted to start early and didn’t want to disturb you from the accounts.” She smiled when he snorted. “Besides, I have the feeling this one might make an appearance soon.”
Ubba watched her hand run soothingly over her large belly. He shook his head. “You should be resting to get your strength for the birthing. Not fighting.”
Rosfrith placed her hand on his bearded jaw. Neither noticed Eirik slip away. “You worry so much about me, my love. There is no reason to worry, Hilde has everything prepared, and I am not new to this. Remember I have born you barns before.” Grief flicked across her face before she swiftly replaced it with a smile.
Ubba’s chest tightened. She was strong now, mentally and physically, but whatever happiness she experienced was always tinged with the longing for their twins. Thór’s teeth he silently cursed her brother, Bryan, and all those mixed up in the deception. He hadn’t dealt out many of his punishments — yet — revenge was best served cold. Each would wonder whether he knew their connection in the plot and each would l
“Talking about our barns, I must go find our son, he will be starting to get hungry.” Rosfrith sheathed her sword
Ubba lifted an eyebrow. “Brynjulf is always hungry.”
Rosfrith placed her hand on his puffed-out chest. “He follows the wolves you named him after,” – she went on her toes to plant a kiss on his lips – “and he resembles his father, too.” She rolled off her toes. “Come, eat with me.”
He rubbed his beard. He had already broken his fast before most had risen from their pallets. He had much to do around the camp as winter was approaching and he was preparing for the time when he couldn’t wander far from the longhouse – when Rosfrith was due to give birth. He glanced into the distance, looking towards those working in the fields. “Um.”
“If you don’t want to eat with your wife —”
Ubba turned back. She was making a show of looking at the ground, toeing the floor. He smiled. She also knew how to twist him around her finger. “Come, wife,” – he stressed the word, as he held out his hand for her to take – “I will eat with you, if only to make sure you are keeping your strength up.”
While his wife ate, Ubba considered the people milling around the longhouse. He wasn’t usually inside this time of day and was interested to see what they were up to. His gaze narrowed. There were too many people loitering. They should have broken their fast long ago, and now be tending to their fields and chores, not staying by the warmth of the fire. Mayhap, he would visit more often and question them on their dawdling? If they were his thralls not his tenants, they would soon know that he was aware of their idleness, but if they paid their dues, he could say little. He continued to scan the darkened areas and his gaze landed on Blyth – the maid he’d brought with them from Dunwich fortress. Although she was brought back as a thrall to serve them – she certainly wasn’t acting like one at present, leaning against the wall, talking to another. He would go and have a word. He hadn’t listened to her screaming all the way from East Angles for her to be work-shy. He turned back to Rosfrith to tell her his plans for the women, when he noticed her full plate. His brow wrinkled. “You haven’t eaten much, wife. Are you fine?” His gaze narrowed on her face when she didn’t reply. It was covered in a sheen of sweat. He grabbed her hand, which held her knife in a death grip. “Is it time?” She nodded. He stood and looked around the longhouse, but when he didn’t recognise anyone that could help, he felt his panic grow. “Hilde?” his voice boomed over the noise of the others gathered inside. He needed to find his wife’s main thrall and friend. When he finally spotted her in a darkened corner, entertaining his barns, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Hilde,” he boomed again. He noticed her flick a glance towards Rosfrith, before she turned away to summon another thrall to take the children for her.
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