Vikings taken the great.., p.4
Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1), page 4
During the meeting, it hadn’t mattered what his arguments were about joining forces to defeat the Danes because King Ælla hadn’t even bothered to turn up. The war King Ælla had with his brother was making him immune to reason and blind to the dangers of the Heathens!
He lifted his other leg for Bryan to take his boot off.
Without the help of King Ælla, or King Edmund come to that, there was no way he was able to persuade King Osberht to intercept the Great Heathen Army. None of this affected Osberht yet – the Danes were in East Angles, nowhere near Northumbria, and their anger was towards Ælla.
He closed his eyes. If only the Kings would understand lethargy will be their downfall! As his chest tightened with anxiety, he finally remembered his family he’d left and tears welled in his eyes.
His son’s voice interrupted his thoughts. When he glanced at Bryan, he realised his usually sullen son looked frightened. He let out a quick breath. Do I tell him the truth or lie? Maybe, for now, he’d tell him a bit of both.
A couple of hours later, Ivar was satisfied Lord Arter Guader, his son, and elder daughter had disappeared. He was disappointed Guader had fled. He’d hoped his fight would only be with that back-stabbing King Ælla, but he shouldn’t have been surprised. The Lord had always reminded him of a weasel.
While he sat down at a large rectangular table, Ivar studied those sitting with him. He was pleased. Apart from some cuts, all his brothers were with him - Bjorn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Sigurd Snake in the Eye, and Ubba Ragnarsson. He leaned forward to grab their attention. “So, we have some planning to do, brothers.”
Bjorn’s hand slapped the wooden table, making the girl who had been released to serve them ale, jump. Bjorn laughed at her scuttling away, before glancing back at Ivar. “Yes, we do. We need to avenge our sire.”
Ubba watched his brothers, and the other warriors around the table, nod their agreement. When they quietened, he asked, “So, what do you propose, Ivar?”
“We must go North, into Northumbria. There we will find that coward, King Ælla,” said Ivar, taking a sip of his ale – it helped take away the bitter taste in his mouth.
“And his brother, King Osberht?” Bjorn asked.
Ivar shrugged his shoulders, then banged his mug down with force. “We don’t need to bother him – yet. Besides, we’ve reason to believe Kings Osberht and Ælla are fighting amongst themselves.” He looked around the table, seeking out his future-seeing sibling. “They might kill each other before we get there,” he said, laughing. Ivar sobered quickly. “Sigurd?”
Sigurd closed his eyes. He grabbed the arms of his chair, while he let images float in his mind. A small smile crossed his lips when the images faded.
“So?” Ivar’s eyebrow rose with question.
Sigurd waited for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “Siblings may fight, but once an outsider lays a finger…” He didn’t need to finish his sentence.
“They unite and fight together,” added Ivar. He was quiet for a while, thinking about his brother’s words. Catching Ubba’s eye, he nodded and stood up. He glanced at all of those around the table and then threw his fist into the air to motivate the battle-weary men around him. “So, we take the two whoresons instead!”
The room erupted with cheers.
Ubba smiled, but inwardly sighed. He wasn’t as jubilant as his brothers and kinsmen about another war. Two Kings to fight, and potentially King Edmund, too, because they’d broken their agreement and were on his land? Too many good men would be lost, never to return home to their loved ones.
“Will all of you stay to fight by my side?” Ivar’s gaze glanced around at his brothers, landing on Ubba. He knew out of all of them, he had the least stomach for fighting – even though he was the most gifted fighter.
Ubba nodded. He didn’t have a choice. He wanted to return to Ranaricii, but his loyalty was to his murdered sire and brothers. Besides, he valued Ivar’s wisdom, and mastery of strategy and tactics in battle. Therefore, he’d go with him, willingly. “And when we defeat King Ælla, and perhaps Osberht, we will return home or stay here?”
“You can return.” Ivar paused. “Or stay, if you prefer this land that will be ours to rule.”
Ubba smiled at the wink Ivar gave him.
“Let’s celebrate!” Ivar commanded, picking up his ale. Everyone cheered.
Once the room had settled, Ubba noticed Sigurd move nearer to him. He gave his brother a side glance when he pulled his chair near. “Yes?” Ubba’s eyebrow rose in question while he took a slurp of his ale.
“About before,” said Sigurd.
Ubba stopped drinking and looked at his brother. “Before?” He wasn’t sure what Sigurd was getting at until he noticed him glance in the direction of Lord Guader’s daughter.
“That one,” Sigurd said, before returning his gaze on Ubba. “She is in your future.”
Ubba stayed quiet.
“She’ll cause you trouble…” he said, looking in Rosfrith’s direction once more and becoming silent.
Ubba shrugged but said nothing. He had no reason to doubt what Sigurd saw, for he didn’t fully understand his brother’s visions, but they didn’t always tell the whole story. Sometimes his visions would change due to events. “Whatever you say, Sigurd.”
Eventually, Ubba couldn’t stop his gaze flick over to Rosfrith. Her mother and an older servant were protecting her. He snorted and tore his gaze away. If she were going to cause him trouble in the future, perhaps he’d need to keep a closer eye on her? His father’s words popped into his head – My son, keep your friends close, your enemies closer. Suddenly, he laughed. How ridiculous Sigurd’s words were. What on earth could a little girl do to a warrior such as me?
While he gave his beard a scratch, he decided to put Sigurd’s words out of his mind. He wasn’t one to worry about what you couldn’t control, and besides, as soon as they left Dunwich, he wouldn’t see the black-haired child again.
For tonight, he would enjoy their partial victory and Lord Guarder’s ale.
Much later on, while nursing his warming ale, Ubba’s gaze encountered Rosfrith’s. He couldn’t help a smile play on his lips when she scowled at him. That little girl had guts. His eyes narrowed on her to see if she became frightened. She continued to glare at him. Ubba took a mouthful of beer to hide his smile, somewhat pleased by her character.
When she stuck her nose up and looked away, Sigurd’s words came back to him. Only a couple of hours ago, he’d convinced himself to ignore his brother’s warning about Rosfrith. Now he was having trouble forgetting them. There was something about her that bothered him and something he admired. He put his ale down and leaned forward to grab Ivar’s attention. “Ivar,” he said, shuffling nearer to Ivar so he could be heard over the noise within the hall. “What will we do with the servants of Dunwich when we leave?” Ubba hoped they’d leave them. Then Rosfrith wouldn’t be a problem, but perhaps his brother had other plans?
Ivar looked around the room. “I don’t know, yet,” he said, shrugging. “Maybe we’ll leave them here in Dunwich, especially if they are lazy.”
“Or we can take some for slaves?” interjected Asmund, overhearing the brother’s conversation.
Ubba flicked a glance at Asmund and then ignored him. “What about the Lady and her daughter?” he directed at Ivar.
Ivar waved his hand. “It depends if Lord Guader appears with our coin and we go straight back home. If he does, we’ll leave them all. If he doesn’t return,” he paused, “we’ll leave them anyway. I don’t want to feed and look after any Britons if we have to travel to find the Kings.”
Ubba relaxed. The girl would be out of his life.
“Perhaps we can take a couple – to keep us entertained?” Bard sniggered, elbowing Asmund in the ribs.
Ivar glanced at Bard and shrugged. “Perhaps.”
For reasons he didn’t understand, a coldness crept
After some thought, Ubba decided if his fate were already marked, all he could do was keep an eye on her. He interrupted his brother’s conversation. “When I return to Ranaricii, I’ll take some of the women as thralls. Of course, I’ll pay for their upkeep in between.”
Ivar revolved his hand in the air. “We have plenty of them. Take whomever you like.”
Ubba stood and pointed in the direction of the captives. “I’d take her, and her, and her..,” he pointed at Rosfrith. “And a couple more of the women as my thralls.”
Ivar’s eyes narrowed on him. “You’re keen, brother.”
Ubba laughed, hoping it covered his tension. “Just picking out the strongest, Ivar, before any of my brothers do.”
Ivar gave a snort.
“Why do you want them as thralls, why not sell them as slaves? You’ll get something out of them then,” Bard butted in.
Ubba bristled under Bard’s questioning. At home, in Ranaricii, Bard would never question Ubba’s authority because he was his Chieftain. Whether it was the euphoria of battle or the ale, but Bard was pushing his luck. Ubba made a mental note to keep an eye on him. Although Ubba was agitated, he let nothing show on his face. He shrugged at Bard’s question. He couldn’t appear too keen about the fates of captured ones, otherwise, he had a feeling Ivar would be liable to sell them just for the hell of it. He ignored Bard and looked back at his brother. “I’m in need of the extra hands for work when we return north.”
Asmund snorted a laugh. “In the bedchamber, no doubt.”
Ubba shrugged his large shoulders again. “Perhaps.” He watched the smiles spread on the faces of the men around him. Slaves were often passed around for bed sport, but, this was completely the opposite motive to why he was doing this. For some reason, the Gods wanted their fates to be entwined. He didn’t know why, or how she would bring him misfortune, but he’d keep her near enough to watch.
Ivar flicked a glance at the women before his gaze rested back on his brother. “We’ll discuss it later. For now, they can all work and get us some food.”
Ubba realised as soon as Rosfrith was out of his site, she was at risk from any of the warriors – for whatever they wished. He pointed at the child and her mother. He needed to keep his reasons for keeping them near something Ivar could relate to. “Those two there, the Lady and her daughter, are too valuable to go missing. Keep them near.”
Ivar said nothing for a while before he grunted and nodded to his men. “Tie them to those chairs. You,” he looked at Asmund. “Guard them. Do not let them go anywhere.”
Ubba put his ale down when he noticed Ivar looking at him. “Yes, brother?”
Ivar grunted, and sat back in his chair. “So, are you thinking of returning to Ranaricii so soon?”
Ubba became aware of the interest of the men around him. He waited a moment before answering. “Not until our sire, Ragnar, has been honored.”
A smile spread slowly over Ivar’s lips. “Good, I thought my warrior brother had grown too weak bellied to continue the fight.”
Ubba ignored the guffaws of the men around him. He tilted his chin up and forced a smile on his face – he didn’t want his brother, or anyone else come to that, to know what he was thinking. “Who wouldn’t be eager to get back to their bedmate as soon as possible?” He ignored Gunnar, for it was his sister, Astrid, that he was talking about. He waited for the laughs to settle down before he continued. “However, I will stay here as long as it takes to revenge Ragnar Lothbrok.” He lifted his ale into the air and watched the other men around him show their respect.
“There are many bedmates available here,” Bard interrupted while scanning the room.
Ubba didn’t want to explain he wasn’t interested, so he just said, “Yes, many. But the battle has taken it out of me.” His gaze pinned Bard. “Perhaps you didn’t fight as hard as the rest of us, Bard?”
The men laughed when Bard scowled at Ubba.
“Brothers, we will talk about the plans later, in more detail. Now, we eat and enjoy our success,” said Ivar.
From her hard, high-backed seat, which she’d been forced to sit on, Rosfrith could overhear the banter from the main table. She scowled, frustrated she didn’t understand what the big beasts were saying to each other. Rosfrith wished she’d taken more notice of her father, who’d insisted she’d learn the Heathen language – she hadn’t been bothered.
Rosfrith looked around the hall – the hall that only yesterday, belonged to her father. Apart from the furtive glances between the servants, the hall looked like any other day. All except, it wasn’t her and her family sitting at the main table - it was a bunch of barbarians.
For a while, she quietly watched the activity going on around her – servants feeding and watering the beasts, who, by the looks of it, were enjoying her father’s ale stock. She shut her eyes. She’d seen enough. Rosfrith tried to control the tears that threatened. It was so unfair. Where were Papa and Bryan? Did he know these beasts were coming? She hoped he didn’t – that would be the ultimate betrayal.
Feeling stiff, Rosfrith wriggled her shoulders in an attempt to get feeling back into her arms and wrists, which were tightly bound. She gave a long frustrated sigh. There was no way she was going to get out of the knots. She and her mother were helpless. Rosfrith tried not to think of their fates because she had a feeling it wouldn’t be kind. Swallowing the ball of fear, which had started to choke her, and tried to focus on the one positive – her sister, Edeva, hadn’t been noticed. Rosfrith blessed God for giving her sister their father’s mousy colour and average looks. Hopefully, it would protect her from unwanted attention.
Her mother, muttering prayers over and over, interrupted her thoughts. “Mama, are you faring well?” she whispered.
“Yes,” was all her mother managed to reply before Asmund growled at them to be quiet.
Once again, they sat in silence, and Rosfrith watched the one she assumed was the leader, leave the hall. With him gone, and Asmund’s attention off them, Rosfrith thought it safe to look for her sister, who earlier she’d seen pick up plates of food to serve. She hoped her Edeva’s inexperience of serving wouldn’t show. As long as those beasts thought she was the same as the other servants, she would be as safe as any of them.
When Rosfrith found her, she resisted the urge to smile. Edith was near her, covering any mistakes she made. Edith was such a blessing to the family.
When Rosfrith noticed the barbarian coming back into the room, even though he didn’t glance her way, she looked away from her sister.
Ubba glanced at the men seated at the wooden table. The mood within the hall was jubilant, as was expected after a battle won, even though their main objective of finding the Lord had failed for now. He watched his brothers and the higher commanding warriors talking and drinking ale until they quietened when Ivar strode back in and sat at the head of the table.
Ubba noticed Ivar looked irritated. Wherever he’d just been, the news had not been good. He watched him stand and gain the attention of those around the table. They’d soon be finding out what was wrong.
Ivar glanced at the men and before he started, grabbed the ale in front of him. He took a swig. Using the back of his hand, he wiped the liquid away from his beard. “We have been unable to find Lord Guader, his son, or his oldest daughter. We can take it that he’s fled. He’s taken all his coin and valuables, too.” Ivar grunted his disdain for the weak Lord. “Too frightened to face what he started.”
Or to protect his family, thought Ubba.
To his right, Halfdan spoke up. “King Ælla started this when he killed our sire.”
Ubba noticed his brothers nod and grunt in agreement. He felt the same, revenge was in his blood – but he was just interested in King Ælla. To be honest, the weasel, Lord Guad
“Yes, he did,” replied Ivar.
While he watched his brother, Ubba noticed a smile form on Ivar’s lips. His brother was up to something.
“Which is why King Ælla will pay.” Ivar’s gaze flicked towards the back of the room. “Lord Guader, too.”
Ubba followed his brother’s gaze. It landed on Lady Guader and her daughter. His heart sank. This wasn’t the right time to ask what Ivar intended to do with them – emotions were flying high, and his brother had consumed too much ale. All Ubba could do was try to divert his brother’s attention. “Do you think Lord Guader fled to warn King Ælla and Osberht of our appearance?”
“No doubt,” sneered Sigurd. “I advised you not to send a missive to him. It forewarned him of our arrival.”
Ubba could see Ivar bristle under Sigurd’s reprimand, but surprisingly a smile appeared on his lips.
“Well, dear brother, not all of us can see the future like you.” Ivar’s gaze narrowed on Sigurd, as his false smile disappeared. “I will make sure to use more of your powers in future. Hopefully, you will get your predictions correct. All of the time,” he stressed before turning away, ignoring the surprise on Sigurd’s face. He addressed the rest of the men. “Back to business. You all know Lord Guader paid Ragnar coin from King Edmund not to attack East Angles.” He waited for their replies. “Well, he was supposed to be arranging the same deal with the Kings of Northumbria.” Ivar became serious. “But, when our sire came over, in peace, I might add, King Ælla disposed of him.”
Ubba watched his brother pace back and forth. The clenching and unclenching of Ivar’s fists indicated to Ubba that his brother was getting more wound up.
“Perhaps they have forgotten Lindisfarne or Portland Bay? Perhaps we need to remind them of what we Norsemen do to our enemies?” Ivar continued, his mood lighting up when he heard the roars and laughter from his men. He held up his hands for quiet. He continued, “I have decided, for now, if Lord Guader doesn’t come back, to enjoy the Winter in East Angles.” He picked up his ale and held it high. “On Lord Guader’s expense.” He stopped briefly, waiting for the cheers to settle. “Then, we’ll march to Northumbria and the capital, Jórvík, to fix our business there.” He waved his hand in a circle. “Who knows? Perhaps we might be able to kill two kings with one stone?”
by Ceri Bladen have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes