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Vikings taken the great.., p.7

Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1), page 7


Vikings: Taken (The Great Heathen Army series Book 1)

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  Rosfrith stayed in the same spot and kept her gaze towards the earth floor, unsure of how to act. If they were soldiers of either King Ælla or King Osberht, they might have news of her father.

  Only when the men exited, and she raised her gaze ready to follow, Rosfrith noticed Ubba hadn’t left. He stood with a quizzical look on his face, his blue eyes narrowed on her. “Lord,” she mumbled quickly, before leaving the tent and catching up with the party.

  Rosfrith’s heart beat faster, not only from her rush to follow the long-legged men, but from excitement and nerves. She stopped behind the Danes, who she noticed all had a hand casually on their weapons. She scanned the Northumbrian men near. He’s here! My father is here!

  Standing on tip-toes, Rosfrith tried to get a better view of him from behind the large Danes. Luckily, he sat astride one of the horses so she could see him, aloft. It took all her self-control not to run up to him.

  As Ivar welcomed them, Rosfrith scanned the rest of the party, noticing her brother, Bryan, before she glanced back at her father, inspecting him. He appeared aged, much older than just over a year would account for. Maybe he knew what had happened to mother? She pushed her sadness swiftly away, and continued to watch and listen, waiting to be called upon by Ivar.

  From his high position on his horse, Lord Arter Guader noticed his daughter straight away, hanging behind the welcoming group. But he didn’t outwardly react. He adverted his eyes. He didn’t know how he felt at seeing her. To be honest, he’d hadn’t expected to set eyes on her here – no one left at Dunwich knew where either of his daughters had gone.

  When Arter had eventually returned to Dunwich and found it ruined, with barely a soul to tend to it, he heard the fate of his wife. When he was informed, he’d thrown up. But, then he composed himself. Although it was against his belief that Brigitta took her life – only God should choose – he was also, in some way, glad she had. It pained him, but he didn’t think he’d have it in his heart to love her, or even touch her, again after she’d been debased by the barbarians.

  His gaze rested briefly on Rosfrith before he noticed a smile flicker on her lips. He jerked his gaze away, not returning her smile. No, she was better off left here with the Norsemen. No doubt they had defiled her too, and if she came back with him, he’d have no chance of marrying her off to anyone of worth. He just hoped Rosfrith wouldn’t make a scene when he left without her. If he got out alive. He glanced at the white flag to check if it was still flying. His tension increased. Arter hoped the Heathens would let them go peacefully after he informed them neither King Ælla or King Osberht were willing to give them any silver or gold.

  “So, Guader, I presume you got our missive,” said Ivar once the men had dismounted. “Have you come to give us good news? Has Ælla agreed to my terms?” He didn’t fail to see the Lord tense.

  “Hmm, we’ll talk about the compensation after,” he said, hoping it wouldn’t be brought up again. “For exchange for peace with the King, you only ask for as much land you can cover with an ox’s hide?” Arter asked, a frown on his head.

  Once Rosfrith had translated her father’s words, Ivar roared with laughter.

  Ubba studied his brother, wondering what he was up to. Ivar had come to Britain to get coin or to kill King Ælla, why on earth was he asking for a peace deal?

  “Yes, that is all we ask,” replied Ivar.

  Arter clicked his fingers and a soldier brought an ox hide forward, placing it on the floor between them. “We are confused, is this what you mean?”

  Ivar raised his eyebrows at his men, and chuckled. “Yes.”

  Arter stuttered, “If that is the case, King Ælla agrees to your terms. He will give you the land if you promise never to wage war against him.” He indicated for the soldier to pick up the hide when he heard Rosfrith translate.

  “Wait.” Ivar said firmly. All eyes looked at him as he removed a sharp dagger from its sheath. “Ask the soldier to give me the hide,” he said to Rosfrith. Once he had it in his hand, his smile returned. “Help me, brothers,” he said, indicating for them to stretch it out. He then proceeded to cut the hide into fine strands.

  Once Arter understood what he was doing, he paled. “That’s not what we agreed, there is enough hide there to envelop Jórvík,” he stammered, backing away. “I’ll have to explain to the King.”

  Ivar, looking all innocent, shrugged. “Best be quick.”

  Rosfrith looked quickly between them both, knowing Ivar had duped her father and King Ælla. With the news being bad, the rest of the meeting was swift. She was relieved her translating was coming to an end, but it saddened her that her father hadn’t acknowledged or thanked her. Perhaps he hadn’t recognised me? Have I changed that much?

  Just before Ivar turned to leave the meeting, he grabbed Rosfrith’s arm. She jumped, not expecting the contact. He glanced between Rosfrith and Lord Guader, then snarled. He turned his attention onto Ubba. “Let them talk. The Lord might be willing to pay some of his coin to get his daughter back.”

  Understanding Ubba’s words, Rosfrith’s heart swelled at the thought. I could go home to Dunwich. Surely father would pay?

  Ubba nodded at Ivar. “Come,” he said to Arter. When one of the soldier took a step forward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Lord Guarder, Ubba’s hand instinctively went for his axe.

  “It’s okay, he’s my brother,” said Rosfrith, stepping between them.

  Ubba raised his brow briefly before huffing and walking towards one of the tents. “Come.”

  Ubba lifted the tent flap and indicated for them to enter. Although their weapons had been removed when they’d entered the camp, he still didn’t trust either of the men who were Rosfrith’s family – there was something in their eyes that didn’t sit right with him.

  Once they went in, he followed and closed the flap. Ubba rested his hands on his axe and watched while the two men settled, before Rosfrith took her seat. Ubba grunted to himself. He wouldn’t understand what was going to be said, but he had the feeling Rosfrith would be upset by the end of it. There was no way her father would pay them coin.

  Rosfrith’s gaze flickered between her father and brother. She waited for someone to speak, but they were silent. “It’s – it’s been a long time, but I’m overjoyed to see you, Papa.” She considered her brother. “You, too, Bryan.”

  Arter gave a weak smile, his skin crinkling around his eyes. “Yes, Rosfrith, it’s been a long time, much has happened.”

  Rosfrith felt her heart speed up. Did father know about her dear departed mother? She, herself, hadn’t known all the facts of her death – until recently when she could understand the Norsemen tongue and two of them were discussing it. Their words had torn her heart in two, but at least she finally knew her mother had killed herself, that she hadn’t been murdered. “Mama?” she quietly questioned.

  Arter nodded. “I know. I’ve been back to Dunwich.”

  The mention of her home made her smile. “Is it standing?”

  Arter nodded again.

  She sat forward. “Is Edeva and Edith there?”

  Arter shook his head.

  Rosfrith saddened. She would love to know what had become of them both. Once she composed herself, her gaze flicked back and forth between the men. “I would love to return.” When neither replied, she moved forward to the edge of her seat. “Can I come home, Papa?”

  Arter gave a little cough and Bryan examined the floor.

  “Well, there’s a problem there,” Arter nervously coughed again. “We haven’t the coin at the moment to spare.”

  Rosfrith’s brow furrowed. Surely I am more important to him than his coffers? “Haven’t you been paid handsomely by the Kings of Northumbria for all your efforts?”

  Arter didn’t respond.

  Desperation started to claw at her. “But, Papa, I will find a way to repay you. The Danes are fair in their ransom for me, because of what happened to…” Rosfrith felt her voice falter. “Mama.”

  Arter gave a
small uncomfortable laugh. “There’s more to it than that, child.”

  “What?” she questioned, looking at them both for an answer. She noticed the sly look her father gave Ubba. “Oh,” she whispered when she understood their train of thought.

  Getting up from her seat, Rosfrith threw herself on her knees in front of her father. She was not too proud to beg, after all, being a thrall was the lowest she thought she could go.

  Ubba tensed when she neared the older man, but he didn’t move from his position. It would only take him one large step to pull her out of harm’s way.

  “I have not, I swear, Papa. I am not dishonored. Please, take me with you,” she pleaded, grabbing for his hand.

  “You cannot believe her, Papa. You can’t tell me that those,” Bryan raised his chin towards Ubba, “haven’t ruined her yet? She’s lying.”

  Stunned at brother’s only words, she pleaded, “I always tell the truth, Bryan. I wouldn’t lie to either of you. I am your sister”. Rosfrith felt tears well in her eyes. When had Bryan become so heartless?

  Bryan’s eyes glanced around the tent before returning to meet her gaze. “I have no mother,” he paused, “or sisters.”

  Pain sliced through her heart when she watched him stand, turn, and walk out of the tent.

  “I must go,” Arter said quietly, also watching his son leave. His son was his concern now, the one to pass on the Guader name. Painful as it was, Rosfrith was the past, and he must forget her.

  Rosfrith regarded her father, squeezing his hand. Maybe he’s shocked at seeing me, and needs time? She needed reassurance everything would be alright. “Will you come again, Papa?”

  Arter moved his hand from hers and stared at her for a moment before standing. “No, no, my dear girl. I…,” He patted her head then paused, trying to find a way to say he wouldn’t see her again. “I have work to attend with both King Ælla and Osberht. Then I have to travel to Jórvík to attend the All Saints celebrations, before heading to meet King Edmund. My priority is keeping peace in this land.” He paused, the pursuit of peace was something that had personally cost him dear.

  Hope sprang into the soul for the briefest of seconds. “So, if there’s peace, you will return for me?” Even though he muttered, perhaps, Rosfrith knew by the look on his face, he wouldn’t. She didn’t’ even rise from the floor when he stood to leave. She was defeated. Another of her family was leaving her to fend for herself.

  Ubba swivelled his head and watched Lord Guader leave the tent. He didn’t have to follow him, he’d already instructed his men to keep watch for them. Turning back, he viewed the broken girl in front of him. He didn’t know what was said, but her eyes closed in an attempt to stop crying. He stepped forward.

  At Ubba’s movement, Rosfrith glanced up. For the briefest of moments, she hoped her father had returned. When she saw Ubba, her heart sank. To be truthful, she’d forgotten he was there – she was so used to him watching her.

  “Are you troubled?”

  She shook her head and slowly stood. “Nay.” No, she wasn’t troubled, it was deeper than that.

  “Is your father returning?” Ubba spoke slowly, knowing her upset frame of mind might hinder her translating.

  She shook her head. “He is busy.” She glanced at him when he gave a large snort of disgust. She looked away, so he didn’t see her tears.

  Ubba was furious. Ivar had asked for hardly any coin from the man in exchange for his daughter. But, Lord Guarder couldn’t even give them that! He sighed. He hadn’t understood what was said, but the Lord and his son’s action indicated Rosfrith was going to be staying with them. It appeared he would be watching over her for some time yet. Her shaky voice drew his attention back to her.

  “I have some information for you. It might be of use.”

  Later on after a brief conversation with Ubba, Rosfrith was left alone in the tent where her father and brother broke her heart. She knew the information she’d just told Ubba would be used, but her father’s betrayal deeply hurt her.

  If I am to be left with the barbarians, it’s better I protect them, not her former people. She owed them no loyalty.

  Ivar eyed his brother when he walked into his tent. “What tidings do you bring, brother? Did Lord Guarder pay his money and take his daughter?”

  Ubba shook his head.

  Surprise flickered over Ivar’s face. “Not even for the token gesture we asked for?”

  “No.” Ubba moved towards a seat and sat.

  “We should have killed him, like we originally thought.”

  Ubba shrugged. “Listen, I have something to tell you.” Ubba told his brother the events within the tent, and then about the information Rosfrith had imparted to him. Once he’d finished, he watched as a wide smile spread over Ivar’s lips as he nodded.

  “All of them will be in their church, you say?”

  “Yes,” Ubba replied. “They celebrate something the Christians call ‘All Saint’s Day,’ which means everyone will be in church for the celebrations. Easy pickings.” As Ubba spoke to his brother, his stomach clenched. He felt awful betraying Rosfrith’s trust by telling his brother of the ways of the locals, but it had to be done. He was loyal to his family, not to a thrall.

  “So, we attack then?”

  Ubba nodded at his brother. “We will prepare.”

  While they completed their daily tasks around the camp, Rosfrith and the other servants carefully watched and listened. There was a strange atmosphere around the camp, euphoric and excitement. The servants were nervous because it was obvious the barbarians were preparing for battle. Because of the day, 1st November 866, Rosfrith knew where they were going to attack – Jórvík.

  While she watched them don their weapons and smear dyes on their faces, Rosfrith had a moment of regret for her loose tongue. Her chest squeezed with anxiety, making it hard to breathe. What if Papa was at the church when the Norsemen arrived? What about the innocent women and children there? What have I done? Panicking, she glanced around for Ubba. Although she didn’t fully trust him, out of all the Norsemen, he was the least bloodthirsty. When she spotted him exiting a tent, she ran over. He hadn’t noticed her, so she called, but he didn’t respond.

  Ubba, lost in his thoughts about the upcoming battle, felt something grab his arm. Instinctively, he grabbed his axe, turned and raised it in the air. Ready to kill. Luckily, before he brought it down, he paused. It was Rosfrith. She looked terrified, her violet eyes staring at him in shock. He was annoyed he hadn’t heard her near him. I’d better be more prepared for the upcoming fight. Ubba growled with annoyance at his error and noticed her shrink back before straightening back up.

  “Can I talk to you, lord?” It took all her efforts not to cower from his icy glare. Ubba obviously was in no mood for a conversation, but she had to proceed, for her peace of mind. When he finally raised an eyebrow in question, she took in a breath. She needed to make sure. “If there are women and children at the Church, will you spare them?”

  Ubba’s gaze narrowed on Rosfrith again. She was standing in front of him - on the one hand, looking scared of him, and on the other, being bold enough to ask him to spare lives in a battle.

  “Please?” she asked again. “I told you about the Church, and I fear God will be angry with me if innocents die.”

  Ubba huffed and tore his gaze away. He didn’t care about her God, and he certainly didn’t have time to question his actions in battle, especially when he was mentally preparing. He’d never intentionally killed any women or children, but he wasn’t going to explain that to her – she was, after all, only a thrall. “I’ll do whatever I need to,” he said before nodding and turning to stride away.

  Rosfrith watched him go. She wasn’t going to badger him again, he appeared too cross, but she hoped she’d planted enough of a seed for him to do the right thing.

  A couple of days later, loud cheering indicated returning warriors back to the empty camp.

  Rosfrith scanned around the group when they entered.
They appeared bloodied and tired after their battle. She noticed neither Ubba nor his brothers returned. A frown marred her forehead. The returning men didn’t look defeated, and the cheers indicated victory, which would mean the Danes had won the battle. She bit her bottom lip, unsure of how she felt.

  “You, there,” one of the men shouted at Rosfrith as he neared the fire, bringing her out of her thoughts.

  She turned her head to look at him.

  “You, tell the rest of your kind to help pack up the camp. We are leaving for Jórvík in the morn.”

  Rosfrith gave a quick nod, before moving away. She sighed, knowing more warfare was coming because the Kings of Northumbria wouldn’t take kindly to that.

  Chapter 9

  Jórvík (York) – Winter 868

  Ubba scanned the large hall, located in the middle of Jórvík. Thor’s teeth, he was bored. They’d captured the area over a year ago, and nothing exciting had happened since. There wasn’t even any news about King Ælla or Osberht trying to take it back, even after Ivar’s trick. In fact, the people of Jórvík and the area around were more than happy to provide food and all manner of luxuries. Bored to death, Ubba wanted to return home to Ranaricii. He watched another of his kin fall to sleep by the fire, and knew he’d had enough. He got up and walked up to Ivar who was sitting in a straight-backed chair near the fire.


  Ivar glanced at his brother, before returning his attention to the fire. “Brother?”

  “I have an itch.”

  “Go and wash, then,” laughed his brother, Bjorn, who was sitting next to Ivar.

  Ubba let out a snort. “Not that type of itch. I need to return to Ranaricii,” said Ubba.

  Ivar was quiet for a while before he finally glanced back at Ubba. “Not yet, brother. We received information that King Ælla and King Osberht are putting their differences aside, and amassing an army to try and retake Jórvík,” Ivar shrugged. “They are nearly ready for battle.”

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