Tuesday, 3 July 2018

From the Scots Skald: Tha Coo Reed

Tavish McTavish, th' laird o' th' nairth,
Staun in th' entran’tae his stoatin loaby 'n' keeked oot.
Ha staired intae kenspeckle feecies.
Feecies o' fowk ha’ad groon up wi', faot wi' 'n' git blootert wi'.
Th' feecies staird back a’im. 'Twas a' thay cuid dae.

“Wha Euan, ha cam? Wae went weel, tames wur guid.
Whit maed thaim thenk tha’ thay cuid raemaeve me as laird?”

Hae tairnd awa’ fae th’ heids oan speers 'n' stairted
Tae donder back intae th' loaby.
Th’ raivault craishd 'n' th' gaffaz essacutied fa tha desloylty.
“Laiss hawp thess’ull bae a lais’n tae thaim a'.
Ah'm th’ laird o' th' nairth, nay’n’kin tak' tha’fa mai!”

“Laird! Reedas oan th' sath’n bairda!”
A maisager bolted ap tae Tavish.
“Ay thenk thair efter oor haylen coos!”

Swiflay, Tavish saent aff hais Thayns tae support th' Waryers
awready keekin efter th' coos.
“A'll gather mair men 'n' catch ye up.”
Awa' th' fields th' Soer-Chele wur waiten whin th' Thayns arrayv'd.
Th' haird wa' sprayd-oot.
Maist wur in thray groops tae thair richt fernent
A-marshy neuk o' th' feld.
A wee groop a'coos wa' fa' tae th' laift.

“Hair tha' cam”.

Leif th' Jammy
Staun wi' a unit o' Bonnachts aitha saide a' hin
Wi' twa wee groops a' Narsmen aith' saide a' thaim.
Aff tae th' laift a wee groop o' Narsmen
Wur smoukin up oan th' wee group o' coos.

“Laive thaim fur noo, wakin git thaim efter.
Th' mayn pairt o' th' haird as marem pourtaint”.

Th' mayn boady o'Narse-Geels
Avanc'd apaun th' haird
Wa' th' Scots mairchd tae ketchup wi` thaim.
Th' Narse-Geel Bonnachts
Avanc'n tae wi`in chargin' distence
Hairld thair javlens at th' braive Scotsmen,
Killen ba yin.

Th' unet wi' Dean exes gaed plooin' intae th' Thayns.
Th' haun tae haun comba' wis bludy
Bit th' wis Scots hame groon.
Th' Bonnachts stugg'd bak wi' th' loss o' faive o' th' echt,
Th' stroanger Scots staun fairm wi'oot lauss.

Th' Narse-Geel Waryers wi' javlens chairgd
Intae th' Soer-Chele.
Mair bludshaid,
Agin th' Bonnnachts stugg'd bak,
Lusen saix main, th' Scots ba' lusen fower.

Twa' th' Scot tairn tae atteck:
Baith unets hairld thair javlens.
Th' Thayns waipd oot th' Bonnachts
Causen feteeg oan th' nairby Narse-Geels.
Th' Soer-Chele wur nae sae keyn
Bit th' Bonnachts tha' faut wa doon tae yin Jimmy.
An' chairgd in tae dicht oot th' wen man laift.

Twa unets o' Narse-geels waiped oot.

Th' Narsemen chairged intae th' Scots Waryers
Killen tae 'n' drayven thaim beck.
Maenwheel th' unet o' Narsemen
Sneekie sassenachs
Steelin' ap th' laift saide o' th' feel twar th' wee groop o' coos.

A' lest Tavish arraiv'd wi' hi' Waryers
Thay dooble-mairchd tward th' ainamy
Hailden thair groon 'n' rownden oop coos.

Enspayaird bai Euean's roosen spaich
Tavish 'n' hi' maen
Shreg'd aff thair feteeg!
An' et th' doobel kutup wi' th' Narse-Geels.
Th' Scots Waryers hed a go agin
An' agin
Tae destrawy th' wee unet o' Narsemen,
Bit fayled 'n' avenchalee
Gev oop.

Realaisen th' reed wa' faylen,
hes Narsemen smoukin up th' lef haun saide
Wunnae git awa' wi' th' coos,
Leif dasaidid ta'ettack.

Tha Narsemen oan th' richt
Chairgd th' Thayns.
Failen, 'n' wur dustrayd.

Seyen Tavish claise oop,
Leif chairged in tae kell th' Laird.
Bit naytha ded nae damedge.
N' Tavish fayell bak awa' fae th' bloaws.

Anreeg'd ba' th' batter oan thair Laird,
Th' freish Soar-Chele hairld tha' javlens a-Leif,
N' Tavish haird hez tae.
Th' Soar-Chele chairg'd
An' faytel bloaze fayell oan th' Narse-geel Warlaird.
Hae fayell dayed tae th' groon
En a pulavis awm blud.

Th' bettle woan,
Th' dregs o' th' Narsemen gied the pitch
A-runnin' awa' levin' th' coos bahin.

Euan laft alood:
“Nae mair Leif th' Jammy,
Jus' Leif th' Dayed”

Ba Tavish shuk haes haed.
“Ah shuid hae murdurred haim wi' mah ain hends,”
Hae sayed.
“Thes wayen’t ba th' lest taim wa sae they Suthen basteds,
Thay wull ba beck, merk ma woards.
Afta'oor heilen coos
A-spaylen fa' ravenge.”

Ba Euan jus' smaild.

“Layt thaim cam, Tavish, layt thaim cam.”

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Skald's Tale (4): The Year of 7½ Battles

It seemed to be quite suddenly,
Arrived the end of Season 3.
When so many warbands were clashing.
Seven point five battles in all were fought;
Leaving Vikings atop the leaderboard
(Though Iceland took a bashing).

Internal revolts and wounds from battle
Kept Scots, Norse and Normans home with their cattle
With no choice but to take it.
Tavish Mc T was left alone
And Sibbald chose to leave his home -
But Ubbason was not to make it.

Odin and Hugin watched over this time
(When the raven was not in Muspelheim)
Keeping one eye on the action.
While the fates (who were not so nice)
Seemed often to control the dice,
Favouring no particular faction.

Conflict opened with Conn's bold raid
Against the Norse Gaels in Strathclyde
(Not this time obsessed by cattle).
Within that land they burned and harried,
Departing soon with much gold carried;
Leif's vaults emptied after battle.

Meanwhile Gunnblasdt (Leif's oathsworn)
Sought to improve Iceland's form
By raiding in Vestfold;
And though Norwegians paid the price
Of Ubbason's blood sacrifice,
The Icelanders were repelled.

A boost to Anglo Danish pride -
It turned out luck was on their side
When Oldenburg gave up its prize.
The Anglo Danes obtained great riches,
Despite Cnut's persistent bitches
About Alfred's lucky dice.

And Cnut was once again to suffer
When the Norse Gaels proved much tougher,
Invading his homeland.
Fighting on the open plains
They rapidly saw off the Danes
And took control of Jutland.

Not long could Leif enjoy success
Ere Strathclyde was by Welshmen pressed;
Once more he faced disaster.
His cunning plan of slow retreat
Guaranteed Norse Gael defeat.
Caradog is now Strathclyde's master.

Iceland then would face the test
When Cnut met Gunnblasdt in Bulanssness -
A Springbok Viking duel.
For many turns it looked to be
The long awaited Icelandic victory,
But how the fates are cruel!

Gunnblasdt, reeling from defeat
Determined this should not repeat,
And gainst the Franks fought bravely.
Seeing the chance of a quick win
He charged at Charlemal (all in);
Missed - fell - found himself in slavery.

With their Jarl thus deported
Iceland's people now revolted
And chaos quickly followed.
Anglo Saxons under Aethelflaed
Were thus unopposed upon their raid,
So helped themselves to gold*.

*What meagre spoils of war they'd find
Were just scraps that were left behind
For Gunnblasdt had but little.
And so as Anglo Saxon might
Prevailed without a fight,
It only counts as half a battle.

Now our skald has left a space
At the end here, just in case
A new Jarl comes to reign.
A hero who would have a liking
To take charge of this band of Vikings
And make Iceland great again.

Monday, 8 January 2018

From the Frankish Skald: The Song of Charlemal

II - The Fall of Gunnblasdt

Searching for more Viking gold
The Franks sailed north o'er oceans cold.
To the furthest corner of the map.
Into the land Gunnblasdt controlled,
Slaves there to kidnap.

At Svinafell their ships made land
From whence they marched to take a stand
Before a lonely tower.
Where sanctuary might be safely found
By peasants in their desperate hour.

Charlemal, King of the Franks, shivered again. It had been an immense journey, from one corner of the civilized world to the other, it seemed. Here, standing on the desolate shore of this frozen land, it was as if they had travelled to another world. Then again, he could see the positive side. Anyone who lived here would have to be strong and resilient, and would therefore be perfect slave material. Just what he needed to bring in the grape harvest, amongst other things. And that tower was certain to be filled with gold as well, and Charlemal liked gold a lot.

Once the ships had  safely beached in a secluded bay, and the Franks had organised themselves, they moved inland. This tower was apparently some sort of sacred site, and it was likely that the peasants would head there in search of sanctuary now that the word was out that a hostile warband had landed nearby and was searching for slaves to take home with them. Charlemal hoped that was the case - it would be a lot easier to capture slaves if you knew where they would be. And so, his warband advanced, their intent to  intercept and capture peasants finding their way toward the sanctuary of the tower.

But before the Franks had reached the tower they saw Gunnblasdt's warband taking defensive positions on the plain ahead, ready to meet them. The Icelandic Jarl stood in the centre, his huscarls and berserkers beside him, a screen of archers in front. Behind them, peasants were already making their way towards the tower, passing close by the Vikings in the hope that they might protect them.

Gunnblasdt, beleaguered Icelandic Jarl
Having seen many brave Vikings fall
Declared that every Frank should die.
His archers standing like a wall
Poised to let their arrows fly.

But Charlemal, cunning Frankish Lord
Seeing Vikings readying swords
Carefully deployed his Franks
Foot warriors faced off Gunnblasdt's horde
While horses took the flanks.

Before the Franks could act, the enemy began to shoot, concentrating their fire on the Frankish warriors bearing Charlemal's banner. Many arrows fell on this unit, and many men fell, until only a handful of archers remained clustered around the banner. Only then did they realise that this was not the correct flag - someone had left the proper one at home, and heads would roll about that for sure when their Lord found out. But it was too late to do anything about that now. These Frankish archers wisely drew back, out of range of the exhausted enemy, while the second unit of archers, under Charlemal's personal command, advanced into the comparative safety of a small building, while Charlemal, mounted on his horse, stood alone on the right flank. Following up on this success, Gunnblasdt was keen to finish the job, and charged his berserkers into the building to destroy the second unit of Frankish archers.

Bu meanwhile, out of sight of the enemy, on the left flank the Frankish knights circled around behind Gunnblasdt's men, hunting down civilians, while on the right flank Charlemal was moving gradually closer to the peasants in that part of the battlefield.

Arrows launched from Viking bows
Felled many Franks with many blows
Forcing them to withdraw
Though the centre was a feast for crows
Twas just as Charlemal foresaw

They followed up on this onslaught
Berserkers into the building fought
Focused on killing Franks
They did not spare a lot of thought
For the horsemen behind their flanks

But the berserkers failed to take the building, as the defenders held sway. The berserkers were all slain, though leaving only a handful of Frankish archers behind. Only then did Gunnblasdt realise the true danger - while his men had been winning the fight in the centre, the Franks had slipped around their flanks, and were already rapidly gathering peasants for slaves. The Jarl ordered his hearthguard to chase after the enemy horsemen, but it was too late and they were too slow to be able to catch the mounted knights, who escaped into the distance with their prize.

Gunnblasdt was late to realise
The threat of Franks around both sides
Peasants just too far to save;
And Franks now quickly grabbed their prize
Of villagers as slaves.

Running out of options, Gunnbasdt decided to take matters into his own hands. Seeing Charlemal isolated, on the far right flank, chasing down peasants on his own, he charged. But in his desperation the Jarl had underestimated the challenge. By the time he reached Charlemal, he was already heavily fatigued, and thus left vulnerable to the Frankish Lord. What is more, Charlemal was prepared for this attack. With faith in his armour and in the surety that God was on his side fighting these northern pagans, he met Gunnbasdt's charge with vigour.

With Charlemal isolated on his right
Gunnblasdt chose this time to fight
One last chance to win the day
But 'gainst the man Steel Cannot Bite
He'd need good dice in this melee

But, unfortunately for the Viking Lord, the duel was short, and Gunnblasdt fell, severely wounded, to the ground. And so Charlemal hopped down from his horse and duly trussed up the wounded Gunnblasdt and slung him across the back of his horse to be taken for a slave himself, along with a selection of assorted peasants.

But alas Odin was not on his side
Gunnblasdt fell and Charlemal survived
The fate of Iceland now looks grave
For wounded Gunnblasdt was hogtied
To find himself enslaved.

So home to France Franks sail at last
With gold and slaves that they amassed
Coffers fully stocked.
As for the fate of poor Gunnblasdt?
He serves as Charlemal's mounting block.

"I could do with a footstool to get on and off my horse," Charlemal declared. "The King of Iceland will serve very nicely in that role." And so, it is told, the fate of the former Jarl of Iceland was sealed.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

From The Skald: The Battle of Jutland

And so Leif's warband, who had landed on the coastline of this very flat land, moved quickly inland. Cnut chose to meet him in a broad open area between two hills, where the ravens gathered, waiting for their feast.

His priest by his side, Dane-axe armed hearthguard to the left and warriors to the right, with two pairs of his hearthguard scouts to his far right, Leif advanced his line without hesitation. The gods were favouring him, it seemed, with more sixes on his Saga dice than he knew what to do with.

Opposite, Cnut stood ahead of the line of his men, his warriors on his right facing Leif, two units of hearthguard on the left facing the two pairs of Norse Gaels and the berserkers lurking at the back, trying to stay safe for the time being.

"Call that an Invasion?" Cnut taunted, and his men laughed. But it was as if Leif had not heard him, for the Norse Gael advance continued undaunted and there were even more sixes on the dice. Cnut, becoming slightly unnerved at the confidence of his opponent and the lack of space to move in, stepped a few paces back, feeling a little more comfortable closer to his men.

"It's a very aggressive invasion," he muttered to himself. He exchanged glances with the men next to him. It was time for the Danes to be aggressive now. On the left flank, Cnut's hearthguard charged one pair of the Norse Gael scouts. Backed by the confidence of a six in their How Brave Are You? box, one of the Norse Gaels stepped forward and challenged: "Who's next?" he shouted. After a short pause, briefly considering and dismissing the alternatives, one of the Danes stepped forward. 

The dice gods are fickle, and at this point they changed sides.

"Er.. you were next..." said the Dane as the Norse Gael hearthguard fell in a pool of his own blood, and melee ensued, another man falling on either side.

Cnut smiled. With few Saga dice left on the Norse Gael battle-board, it was time to send the berserkers in, and so they charged the unit of Dane Axe-armed warriors ahead of them. The combination of Dane Axes, Ragnarok, Valhalla and very large handfuls of dice made mutual annihilation inevitable, and thus they all died.

"The boats are still there if you want to go back!" jeered Cnut, trying to hide the worried look on his face. But Leif was having none of it. On the Norse Gael right flank the second hearthguard pair joined the fight, while Leif's remaining warriors threw their javelins at the bondi opposite, rather rudely killing one of them.

With his last unblooded unit of hearthguard beside him, Cnut led a charge into the Norse Gael warriors, three of his men falling for the loss of seven of the enemy, the last Norse Gael warrior fleeing for his life.

A temporary success, but the situation was touch and go. Cnut stood with one faithful bodyguard beside him in the centre of the field, a unit of five of his warriors some distance to his right, two hearthguard running to support him, but still too far away, on his left. Leif stood dangerously close to Cnut, his priest at his side, supported by three Dane axe-armed hearthguard. His last surviving warrior was prudently keeping a safe distance away at the back.

"We shall lose the game to win the game!" Cnut cried, confidently. And as his men puzzled over exactly what he meant, Leif and his remaining hearthguard charged. Now Troll-Hide and Son of Odin are all very well, but even with two extra defence dice and an ablative hearthguard it's a challenge to survive thirteen hits. And thus Cnut fell to the ground.

Leaderless they might now be, but the Danes refused to surrender. Calling to Valhalla, the warriors charged the Viking hearthguard, seeking vengeance. calling to Valhalla, the blades of both sides flew as they gloriously chopped each other to bits, and all were slain. 

The last two Danes on the field, the two hearthguard who had failed to get to their Lord before he had fallen, backed away, but not quite far enough. Leif called on help from the dice gods, and again the sixes came. Three Saga dice became six, and thus Leif, alone, his battle board loaded, charged and cut down both of the enemy where they stood.

Victorious, Leif laid claim to the land.

Cnut, who had somehow survived, nursing his wounds, sneaked away to fight another day.

And the ravens began their feast.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Skald's Tale (3): The Year of the Haggis

Book 2 of The Eye of the Raven

Action during Season 2 of The Eye of the Raven
Sing, o skald, of battles new,
Of action during Season Two,
Of clash of shield and sword.
When raiding warbands came and went
(Some of them from the continent)
And the Scots headed the leaderboard.

It all began when Aethelflaed
Invaded Jorvik, where she stayed.
The Anglo-Danes almost lost heart - 
It seemed the end of John's campaign;
But luckily for the Anglo-Dane
It turned out to be a false start.

The helpful ref who came along
Declared The Penny far too strong
And Aethelflaed agreed.
So the clocks wound back
(There had been no attack).
Aarold got off scot free.

So it all began another day
When leek-prowed boats landed in Norway,
And Welsh caught Viking half asleep.
They harried and burned within the fold,
But all they could find was Ubba's gold
(No sign of any sheep).

The Irish met the Danes in battle
Claiming back their stolen cattle
From Cnut Autokorrekthater.
Both sides would live another day
(Each said the enemy ran away)
For they fought an epic draw.

Cnut, now seeking battle worthier
Raided Anglo-Danish East Anglia.
Warlords met - Viking and Anglo-Dane.
Another blow for Anglo-Danish luck,
Campaign progress so nearly f***ed
When Aarold was brutally slain.

But fortunes changed with Aarold dead,
When the crown passed to rich dad Alfred.
He attacked those men in dresses,
The Scots, who so strongly defended
Sent the Danes home empty-handed
Calling them a bunch of Jessies.

Tavish, vict'ry to his liking
Moved now 'gainst Iceland Viking:
Vengeance of a sort was willed.
Though Gunnblasdt fought a mighty battle,
He was scared off (and his cattle)
When Tavish lifted up his kilt.

Meanwhile (after rules renew)
The Saxons invaded York (round two);
This time all would not be cancelled.
A different end - Saxons did not settle!
Alfred Steptoe showed his mettle,
And t'was Aelthelflaed that fled.

The Franks then sought to make their mark,
Their warband raiding Hedemark,
Seeking gold in their adventure.
Ubba and Charlemal clashed together;
The Norseman died defending his treasure;
Franks made off with his golden denture.

Ubba's heir, young Ubbason
Determined to be troublesome,
Wanted a saga all his own.
But stopped by Scots before a ford
His Vikings got savagely mauled,
And the Jarl had to row his own boat home.

Finally, Sir Sybald's Normans
Arrived in East Wessex without warning,
Apparently to refight Hastings.
But Aethelflaed's Anglo-Saxon force,
After a long march from up north,
Gave them a right good pasting.

Thus left alone til this year's end,
Leif's Norse Gaels (who chose to defend)
Couldn't keep top table status.
Tavish's Scots now head the scale;
And hence this chapter of our tale
We name The Year of the Haggis.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

From the Scots Skald: Battle of the Burn

Wi' thair stoatin' win ower th' Vikin' scrotes o' th' land o' aice, 
Tavish McTavish, Laird o' all th' Noarth 
Teuket aisy in hi' stoatin' loaby 
Wi' a richt banquit o' braw Aislandic baifsteake, 
A-washed doon wi' hunners lairge o' mead 
N' cratur, o' coorse. 

Whin a' o' a' sudd'n thare wis a fairtin' blast 
O'win beneath th' kilts o' a' the noo 
Es th' door wur flung waide 
N' yin o' his scoots boalt'd in, all a-hollerin': 
"M'laird, thare ur mair Vikin' readers aff th' coost!"

Th' clan cheif turn'd tae Ewen Mea 'n' curs'd, 
Thain staun 'n' shoot'd tae a': 
"Mair o' they blowdy heairy, howfin Vikin's 
Aantae learn Scots manaers! 
Wae shell le'rn thaim howfur thay sae 
'Awright' in Glescae toon!"

S'oan th' neist pure wide bricht sunlit marnin' 
Tavish 'n' his main, ilk wi' a heid stowed oot 
O' rampaigin' beasties wi' maetal hamm'rs, 
Set aff o'er th' moars.
"Thair's a wee burn neart th' sea, 
Whaur we wull stoap thaim. 
Waill cetch wi` thaim thare 
N' gie thaim wha' thay'r deu.
Th' burn wull run rid wi' Vikin' blud by th'aind o' th' dae” 
Tavish grinn'd thro' hais theck rid fluff.

N' soon th' braive Scots, 
Th'sporrans a-swingin' wi' th' spaid o' thair mairch, 
Hud raich'd th' bonnie banks o' th' burn. 
Wi' warriors tae th' richt 
N' his picked main tae th' laift, 
Thay gawked 'n' weet'd. 

N' twas nae lang afair th' bastad Ubbas'n, 
Nabut a wee upstairt Viking 
Wi' a baird na hearier thain Tavish's knee-fluff 
Arraiv'd wi' his mangy excuise fur a warbaind. 
Th' hearthguard wa facin' th' Scots warriars, 
Ai' feartie-cat archers a-lurkin' in th' raucle beyon. 
Wi' warriars oan th' ither flaink, 
Th' Jimmy his-sel stoad wi' th' berserks, 
Skulkin' behin'.

Tavish, wi' his boaws, 
Staun fairless in th' centur o' his main 
As a true wairlord shuid.

Intae th' waetair th' Vikin' hearthguard charged, 
Shoutin' abuse 'n' insults 
Ain a forn taung thet th' Scots dingyed, 
Tho' yin Jimmy faell tae th'nmy arraes a-flaein' o'erheed. 
Meatin' th' Scots oan th' aither baink, 
Drookit wi' waetair maex'd wi' Vikin' blud, 
A' wur pat tae th' soard 
Whail bit twa braive Scotsmen faell.
Whail oan th' ither flaenk, 
Th' Vikin's charg'd, tae be met in th' burn by Tavish's maen, 
Kilts a-flyin' waild. 

Th' Vikin' hud nae nae plaice tae gae, 
Nae th' taime tae reas thair shiels 
Afore th' Scots wur amoang thaim, 
N' unprepair'd, thae tae faell,
Fur it steals a brave Jimmy 
Tae fend aff a Scotsman's waip'n so! 

As th' burn bolted wi' thair blud, 
Th' lest o' they Vikin's faell awae.
At lest Ubbason th' bas, 
Ainraig'd, roar'd his greet 
N' charg'd hissael thro' th' wataer, 
Hais berserks, wi' na arm'r 'n' sportin' bit a stitch, basaide. 

They brave maen faill tae haird Scots stael, 
N' Ubbason, aloane, 
Wis stabb'd up th' jacksie 
Sae baid thet he cuid dae na mair bit tae stammle awa', 
Yin haun pokin' twa fing'rs a-defiance, 
Th' ither cauvrin' his wound'd bahookie.

N' as th' lest o' th' enmy wur slean, 
Tavish 'n' Ewen gawked th' dregs 
Run beck tae thair boets 'n' slink awa' hame, 
Smilin' at th' thaught o' Ubbason, 
Roawin' his ain boet hame sittin' oan hi' ain bluidin erse.

N' th' burn bolted rid wi' Viking blud.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

From the Frankish Skald: The Song of Charlemal

I - Ubba's Last Stand

Charlemal, new-crowned Frankish King
Had heard the tales of Viking wealth
So sought to take it for himself.
His longships sailed upon the wind
Northward o'er the waves that rolled.

In Hedemark they made landfall
There to raid with axe and sword
The land of Ubba, Viking Lord.
The Jarl with greatest wealth of all
So rich even his teeth were made of gold.

Charlemal,  King of the Franks, stood on the shore as his men disembarked from their longships, and sighed. They had landed some hours before sunrise in this sheltered cove, the closest beach suitable for their ships to their prize, a building of evident importance. It solemnly stood at the top of a cliff that they had spotted from some distance offshore the previous evening. Almost certainly it was some sort of temple to one of the strange gods of the pagans who inhabited these Norse lands. And, more importantly, it was almost certainly filled with gold and other treasures - or so he had assured his men.

But it had taken an age to unload the ships in the darkness and make ready for the journey inland, and the Frankish scouts had searched for longer than expected before they had found a safe route to the top of the cliffs. Worst of all, they had spotted Viking lookouts and without doubt the alarm had been raised and the defenders would be on the alert. Not the ideal situation, but it was far too late to change the plan now.

More than an hour had passed before the warband reached the top of the cliff. The path, once they had found it, had been easier to climb than expected for the men, but getting the stumbling horses along it safely before the sun had risen had been a challenge. Once at the top, though, the going was easy towards the building - there was even a path to follow. The scouts led the way as the sun rose to reveal the mouth of the Great Fjord of Hedemark in the distance, and with the light, their journey, along with Charlemal's mood, eased considerably.

It was not to last for long. News from the scouts was that a baggage train, escorted by warriors and berserkers, was moving inland from the building. Charlemal reasoned quickly - the alarm raised, the defenders must have understood the target of the raiders and were moving their valuables away into safety - it was time to act. He ordered his men to change direction, cutting across the low hills inland instead to cut off the path of the baggage train.

The Franks caught up with their target at a small hamlet tucked away between hills and moorland. Two units of Viking warriors and a handful of berserkers kept close formation beside two carts and several pack horses laden with goods. A brawny Viking warlord was barking orders at them sharply. Occasionally the sunlight glinted off his one, golden, tooth. Ubba, Jarl of Norway, was here in person. Charlemal had heard the tales and knew of his adversary, a veteran of many battles in many different lands. He ordered his men into formation, archers to his right in one of the buildings, more to his centre in the open, and two smaller units in reserve at the rear, and he and his knights on the left, mounted and ready to swing around his enemy's flank when the moment was right.

Slowly, the baggage train advanced. Warriors protected its flanks while the berserkers held back, keeping their distance from the threat of the Frankish archers, while Ubba Goldtooth, in the centre, considered his options. It was clear that the Franks lay in his path to victory and the Jarl was intent on fighting his path through. Partially shielded from the bowmen by a small hill, the Vikings advanced.

Charlemal, battle-seeking Frankish King
Had found the Vikings with their wealth.
Taking it now was down to himself.
But his battle board was horribly confusing
Regardless of the dice he'd just rolled.

Charlemal ordered his men to wait. It was tempting to attack immediately, but there was advantage in preparation and patience, so he readied his force for a counterattack. The Vikings, emboldened by the apparent inaction of their foe, pressed on, but almost before they could move, the foremost of their warriors were charged by the Frankish knights, who forced them back without loss and, though surrounded, threatened the first of the baggage carts.

Charlemal, counter-charging Frankish Lord
Surprised the Viking warriors now.
His horsemen charged and mowed them down.
But now alone in the middle of the board
They were at the mercy of their berserker foe.

Ubba, surprised and enraged, signalled to his berserkers, and charged with them into the knights, who were doing all they could to keep their formation in readiness for the inevitable counterattack. And fortune was on their side. Mud, from a small stream leading down the hill, or something similar, must have caused the Vikings to be unsure of their footing, for their attack was half-hearted and the knights stood their ground, while several of the berserkers met their death beneath horse's hooves, and were driven back.

Charlemal's pious Frankish knights
With God's strength and armour, stayed
The charging berserkers and Ubba's blade
They forced them back and were now in sight
Of a baggage cart laden with gold.

Charlemal's emboldened Frankish knights
Readied themselves, charged once, then twice
Plundering the cart, claiming their prize
While the rest of the baggage took flight
On long flank manoeuvre to go.

With the sense that destiny was on their side, the knights charged the baggage several times before the cart was destroyed and plundered. Losing men in the inevitable counter-charge, they fell back, but enough damage had been done. The Vikings were in disarray, berserkers and many warriors lying dead on the hill, and only a few brave men holding their positions close to Ubba's side.

Seeing the main threat to the remaining baggage from Charlemal himself, Ubba ordered his baggage to find a way around the hamlet to escape. He and his warriors would hold the Frankish warlord where he was while they made their bid for freedom.

Ubba, embattled Norse Viking
Drew his men close and once more charged
Engaging Charlemal and his bodyguard
Both warlords fiercely fighting
Neither giving any ground.

With their leader in battle with the Viking Jarl, Frankish resources were stretched to the limit and it was all they could do to send one unit of archers on a wide march to the left flank in an attempt to hold off the baggage. Just in time, they were able to take position to the side of the hamlet, blocking the escape route for the remains of the Viking baggage train. In the meantime, supported by Warriors, Charlemal and Ubba faced each other off at the side of the hill. Again and again they met in battle and warriors of both sides died, before Ubba, in a wild charge, met Charlemal in single combat.

Charlemal, who steel cannot bite
Met Ubba's charge; his blade was true
(The Viking Jarl was run right through)
And Ubba, giving up the fight
Fell dead upon the ground.

Charlemal had anticipated this moment well, and met the Jarl's charge with even greater force. Ubba's blade could not pierce the Frank's armour, nor could he withstand the ferocity of his foe's defence, and this was Ubba Goldtooth's last stand, falling on the bloodied hillside to Charlemal's blade.

The Viking force, reduced to a single man, gave up the fight and fled the field. The Franks, rejoicing and not a little surprised at the fortune of their venture, rounded up the baggage and returned with their plunder to their boats.

Celebrations were in order, for Charlemal's first victory. Mead flowed, and Charlemal ordered a great banner to be made to honour Ubba's noble death as well as the brave deeds of battle done by the Franks that day, to be carried into battle flying from a pole topped with the most treasured plunder of that day - Ubba's golden tooth.

Charlemal, victorious Frankish Lord
Let the last Viking warrior run to fight again.
While his men rounded up the baggage train
And took all the treasure home with them, including
Ubba's tooth of gold.

The eldest son of the late Ubba Goldtooth, Jarl of Norway, sat at the head of the table in the Great Hall, brooding. The smell of charred wood from the boat burial was still strong on the fur lining of his cape. The throne he occupied felt more unfamiliar than uncomfortable. He knew the men before his expected him to stand and speak shortly, before he would let them feast and drink, celebrating his father's entry to Valhalla. But he was judging the moment, timing his move with care. They would assume he was managing his grief, but the truth was much more complicated than that. It wasn't as if he hadn't given his father the respect he had deserved, or that he would miss him now he was gone. But he had longed for years to take his father's place and sit in this throne and lead. And now, as his father watched from Valhalla, he was expected to do just that.

The Frankish upstart Charlemal - the foreigner who had has raided his father's - his - lands would die for this deed, to be sure. The blood feud had already been declared. But in the back of his mind Ubbason (his father had lacked imagination when naming his children) felt he had been done a favour, by being brought to his inheritance earlier and without any need for scheming on his part. And his father had died with great honour, as a Viking should. He would be respected for that, and for the leadership he would show in the years to come.

Ubbason the Bastard stood, as the Great Hall fell silent, and with forced tears in his eyes, but real passion in his heart, he made the greatest speech of his life so far....