Monday, 9 May 2016

Le Chanson de Bob - Chapter III

In which we speak of events that unfolded after the Battle of Ubba's Mound, of the restoration of the confidence of the people of Brittany in their Lord Robert Eponge, and of his further adventures against the enemies of that fair land.

And so it was that
Robert Eponge returned home
Travelling through his lands

Before him
Word had spread
Of the battle at Ubba's Mound
Of the worthy deeds of the Breton knights
And of their great victory over the Vikings

The people of Brittany rejoiced
(The concerns they had previously expressed conveniently put aside)
And there was celebration throughout the land

Fine wine was uncorked
Tables were laden with all good things
Including many smelly cheeses
And the people feasted

Church bells rang
Choirs sang
All gave praise to God
And Robert Eponge
Lord of Brittany
Found his authority considerably improved

Word of these events spread
Even into other lands
Of that battle
Of the exploits of the Breton knights
Of the scattering of the hairy invaders
And of Ubba's humiliation

And the enemies of Brittany were filled with dread

Robert Eponge
(His reputation going before him)
Travelled throughout his lands
Visiting towns and villages
Showing his presence
Basking in glory
And collecting outstanding taxes that had previously been withheld

So, as the daylight began to fade
Approaching one such hamlet
The army of Robert Eponge
(Which was scattered over a fairly wide area)
Encountered a new enemy

Hiding behind a building

A small force of Anglo-Danes
(Their army was also spread about the land)
A band of rough peasant archers
And armoured spearmen
Tall swarthy Saxlanders
Chosen men
Protectors of their Lord
Thorvald Heldigson
Known by reputation
From Miklagard to Aarsborg
As among the bravest of leaders
Most warlike in manner
Greatest of victors
Mightiest of Warlords
Who had never known defeat

Hiding behind a building

Word was sent by both leaders
To their armies, to gather at this place
A small hamlet, tucked between rocky ground and fields
On the borders of Brittany

The army of Robert Eponge
Deployed in open ground
The brave knights of Patrick Etoile
Arrayed beneath the banner of Brittany
On the left flank
As usual
Protecting Robert himself
On the right

The army of Thorvald Heldigson
In tight formation
Archers inside the building
Arrows notched, ready to shoot
Huscarls behind
Protecting their Lord

And so the armies stood for a while
Facing each other
Sort of
With a building between them

Anglo Danes
Wary of the reputation of their enemy
Waiting for reinforcements
Or for the Bretons to move into range of their archers
Or make some other silly tactical error

Wary of the reputation of their enemy
Waiting to see what the Anglo-Danes would do
Or for some sort of sign from Heaven
Or something
(And pretty soon coming to the realisation that their approach wasn't a particularly great winning tactic if all the Anglo-Danes were going to do was hide in the building and wait for the Bretons to do something)

The arrival of the remainder of the Breton army
One small unit of knights from the rear
One unit of Warriors beside the rocky ground to the left
(Who had travelled swiftly after receiving news of the situation)
Prompted Robert Eponge into action
Otherwise, it seemed very likely that very little would happen

The Bretons advanced
Closing down the distance
But casting their minds back to lessons learned from cheesy Norman
Sensibly keeping sufficiently far away from the enemy archers not to be shot at

More Anglo-Danish forces then arrived
Spearmen reinforcing those hiding behind the building
And more bow-armed peasants, advancing into the rocky ground

Though there was no sign from Heaven
Robert Eponge realised
The moment was now or never
To take the initiative
(Though he did momentarily consider not taking it)
The knights of Patrick Etoile advanced
Letting loose a volley of javelins
Into the building
Three peasants fell dead
And the knights backed off to what they thought was a safe distance

In that moment
The Anglo-Danes seized their chance
To counterattack
For while the knights had backed off
They had not moved far enough away
To be sure of safety

The Breton Warriors
Moving slowly past the rocky ground
Were in much the same predicament

The peasants advanced and took aim
Remaining amongst the rocks on the flank
Advancing into the open before the building.
Arrows were loosed
But with God on their side
Not a single Breton knight fell
And only two Warriors met their death

The knights then advanced
Throwing javelins once, twice
And all the peasants before the house were slain

As the last of the enemy arrived
The Bretons fell back
To positions in the open ground
Occasionally sniping at the enemy
Who remained hiding in cover

Thorvald's men hid
Praying for nightfall
Making their escape
Soon as fading light allowed

Once again
Valiant Robert Eponge
Protector of Brittany
Had seen off the enemies of that fair land
He gave arm rings to his men
And others
Dogs of War
Mercenaries from distant lands
Seeking honour and plunder
Rallied to his banner

And Robert Eponge returned in glory
To the acclaim of his people
Who, honouring his deeds
Proclaimed him Duc

Thanks be to God
Robert Eponge

Duc de Bretagne

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Le Chanson de Bob - Chapter II

In which we tell the tale of events after the attack of the cheesy Normans, of Robert Eponge's facing the army of the invader Ubba "The Unready" and his force of hairy plunder-seeking Viking raiders, and of the confrontation that is known to history as "The Battle of Ubba's Mound".

Once more we sing of brave Robert
Who, despite seeing off the cheesy Norman invader
From the borders of his land
Was now under a bit of pressure.

The cost of dispersing that barbarous foe
Had been high
Many were the brave knights of Brittany
That had fallen in that noble endeavour.
And hence many too were the people of Brittany
Who had lost sons and husbands
And who
Quite frankly
Weren't at all happy with the situation.

Questions were being asked
About Robert Eponge
About his right to rule the land
His authority to command the army
And his general level of competence.

Robert himself
Was rightly worried
He sensed his people on the brink of rebellion
And knew he had to do something about it

Worse still
This unfortunate situation
Was apparent to other jealous neighbours
And further abroad,
Even to those in distant lands
For word had spread to all corners of the world
Of the rich pickings of Brittany
There for the taking
For whoever might try
And of its weak defenders
Who could scarcely be considered the equal of warriors of any other nation
Given the rumours of their pathetic showing against the cheesy Normans

These tales reached the eager ears of one
Hairy Viking
Ambitious for glory
Hungry for adventure
Greedy for plunder
(Yet known as Unready)

But ready he made himself, and
His tall-prowed longship
With battle-ready hairy Viking crew
Soon made land on Breton shores

The Breton villagers
On spotting this foe
Were filled with dread
And fled into the hills and
(Temporarily putting aside thoughts of revolution for the time being)
Sent word to the court of Robert Eponge
Demanding help

(Who was not wholly blind to the obvious)
Saw that this was the opportunity he needed
To "do something about it PDQ"
And so
He did

The armies of Ubba and Robert Eponge
Made battle beside a mound-like hill
Open ground, a space between woodland and fields, a village to its south.
Robert faced the east, warriors to his left and right
His four household guards beside him
The twelve Machiterns of his faithful knight
Patrick Etoile
Bearing the Standard of Brittany
On his left
Preparing to charge

Opposite, facing west
Flanked by hairy warriors
Hairier Huscarls on the flanks
And really hairy Berserkers
Made hairier by the skins they wore
Beside the edge of a wood
Off to one side
Trying to be clever
Contemplating some sneaky trick

The calm was broken
Breton battle-horns sounded
Machiterns charged Huscarls
Throwing javelins once, twice, three times
Until the huscarls on that flank had all fallen dead

To their left the Machiterns then swarmed
Loosing more javelins
The trees could not protect the hairiest ones
Who all died too
And the Machiterns reformed their line.

Thought Ubba
(Who really had been unready)
And considered his options.

Briefly considering running away
(But he was too far from his ship)
He reconsidered, and
Having lost his right flank
Adjusted his battle plan
And advanced on the left instead.

Dressing their lines
Resting their horses
Robert's household knights advanced
Javelins were thrown
But Ubba's men were not deterred
And advanced, ignoring fatigue
Closing down the distance
Cornering Robert's household knights.

As resting Machiterns watched and
Warriors cautiously backed away
The cornered household knights charged
(Some thought unwisely)

Tired Viking warriors
Bravely met their foe
Thinking the odds even
They were ready

But the Bretons had a trick up their sleeve
In mid-charge, loosing javelins
At the Vikings
Who were unready

And fate had deserted them
Slaying but one Breton knight
As five of their own number fell

Charged with his huscarls
Ready or not

But the Bretons had another trick
No longer cornered
And instead of fighting, ran away

(If a little frustrated)
Threw his Warriors at Robert's household knights
Finally getting rid of them
Albeit at equal cost
And in desperation
Threw them in at the Machiterns too

But in defence the horsemen were strong
Withstanding the attack
Slaying the warriors
Sowing the ground with Viking blood

Thus Ubba
On the mound-like hill
With three brave warriors remained
And called to Odin for help
And in desperation

He fell

And thus
(So it turned out)
"Something had been done about it PDQ"

Robert Eponge
Returned home in glory

Ubba didn't

Dragged off by his three remaining men
Finally home after an extremely slow  boat trip.

The Saga of Einar Jonatansson - Chapter 2.

Moving south from the lands of the Norse Gael we entered the territory of an Irish chieftain called Finn Mac Blatha. For two days we continued south looting and burning Irish hamlets for little reward beyond a couple of red haired beauties captured and given over to my warriors for sport.

Toward mid-day of the third day our path was blocked by an Irish warband led by Finn Mac Blatha himself and intent on doing us harm.

The ground was open except for a small bog on our left rear and a large field of winter barley on the Irish left rear. I thought Mac Blatha had chosen poor ground to make his stand against me and I smiled.

Mac Blatha deployed his warband behind a thin screen of levy archers. On his far left were two units of eight warriors deployed one behind the other with their flank secured on the cropfield. In the centre stood Mac Blatha supported by two champions with six Hearthguard immediately to his right. Out on his right wing was another unit of eight warriors. I saw none of the much vaunted war dogs the Irish peasants had boasted of!
I deployed my shieldwall opposite the Irish centre with eight warriors on the left and two units of six Hearthguard on the right. I stood with the berserkers behind the shieldwall. My archers were placed further out on my right opposite the left wing of the Irish.

Mac Blatha spoke to his warriors calling them to red war against us and I saw him bestow an arm rings on one of his Hearthguard.

Not to be outdone I in turn awarded an arm ring to the leader of the Hearthguard unit that formed the right of my shieldwall. My men banged weapons on shields and screamed their war cries at the enemy.
The Irish moved first and ordered their archers forward to shoot us. I called to Odin for protection and he answered with a sudden mist that hid us from view. One of the enemy champions moved to support the warriors on the Irish left.

From the start there was Irish magic at work and for much of the fight the enemy levy were obscured by a mist that prevented my archers from shooting them. Fortunately, the Irish chieftain had made a mistake and my archers had sight on one of the warrior units deployed beyond their levy screen. By personal command I pushed my archers forward and further right before unleashing two volleys on the exposed enemy warriors and killing two.

Stung by the archery Mac Blatha ordered the remaining six warriors forward and hurled javelins at my levy but Asgard protected them from harm. The enemy warriors remained unbowed and launched themselves into melee with my archers. For the loss of two of their own my doughty archers killed two enemies and pushed them back. The Irish champion moved further forward in support of the warriors.

Invoking Ragnarok my archers shot down one more Irish warrior before I sent my right hand Hearthguard charging across the field and into the remaining three warriors. Two enemies fell for no loss and the Hearthguard continued the attack into the Irish champion. My men were tired but their leader dedicated his arm ring to Thor who answered by refreshing them with renewed vitality. The Irish champion fell in a welter of axe, sword and spear blows while my brothers remained unharmed. Loki snatched the last Irish warrior screaming from this world!

Mac Blatha was not done yet and after shooting down four of my archers with his levy sent the second warrior unit on his left forward against my triumphant Hearthguard killing one with javelins.
In response my Hearthguard attacked the warriors and after a hard fight that cost us three brave men slaughtered all the enemy warriors.

I pushed forward with my shieldwall and Berserkers.

At this moment the Gods deserted us and three of my Hearthguard fell to Irish archery. The battle hung in the balance.

The red mist descended as I lead my three Hearthguard in a final charge against the enemy archers calling on Frigg, Ullr and Thor we chopped down most of the enemy for no loss and the Irish abandoned the field to us. Thanks be to Odin.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Le Chanson de Bob - Chapter I

Being the First Chapter in the Song of Robert; in which we introduce the Hero Robert Eponge, and tell of his first battle, defending the land of the Bretons against a sneaky attack by their cheesy Norman neighbours.

Our song is of Robert Eponge,
Hero of the land of Brittany,
Of noble lineage,
Descended from the great heroes of old.
Conan, for example, was one of these
(The real one, that is, not the barbarian).

Robert Eponge, master swordsman,
Also unsurpassed in skill at spear-throwing,
As you would expect.
Spear-throwing, you understand, being a tradition of the Bretons
For which they among all people excel
(Even compared to the Welsh).

Though there are numerous tales of Bob's heroic deeds
Of his slaying of monsters
Saving damsels in distress
(And that sort of thing)
We don't need go into them here.
It stands to reason that
He is a well-respected ruler and totally worthy of the role.
Of course he is.

The proud Bretons he commands
Are a noble, peace-loving folk and generally all-round good guys.
They are the descendants of ancient peoples,
Keepers of the old traditions
And respectful custodians of their lands.
Brittany is after all a beautiful place
And, understandably, coveted by jealous foreigners.

The Bretons, therefore, have many enemies
Most of whom are, (as is often related in epic poems like this), ignorant pagans
Who have never even heard of
The Lord God Almighty,
Let alone behave like decent folk.
And who therefore deserve to be utterly wiped off the face of the earth
As is traditional for those who disagree with peace loving Christians.

The Normans that live nearby are just that sort of people.
Vagabonds, newly arrived in adjacent lands,
Strange, devil-worshipping foreigners.
They are troublesome, ambitious and greedy
And intolerant of their neighbours.
They have no respect for anyone.
They raid for plunder and conquest.
Yes they all deserve to die.

One such Norman goes by the devilish, frightening and altogether foreign-sounding name of
Who calls himself "le Roux".
(Which we believe is some kind of cheese).
He is an enemy of Brittany as well as many other nations.
His men yearn for plunder
And are jealous of the peace-loving Bretons.
Worse, they fight without honour and use cheesy tricks.

One day these troublesome Normans move to attack
The peace-loving people of Brittany,
Their evil hearts are bent on gold and loot.

News of their approach soon reaches Brittany
And as they cross the border lands and attack outlying villages
Robert Eponge comes forth to face them in battle.

The army of Robert Eponge is made of many noble horsemen.
Select knights of his household,
And a contingent of nobles led by his faithful general
Patrick Etoile,
Who ride beneath the banner of Brittany.
And as many brave warriors join them,
Having taken up spear and horse
To see off the enemy that has invaded their lands.

It is the early light of dawn.
The Normans and Bretons meet at a village on the borders of Brittany
That the enemy have already occupied, raided, plundered, looted
And eaten all the croissants.
As the sun rises and disperses the morning mist
As the armies see each other.

The Normans lurk in the village
Archers on each flank hiding in cover
(Cowering cowards)
Crossbowmen hiding in a building in the centre
(Cowardly crossbowmen)
The only few worthies,
Who may look like noble knights
But actually have the hearts of common robbers,
On horseback in the centre,
Advance, as if to attack.

The Bretons, cautious,
Remain concealed in the darkness,
Keeping away from the Norman cowards
That shoot with impunity at those they can see
from the cover of buildings and bushes

"Come out and fight, cheesy Normans"
Brave Bob challenges,
But, fearfully the enemy stays lurking,
Shooting from their hiding places,
Dealing ignoble death unfairly upon their noble adversaries.

The Norman knights advance,
But, seeing their foe before them, hesitate
And then run away.
Covered by their cowardly archers
They dare not engage brave Robert's men in noble battle.

(And, some might not unreasonably say, unwisely),
The Bretons advance.
They throw their javelins many times
And many of the enemy fall.

But, lured into the open,
The Bretons find themselves at the mercy of the cowardly archers.
Dirty tricksters who have evidently summoned the power of demons
So that they can shoot their arrows farther than is humanly possible.
Which is really not very decent of them given the range of Breton javelins.

And so many brave Breton knights and warriors fall
Slain by these cowardly arrows that come out of the darkness.

Patrick Etoile rides forth.
"Camembert!" he cries, challenging the cheesy enemy,
Leading his brave knights to the edge of the village.
The best spear-throwers of Brittany
Use all their abilities to throw javelins accurately at the enemy through windows and doors.
The dice are cast,
(A lot of them, with very good factors in their favour)
But the luck of the devil is with the enemy and only a single man falls dead.

Finally Patrick Etoile,
Leads a charge at the enemy cavalry,
The banner of Brittany flying gloriously in the wind.
Javelins fly,
Many Norman knights die,
As well as half of the enemy crossbowmen,
And the battle is even.

But the enemy is fierce in defence,
Yet more cowardly shooting
Slays the flower of Brittany,
And gives the Normans time to escape.

The raiders flee like the cowards they are.
They run back home, taking their plunder,
Seen off from the fair fields of Brittany.

The price paid has been high.
Many are the brave Breton knights that have died today
On this field of battle.
But it could have been worse.
(Oh yes).

Thanks be to God

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Saga of Caradog ap Llewellyn - Chapter One

Once again the English crossed the border into my lands looking for gold and slaves. This time the invader was Guffer AEg-Stank, he of the strange accent.

I decided to confront them at a river crossing not far from the border and arrived at the place toward mid morn. The river is fast flowing and deep with two wooden bridges across it. In front of the left bridge on my side of the river is an area of rocky ground and I placed my archers within supported by four warriors. To the right of the rocky ground betwixt the two crossings is a crop field, high with winter barley, and I placed eight of my Hearthguard here so that they could respond to attack across either bridge. The ground around the right hand bridge is open and I placed twelve warriors opposite the crossing to defend it and supported them with my four remaining Hearthguard.  I took my place with the Hearthguard in the field and awaited Guffer.

He soon appeared across the valley and formed his warband to attack my position. He deployed two units of eight axe wielding Hearthguard and a unit of eight warriors opposite the left bridge. His last unit of eight warriors deployed close to the right hand bridge.
The English began banging weapons on shields to raise their courage. In response my brave boys sung Men of Harlech, drowning out the English clamour with Welsh harmony!
Guffer charged a unit of warriors and both units of Hearthguard across the left hand bridge, shouting encouragement from the rear. The warriors formed their shieldwall on my side of the river with a Heartguard unit on their right. The second Hearthguard unit formed on the bridge behind the warriors. All seemed winded by the exertion.

My archers pulled back deeper into the rocks and loosed a volley at the enemy warriors which dropped one of them. I pushed my Hearthguard out of the barley field at a run and showered the English Hearthguards on the bridge with javelins but only saw one fall.
Guffer had his warriors charge my Hearthguard and my men slaughtered them like spring lambs without loss. Only three of the enemy warriors escaped death and fell back toward the bridge. The English on the bridge moved toward my Hearthguard but were reluctant to close with my men, cowed no doubt by the sight of our shields covered in English gore. Guffer was seen puffing his way across the bridge.

The English were where I wanted them, trapped in the killing ground. My archers, warriors and Hearthguard launched a torrent of arrows and javelins against the enemy Hearthguard killing six of them.

There followed a lull in the fighting during which Guffer withdrew the remnants of his warriors and decimated Hearthguards while advancing his remaining Hearthguard unit across the front of my levy to confront my Hearthguard.

Once again we deluged his Hearthguards with missiles but this time they formed a tight shieldwall that saved them from loss.

Guffer strode to the front of his men and led them in a charge against my Hearthguard. The fight was red tooth and claw and despite their bravery my men gave ground with the loss of five of their number. Four of the English fell to our swords.

My archers shot down two of the English warriors on the bridge but once again the enemy Hearthguard survived our javelins including four of my own casts.

With relentless determination Guffer charged again with his four Hearthguard and with despair I witnessed the slaughter of my three Hearthguard with no loss to the English.
I stood alone amongst the trampled barley confronted by Guffer and his four men. My four warriors moved out of the rocks in support and threw javelins at the enemy Hearthguard who deflected every dart. I made four casts at them but only killed one. My archers killed the last English warrior on the bridge as I glimpsed their warriors on the opposite side of the river moving toward the bridge on my left.

I cursed my decision to place my other four Hearthguard so far away, it would cost me this day.

Guffer and his last three Hearthguard charged me raining down axe blows that that rent my armour and split my shield in twain. A blow to my helmet knocked me unconscious.
When I came to my men related the last of the battle to me. My four brave warriors gave their lives to save me and killed one of the enemies Hearthguard. I had managed to kill another before I went down. The last of them was shot down by my archers.
Guffers last unit of warriors crossed the bridge and covered his withdrawal but lost three men to my archers as they did so.

Guffer claims the fight as honours even because he knocked me down. I say he went home with his tail between his legs. Thanks be to God.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Saga of Einar Jonatansson - Chapter I

With the coming of the thaw my warriors grew restless for the vik.

I led them across the whale road to Ireland, the land of bog dwellers and little kings.

We landed in the north where the Norse Gael dwells. The race is a sorry dilution of noble Nordic blood with bastardised bog trotter.

In the early dawn we moved inland and found an abandoned longhouse with heart embers still glowing red. I sent my archers into the building and had them cut arrow loops in the walls while my hearthguards and warriors formed a shield wall outside.  To our left front loomed the only high ground in the area and opposite the longhouse on the other side of the clearing was a small wood, wreathed in an early morning mist that hung heavy across the land.

It wasn’t long before shadowy figures could be glimpsed in the misty half -light of dawn moving in the wood and to our front. Our visitors seemed nervous and over cautious.

I sent the warriors forward to tempt them in and ordered the archers out in support. Two groups of Norse Gael hearthguard appeared from the mist brandishing their dane axes and cursing us to the gods.

The archers shot two of the enemy down, forcing them to retire like whipped dogs.
My warriors moved bravely toward the wood and revealed enemy warriors also wielding dane axes. Our archers quickly send one of them to hell.

Finally the enemy found his courage and their warriors launched themselves at my warriors. Two of my brave lads met the axes of the enemy in personal challenge and went straight to Valhalla. 
Overwhelmed by the fierceness of the attack another five of my men fell to the deadly axes but took four of the enemy with them in red death.

My surviving warrior fell back as the archers shot down the last three enemy warriors and my shield wall advanced on the enemy.

The bloodletting seemed to have cowed the enemy who hung back from the fight again. The archers went forward and killed three more of their hearthguard with well-aimed shafts.

This proved too much for the Gaels who ran off into the mist.

A search of the longhouse rewarded us with hidden silver and an arm ring.

Hear my song of red war and tremble.

Author's Note

A great scholar writes:

"The Saga of Sagas comprises a series of poems and epic tales spanning across the British Isles and the north of what is now France. Its heroic narrative depicts the exploits of a collection of contemporary dark age warlords in their attempts to win glory through conquest and battle against each other. Compiled by an author known to history simply as Basculf the Unwashed, its narrative prose suggests that it in fact represents the work of a variety of different authors, each of whom relates the tale of one particular Warlord. Although stylistically varied, with narrative elements that belong to a bygone age, it lives in its own continuous present and hence remains a work of relevance to the modern day."

Well that's quite enough of that. This intermittent blog tells the tales of the rival Warlords in a Saga campaign run at Wycombe Warband. The posts making up the Saga of Sagas have been written by the players concerned from the point of view of their own forces. I make no claim whatsoever to their being wholly honest or accurately representative of events.

The rules used for the Campaign are a modified version of It's The Skald's Work... A Campaign for SAGA© from Tomahawk Studios & Gripping Beast, by Rich Jones, April 2012, modified for Wycombe Warband by Jon Houchin. You can download the original at

Basculf the Unwashed, writing on the first day of the Campaign