the great heathen army part 2

We rode to the country of Northumbria where we encountered Ælla and another king, Osberht. They had joined forces against us but that did not worry us in the slightest.

We set our shield wall and made ready for the attack.

They had formed their own shield wall and the sound of the shields clashing, and the men shouting made a tremendous din.

I was in the centre of the wall. We pushed and shoved at the enemy. They were strong, but we were stronger. I was filled with elation. This is what life’s all about. Fighting and battle.

Men poked spears through our wall and found spaces in the enemy wall. True, some of the enemy spears found our men, too. The man next to me fell and left a gap. Someone quickly filled it from the second line of shields. I recognised Einar, my friend. He winked at me and began to push.

A spear grazed my leg, but I felt nothing, such was my excitement. I shouted at the man who had pricked me, and thrust my own spear at him. He cried out and fell.

Blood made the ground slick. It’s metallic scent filled the air mixed with the smell of men whose bowels had opened in fear. The man in front of me slipped. I stuck him with my spear then ran into the gap he left before anyone could fill it. Einar joined me in pushing and we broke through their wall. They began to run.

Still full of the battle joy, we pursued them, but they knew the land better than we did and eventually we lost them. But we killed many and captured a number of them.

Our leaders, the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, hoped that Ælla was among them, but he had escaped along with his ally, Osberht.

We returned to Jorvik, but a few months later, Ælla and Osberht gained courage and attacked us. Once again we fought, shield wall to shield wall. Again there was the thrill of the fight. The danger was exhilarating. Those that fell were found by the Valkyries and taken to Valhalla to live in the presence of Odin. They would fight all day and drink all night. Death in battle was not something to be feared, but embraced. Only those who died in battle went to that wonderful place.

These Anglo Saxons are no match for we Danes. They are weak and feeble, and so we easily overcame them. It was a abit disappointing that the fight had not been more fierce.

King Osberht had been killed in the fighting, but Ælla was still alive. We needed to capture or kill him.

Halfdan called to us that he would prefer to have Ælla alive, and we set off to chase the retreating army.

Suddenly a great shout went up. Ælla had been captured. I saw him dragged by three men to stand before Halfdan and his brother, Ivar the Boneless.

Our leader laughed. “So, Ælla, you stand before us to pay the price for killing our father.”

Ælla shivered and said nothing.

“We will have our revenge.” Ivar turned to the men who had brought Ælla to him. “Throw him to the ground.”

The men pushed Ælla onto his stomach.

“Carve the eagle onto his back”

The brothers stood watching as Ælla screamed and a warrior cut the ribs from his spine. Blood spurted into Halfdan’s face and they laughed again.
Ivar raised his hands and called in a voice all could hear. “Praise and thanks, Odin, All-father, for our victory this day, and for handing the enemy to us. We give this sacrifice to you.”

Ælla was now silent. I suspect he had passed out due to the pain. The man who had cut his ribs reached into his chest and pulled out his lungs, spreading them on top of the ribs to create the Blood Eagle.

I have no idea when Ælla died. It might have been immediately or some time later, but we rode away, laughing. Vengeance had been achieved.
We had captured much of Northumbria. Halfdan decided to make Jorvik his capital, but first went back to the land of the East Angles.

Their king, Eadmund, had found some courage and met us on the battlefield. We were pleased to have another fight. Such glory to be won, and win it we did. These Anglo Saxons are such feeble fighters. They seem not to enjoy it, which I cannot understand. Glory in battle and to be sung of in the Sagas is a wonderful thing.

At this time, we captured King Eadmund. Our leaders told him they would release him and allow him to rule under their jurisdiction if he would give up following his weak and feeble Christ.

He refused to do so. Halfdan gave him three chances, but he continually refused to stop worshipping his dead God. He told us that this Christ had come to save people so they could live for ever, and we could be saved, too if we worshipped Him. Ivar the Boneless told him that our warriors lived forever in Valhalla, and that it was a much more exciting place than the forever life his god promised.

Eventually, Halfdan and Ivar lost patience. We tied him to a tree and used him for target practice. Then we cut off his head and threw it into the bushes.

Someone told us that after we had gone, his people took his body and searched for his head. They head a voice crying ‘Here. Here.’ And on investigation found his head being protected by a large wolf, who was calling to them.

They reunited his head and body and buried them. They then began to revere him as a martyr.

The story of the Great Heathen Army is not absolutely clear. Some historians say that it landed in Kent and made its way to East Anglia. The size of the army is also not agreed upon, although one source says it was about 3,000 men.

The reason for the change from raids to an invasion force is unclear. It was an Icelandic saga told the tale of Ragnar Lothbrok and how his sons came for vengeance. Some authorities doubt this, but who am I to let that get in the way of a good story?

This story precedes the events in my book, Jealousy of a Viking. Helgha’s father came over with the Great Army and met and married her mother. She was brought up as a Dane and expected to adhere to t heir values.

If you enjoyed this tale of the Danish invasion, please leave a comment in the comments box and feel free to reblog it, referring back to my blog.

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7 thoughts on “the great heathen army part 2”

  1. My husband and I watched the television series: “Vikings” and became fascinated with all this rich history. It reads like fantasy, doesn’t it? Great writing, Viv, and what a wonderful backdrop to your story. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Diana. The Vikings have a somewhat bad press. Yes, they lived to fight and raid, but their women were treated well, and as (almost) equals. And eventually they came to settle rather than raid, and presumably, as Biorn, the father of Helgha, my protagonist, married into the local population.
      However, they still enjoyed a good fight! A friend of mine, who originated in Yorkshire, to where the Danes came, had her DNA tested and she has some Viking DNA, so they did intermarry.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s interesting, Diana. They certainly did get around. They even got to the New World, so they say. probably Newfoundland. Although it’s not such a big leap from Greenland to Canada especially for experienced sea-goers.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This trip back to ancient times almost seems like a relief from our present ills and yet, there is so much in our own time that is better because, slowly, most people have learned that “War is Hell”! Thanks for sharing this story, Viviene! RJ Mirabal

    Liked by 1 person

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