Annals of the Anglo-Norse


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MerryPrankster said:
King Hereafter, a historical take on Macbeth, is one of my favorite books. A pity Macbeth dies in TTL, but it's still an interesting mileu.
Thanks, it looks good and the reviews indicate praiseworthiness; even though it presents MacBeth and Thorfinn of Orkney as the same person, I'll probably end up reading it. There's not much fiction--good or not--set in this time and place.
It's weird to see how far north England or rather than Earldom of Northumbria which owed fealty to England extended in this era.


It's weird to see how far north England or rather than Earldom of Northumbria which owed fealty to England extended in this era.
Yes, and also remember that, before the Great Heathen Army's invasion, Anglo-Saxon Northumbria sometimes stretched up to the Firth of Forth. But remember too that the map includes Osbjorn ATL additions.


Monthly Donor
DEATH. . .


Meaning Harald of Norway and William the Bastard of Normandy.
Nice map but isn't "Inter Ripam et Mersham" (Bit between the Ribble and the Mersey)part of Northumbria? On my map of Domesday England its marked as part of Yorkshire.


For some reason, this map reminds me of Westeros. Maybe it the giant nothern area.
Partially colors, partially area, I guess. Westeros itself is largely based on Great Britain.

Grey Northumbria = North
Scots = Wildlings
Mercia = Riverlands
East Anglia = The Vale
Kent = Stormlands
Wessex = Dorne/The Rock
Hereford = The Rock
Kinglands = Kinglands


Annals of the Anglo-Norse

Siward the Stout [Sigeweard Digri], Earl of Northumbria
Lived 1000-
Reigned 1023-

"Mael Coluim called Cenn Mor, all of twenty-four years old, was for the rest of his life the most powerful king on any of the isles of Britain."
--Bishop Cola of Durham, Annals of the Anglo-Norse, Anno Domini 1217

Stratyclyde and the southern Lowlands, with attention to the movements of lord Osbjorn (red) and King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor (blue), as well as the joint march to Dumfries (purple). Sieges indicated by circles.

Strathclyde, though not unusually hilly or perilous, was a suspicious and wary land; strangers were not welcome, and thus few but locals knew the geography well. Mael Coluim of Strathclyde--also known as Mael Coluim MacCann--and his retainers were indeed locals, but only of the Reevedom of Kyle, meaning the surroundings of the city of Ayr. Of the hills and the Rhinns and the Glenkens and the Moors they knew little, but of the clans owning these lands they knew much.

Lord Osbjorn and King Mael Coluim decided to split their forces; Osbjorn and Mael Coluim MacCann would take 200 horse and 3,000 foot down along the coast to the Moors, and then east over the hills to the River Dee. There they were to accept the fealty of Clan MacLellan for King Mael Coluim of Strathclyde, or else invest that clan's castle; then they were to do the same for Clan Douglas just a bit upriver, and the same for the city of Dumfries.

Wilder and with larger forts perched on crags and hidden under hills was inland Strathclyde, and Cenn Mor took the remaining, larger force into that tangle with him. The objective was to campaign up the Doon, then between the Glenkens and the Rhinns of Kells and down into the Dee valley. There they would--god willing--meet up with lord Osbjorn.

Lord Osbjorn's subjugation of the coast with the new King of Strathclyde proved to be as easy as it seemed; furthermore, there was an abundance of food and supplies for his few men, and the Clans accepted Mael Coluim MacCann's suzerainty after seeing the formidable young Northumbrian prince and hearing him speak. By July 2nd, 1055, lord Osbjorn and King Mael Coluim MacCann were sitting in front of the castle of obstinate Clan MacLellan; the only Clan so far to be defiant whatsoever. Donnchad MacLellan, self-declared King of Strathclyde and erstwhile suzerain of much of the southern coast, was penned up within the castle, and gave up resistance after two weeks of steady insults from the Northumbrian pickets; Donnchad MacLellan was no coward, but also did not wish to lose much. He swore fealty to MacCann and lent his new king a force of 20 horse and 137 men.

Freed from Castle MacLellan, the small army of lord Osbjorn walked to Castle Douglas in two days, and encountered more resistance. Natural enemies of order and any overlord, Castle Douglas was expected to hold out for much longer that Castle MacLellan.

While Osbjorn and Mael Coluim MacCann had enjoyed themselves in the coastal summer sun, King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor had had to reduce two castles. One was of the Clan Ceanaideach near Loch Doon, up the river Doon; the other was five miles from the first, and up in the hills. The riders of Castle Ceanaideach had managed to ask for help from neighboring Clan MacDonnach, and there the two Clans' forces assembled outside the siege lines. King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor, through trickery, took the castle that very night; the next morning the demoralized men of Ceanaideach and MacDonnach were chased southeast, and were chased throughout the day.

The pursuit covered some twenty miles of territory, and ended just after noon near the headwaters of the River Dee, in the Glenkens. Cenn Mor had 800 horse and 7,000 men on his side whereas the Clans had about 50 horse and 400 men; Cenn Mor once again thanked his lucky stars for his cousin's army. The battle was of course a complete victory for Cenn Mor, who took another week to reduce Castle MacDonnach. Then he turned south and met lord Osbjorn at obstinate Castle Douglas.

Upon seeing the size of the combined host, Chief Kenneth of Clan Douglas gave up the castle and acquiesced to MacCann's promotion to King of Strathclyde. That done, the united host set off for the city of Dumfries, whose elders and leaders took one look and immediately submitted to King MacCann; from now on one-tenth of the city's public worth would go to the King.

It was by now August 15th, and the men of both parts of the host were overdue for harvest. Bidding hasty farewells and promising future cooperation, the cousins led their respective armies to home and disbanded them until the next year. Lord Osbjorn settled down to another marathon of feasting and good feeling at York with his mother's genial cousin Osulf, who preferred to administer Bamburgh from a distance. King Mael Coluim MacCann waited until the end of harvest and then used the men of the Clan during chilly autumn--not accepted practice, and seen as tyrannical--to finish off the few little bandit groups and pockets of resistance plaguing roads to the outside world.

King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor, for his part, called the greatest men of his realm together for days of autumn feasting and marathon council sessions where possible war with the unrepentant lords of Moray was much discussed and planned.
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Annals of the Anglo-Norse

Siward the Stout [Sigeweard Digri], Earl of Northumbria
Lived 1000-
Reigned 1023-

"Though it took good Cenn Mor five years to force the Morayvian lords into submission, it can safely be said that any lesser man could not have done so at all."
--Bishop Cola of Durham, Annals of the Anglo-Norse, Anno Domini 1217

Relevant area; last year's campaigns are shown. Due to eccentricities with imgur, Blair Atholl--which I indicated in Paint--does not show. It is northeast of L. Rannoch, a quarter-inch right above "Schiehallion".

The Christmas of AD 1055 was one of great celebration in York. Though cousin Cenn Mor and his mother Sibyla were not present, the festivities were lightened by the great feast, greater than any that had ever been held at York, laid out for the King of England himself. Yes, being wary and seeing his remote and faraway northern vassal growing stronger and stronger, King Edward the Confessor decided to winter at York and pay his respects.

With King Edward came what seemed to be the entirety of southern England. They spoke a strange tongue, with an absence of Gaelic and Norse words, and the presence of several verb tenses which the Anglo-Norse had abandoned; they wore clothing more in tune with that of the continent than of the native Bretons, or of the Norse; their women, even the lowborn, were more or less kept away, whereas the Anglo-Norse wenches wandered wherever they liked, and lay with whoever took their fancy.

So it was in this alien atmosphere that King Edward and his wife wintered. She was Aedgyth of Wessex, turned thirty that year, and married to the King for ten. Twenty-one years his junior, she still had no child; royal propaganda let out that this was due to pious abstinence on Edward's part, but rumor said that he was impotent. Aedgyth had suffered a bit, by being forced into a convent, upon her father's and brothers' exile four years previous, in 1051. When Godwin returned in 1053, Edward was forced by fear and expedience to allow Aedgyth back into court, and back into his confidence. Harold Godwinson, an even more domineering man than his father, urged that his sister Aedgyth maintain the delicate balance that held the Kingdom of England at peace.

Aedgyth, for her part, did not much care. She had hated her father and hated her brothers for foisting upon her an old, impotent man; King Edward she simply pitied. Knowing herself descended from the Kings of Wessex, through her father, and great Jarls in Norway, through her mother Gytha, Aedgyth would give her virginity to none but a king among men.

In York she found her king. Tall and fair, with eye like a stormy sky and a body like living sin, Osbjorn Anegde the war hero immediately appealed to Aedgyth, whose girlish fantasies about dainty pretty-boys and narrow-hipped long-limbed musicians had given way to daydreams of powerful, domineering warlords; Osbjorn Siwardson with his broad shoulders, rippling torso, chest-length beard, and hideously scarred left eye fit her daydreams exactly.

From arrival in late November of 1055 until departure in early March, Aedgyth pursued and obtained an affair with Osbjorn; half the court, afraid to death of their powerful queen, actively connived with her. As Aedgyth, now traveling south with the rest of the royal retinue, carried Osbjon's child, the father moved north in the wake of melting snow and warming weather.

Over Hadrian's wall Osbjorn took the eager and loving veterans of the previous year's campaign, through Teviotdale and Lothian, and past Edinburgh and Stirling. King Mael Coluim's Cenn Mor's grandfather Crinan had been Earl of Atholl, and thus those very loyal lands, furthest north of his realm's extent, became his base of operations.

As an appanage he had given the Earldom of Atholl to his brother Domnall, called Ban (or "Fair") for his almost-white hair, who had remained in York the previous year, too timid to go on campaign. The king's other brother, Mael Muire, had by contrast been quite ready to fight; however, to his disadvantage, he had only been fourteen years old last year.

The army assembled then in Blair Atholl, and set out for the southern reaches of Moray on the 5th of April, AD 1056.
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Hoo boy!

So, how is "The Confessor" going to react to the knowledge his wife is pregnant?

Are the Godwins powerful enough to protect Aedgyth, by putting out that the child of course must be the King's, because anyone who says it has another father is obviously a iiar and traitor?

If she has a son, and said son survives to 1066--then Edward's OTL efforts to pitch the throne over to his Norman cronies would be far more awkward. On the other hand, Harold would have no claim to the throne either. Whatever the Godwins say, they'd be privately certain that Edward is not the father of Aedgyth's child and all their scheming for power amounted to putting whoever that was (and I suppose everyone would do the math, even people who haven't been plugged into the Northumbrian rumor mill) into the Wessex royal family tree by the back door, with themselves only allied to it by the distaff side.

And what would Osbjorn be doing? Assuming the King plays along with the charade the best thing he could do for his illegitimate son would be to stay quiet and let him succeed to the throne.

Could Aedgyth have the leverage to name Osbjorn the regent? Other than she and he (and his Northumbrian faction of course) I don't think anyone else would want that, certainly not the Godwins.

Now if Aedgyth's child is a daughter instead then she's in a worse position overall; she can't expect to become the mother of a king, only at best the mother of someone to be married off to someone to make him a king. Edward will have the perfect candidate in mind--the first eligible bachelor in the Norman line of succession--William Rufus, perhaps, or his eldest son if Rufus is already married.

But that's the best case. What if Edward goes ballistic at this latest Godwinite betrayal? He might go so far as to have Aedgyth killed before she can even give birth! An unusually bold move on his part but maybe that last straw really makes him snap. It would amount to suicide of course, with both the Godwins and the Northumbrians out for his blood. Maybe he'd arrange for a whole lot of Norman supporters to ship over to the Kinglands before giving Aedgyth the axe, and face down his earls from behind their ranks? A different twist on the Norman invasion--instead of having to launch a dubious seaborne invasion against a pretty strong King Harold, William comes in force by invitation of the sitting King, the last of the old Wessex line, who hands the succession over to him!

But of course only over the dead bodies of the Godwins and all the force they can muster. Which might be considerable. It's bad PR for them that their daughter couldn't be bothered to stay in the bed they'd put her in (we aren't talking the morality of the freedom-respecting Northerners here but the more sexist Southerners after all) but the chips are down, Edward has betrayed the nation to the schemes of a bunch of Normans; England will fight.

Perhaps Aedgyth makes her escape. What to do with her? Supposing that the English Earls prevail against their traitor King and his imported henchmen, that none of them cut a deal with William, I guess what they'd do is crown Godwin King, with Harold his obvious heir and zealous lieutenant. Then marry Aedgyth off to Osbjorn if he'll have her, and their child is a union of the Northumbrian family with the powerful Godwins.

Or in another version--Edward keeps up the pretense it is his child, and if it is a son we have in reality and by gossip a new English dynasty, again a union of the Northern lords with the Southern, largely under the latter's influence of course. The widow Aedgyth can hardly marry one of her own brothers, so there is no logical course open but for her either to live out her life as a chaste widow--or given her character as recently demonstrated, marry her off to...well, why not a dashing if scarred heir to the lordship of Northumbria? He'd have to come down to London where "Edward's" child is being raised to the kingship, with his Godwin mother no doubt his regent.

In that scenario the Normans are going to find their claim via Edward's favor gone, and they might simply try to invade on their own hook without any pretenses to legitimacy save their own might.

That could go either way--but I suspect one purpose of this timeline is, no matter what happens to the South of England, Northumbria remains free of Norman rule for all time--even if William can subdue south England, the resistance flees north to face an unbeatable Osbjorn, who may or may not have Aedgyth by his side, and whose successors would then claim all England via her southern lineage.


Hoo boy!

[Do you want to write this? :p]

Remember that even the Godwinsons don't know whether King Eddie is truly impotent, or just (presumed) barren. Aedgyth is very much the ruler of her roost, and will certainly get away with cuckolding her husband if he allows it which, due to issues of prestige and honor, he might be forced to do.

King Edward was a mild man by all accounts; he let his half-brother Harthacnut dominate his life until 1042 (when he was 39), and then Godwin and the other Earls until the end of his life. If it somehow goes out that Aedgyth's child is not his, or he admits it publicly, he'll likely divorce her and force her into a convent, or even ship her north to York.

Osbjorn will be warring and whoring; Aedgyth would be his common law wife and he would take the child as his own, but would by no means fully marry her. Remember, he wants a young wife to have many children with--Aedgyth is already 30. If she goes into a convent, he won't bother freeing her or even complaining; for all her love of him, Osbjorn is a free spirit who won't go to war over some woman.

The Godwinsons--remember, Godwin himself has been dead since 1053--would be ecstatic with joy at finally having a relative as heir to the throne. If he gets rid of Eddie quickly enough, Harold Godwinson--with good claim as the Queen Mother's brother--can look forward to almost 20 years of regency, and more (effectively) if he successfully manipulates the child into being spineless and disrespectable.

If the child is a girl...well, the child will be male. Let's just put it that way.

Slick Willie is still young, but England might interest him later on. However, I'm planning for him to focus on other areas. Now the Welsh...well, let's just say you might want to watch out for them! And the Scots, but as good Northumbrian allies; you can't forget them.

Wow, you're really liking this, aren't you?
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Annals of the Anglo-Norse

Siward the Stout [Sigeweard Digri], Earl of Northumbria
Lived 1000-
Reigned 1023-

"The Battle of Inverness was a setback, but all knew that little could slow the massive progress that was the life of Cenn Mor."
--Bishop Cola of Durham, Annals of the Anglo-Norse, Anno Domini 1217

Campaign of 1056 shown; Osbjorn's movements in red, Cenn Mor's in blue. Blair Atholl shown as the initial camp--a blue square with a black center.

Lord Osbjorn and King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor decided immediately to divide their forces once more. Many Northumbrian men, hearing of the relatively easy plunder to be had in Scotland, flocked to their lord's banner that year, and Osbjorn brought a full 12,000 foot and 1,000 horse to Blair Atholl. King Mael Coluim, for his part, had managed to extract 4,000 foot and 600 horse from the nervous Lowlands stretching from Firth of Clyde to Firth of Forth; no Strathclydians came, as King Mael Coluim MacCann was still devoting his resources to stamping out the last hints of rebellion and banditry.

Deciding to evenly divide their forces and to again persecute separate campaigns, the cousins left Blair Atholl in opposite directions. The King was to go west over the hills and then north up the River Spey, there near its headlands to cross the watershed and surprise the new Mormaer Mael Muire, who was dead Lulach's younger brother. Osbjorn was to backtrack to near Perth, and then march up the coast to Aberdeen and take the Dee and Don valleys. With the luck of God, they would meet in Fraserburgh or thereabouts before July.

For lord Osbjorn, things went much according to plan. Before reaching Aberdeen there was no resistance, and that small fishing and trading town didn't offer much of a fight against 7,000 mighty warriors; the gates were opened and lord Osbjorn, not willing at all to antagonize his cousin in the eyes of his subjects, accorded it a gentle occupation. In fact, many were the teary eyes and goodbyes of the hardy Aberdonian women when the army of lord Osbjorn crossed the Don heading south; they arrived at the River Dee and from there struck inland.

There was very little resistance against lord Osbjorn, even at the foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains. When the Dee petered out into a stream that most men, not wearing armor, could jump over, Osbjorn decided to ford it and reverse direction, pushing south. On this other side of the Dee, and further into the Cairngorm's foothills, they found more resistance. Small skirmishes were fought, but the Highlanders for the most part fled at the site of the thousands-strong host.

On the 19th of May, Osbjorn put the army under the control of his best captain, and set off north with the cavalry, with the goal of seeing and climbing Cairn Gorm herself. Osbjorn and the elite of the cavalry party attained the summit on the 22nd, and from there could see the land for twenty or more miles around in any direction; they could even see the faint black shadows of their moving army, crossing the hills that separated the Dee and the Don. Said lord Osbjorn: "Ah, but this is a might sight, my men. There, we can see the River Spey; had I stood here but a half-month ago I would have seen cousin Cenn Mor heading north to Inverness. As it is, I take in the splendid sight from this site."

Inordinately pleased at this pun, being a martial man, lord Osbjorn set off east instead of back the way he had come, and joined his army where it met the Don. They crossed and recrossed that river several times in the next few days, meeting and speaking with locals along the way; on their best behavior and extolling the virtues of King Cenn Mor, lord Osbjorn's army did much to improve these alienated subjects' opinions of him. By the 1st of June the men of Osbjorn's retinue were in the beds of Aberdeen and her widows...and not a few wives and unmarried women.

Not waiting for any kind of violent brawl, lord Osbjorn forced his army north up the coast, and to the town of Fraserburgh. There, on the 9th of June, he invested the town and waited for word of his cousin and King of the Scots.

King Mael Coluim Cenn Mor had set off west, and crossed the western hills of the Cairngorm range to the valley of the River Spey. There he found little opposition; the odd petty lord rode in force against him, but of course floundered with scarcely a hundred footmen to call up. The greatest battle he encountered at that time was against an alliance of seven petty lords, who managed to summon 1,000 foot and 50 horse to do their bidding. They were promptly defeated and their castles sacked; had they submitted, Mael Coluim would have stayed a night or two in each castle, accepted gifts, and asked for a few women for his men.

Cenn Mor only bothered to take these castles due to their weaknesses; had they been any stronger, he would have stayed longer and news would have reached Mormaer Mael Muire in Inverness. As it was he took each castle on the day of investing it, and moved on quickly. By May 10th he was crossing the eastern spurs of the low Monadhliath Mountains, planning to descend on Inverness from an unexpected direction. He crossed the Findhorn, and there found that he was too close to turn back.

Ironically, had King Mael Coluim not had the element of surprise, Mormaer Mael Muire's movements and preparations would have been more obvious. As it was, all was relaxed and Cenn Mor's bigheadedness got in the way of his eyesight; he did not notice the camps of men on the far side of the city for what they were. He advanced on Inverness with his 7,000 men, only to find Mael Muire in possession of over 10,000.

Promising spoils and aid against Norway to Jarl of Orkney and Mormaer of Caithness Thorfinn Sigurdsson, and dominion over Argyll, Glasgow, and Strathclyde to Norse-Gael King Echmarcach mac Ragnaill of the Isles and of Mann, Mormaer Mael Muire had succeeded in enlisting their support against the King of Alba. Thus triumphant, he had invited his allies to Inverness, where they had planned to attack Alba and the Lowlands in just a few days. As it stood, they had their battle early.

King Mael Coluim's army, half composed of Northumbrians eager for treasure and seduced by this city's largeness compared to the paltry fortresses of weeks past, began to lose semblance of order five miles from the city. The greedy Northumbrians soon outdistanced the rest, and were most surprised to find fresh and heavily-armed Norse-Gaels and Irishmen and Morayvians issuing from Inverness's eastern gate. The battle was fought there, not two miles from the city, and resulted in a resounding defeat for Mael Coluim.

Cenn Mor he was no more; his customary confidence was gone, and he was horrified that even more of his men died crossing the salty marshes on the way to the Findhorn. Never out of sight of the sea, King Mael Coluim found the Findhorn after two days of sleepless running, and watched helpless as the remaining stragglers were caught by the cheerful army of the Mormaer on the far bank. Knowing that his opponent could do no harm before next year, but sure that crossing the river would put him at a gross disadvantage, Thorfinn Sigurdsson, overall commander of the forces that day, decided to return to Inverness.

King Mael Coluim and his slow, dejected army reached Elgin on the 18th of May. The town wanted nothing to do with him, but was nonetheless forced to open its paltry gates due to the size of his host; it was still a formidable force at 4,000 foot and 700 horse. The men, having understandably left their meager spoils behind at Inverness, decided spontaneously to loot and raze the town. Two days of slaughter followed, after with shamefaced King Mael Coluim led them east toward the Spey, and then back toward home.

But Elgin's people had had friends and trading partners among the clans to the north of Cairn Gorm; these tribes, hearing of the town's demise, moved north and attacked King Mael Coluim's force relentlessly. At first the tired, demoralized men won every dishonorable engagement; then came the day that the 3,500 men and 700 horse lost against 1,000 Scottish foot and 100 horse. That, the Battle of Cairneban, fought on the 26th of May, proved the turnings point; King Mael Coluim decided on a more-or-less straight course toward Fraserburgh.

He stonily handed over the sorry remains of the Northumbrian contingent to his cousin, who yet was understanding through his surprise. Not every man could be as successful as lord Osbjorn, and his cousin loved him enough to feel the deepest shame. When he heard the true story and no other from all mouths, he knew that it had been a genuine surprise, a twist of war.

Small Fraserburgh fell on the 22nd of June, and the cousins turned south. King Mael Coluim headed to Blair Atholl again, there to consolidate his rule and to raise more men for the war up north; he also needed to press King Mael Coluim MacCann of Strathclyde for troops, and for an end to resistance in that kingdom. Several weeks with his cousin had done him much good, and his confidence, and nickname, were restored.

Lord Osbjorn arrived in York on the 26th of July, having pushed his men hard and marched extra hours every day; they were home before harvest, having walked almost a third of the length of Great Britain on the way home. Lord Osbjorn was home to see his brother Waltheof win York's archery contest, of noble children. It was doubly an accomplishment due to the fact that Earl Siward allowed no coddling of his sons, and would rather strangle them than allow them to win because of their royal station.

After the feasting which followed the archery victory, and the feasting which followed 6-year-old Waltheof's first time getting drunk, Osbjorn received a surprising letter from Queen Aedgyth.

Gahhh, I can't help myself! The next update will be a brief--compared to updates in FOR WANT OF THE HAMMER--private vignette detailing an episode in Osbjorn's life.

Warning: Is this becoming a Cenn Mor-wank???
So from this angle it looks like a less united England with a much stronger and much more independent North and a more or at least earlier united Scotland if Cenn Mor can recover from this setback. Interesting changes.


Annals of the Anglo-Norse

Siward the Stout [Sigeweard Digri], Earl of Northumbria
Lived 1000-
Reigned 1023-

"The birth of Prince Edmund, long awaited by the royal couple, was much celebrated over the whole of Englaland."
--Bishop Cola of Durham, Annals of the Anglo-Norse, Anno Domini 1217

After the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on the 15th of August, the Steward of York, Wulfnoth, who also acted as High Reeve of York in event of the Earl's absence, spent ten days running to and fro, and organizing the party to be sent south. He had to find the necessary cavalry troopers and all their shiny accouterments, and a few excellent cooks, and a barber for the entire entourage, and those hidden gems of the lords' wardrobes that were never worn, and a few women to entertain the entourage on the road, and food, and wagons to carry the food, and mules to draw the wagons, and hay to feed the mules, and boys to take care of the mules....

The list was endless, which meant that, according to Wulfnoth Steward, a good man should be able to accomplish every item by the end of ten days; he promptly set out to prove that he was a good man. Ten days later the party of Earl Siward was moving south-southeast on the old Roman road, which was a more or less straight line; why venture into the salty swamps to the east or the rocky and broken hills to the west when one could travel in absolute comfort down the middle way?

Originally planning to journey straightaway to the king's current summer residence of Winchester, Earl Siward took a quick detour to Snotingaham [Nottingham], dragging his hundred troopers and two hundred supporters with him. Unexpectedly for this time of year, Earl Leofric of Mercia, only man remaining of the four empowered as Earls by King Knud the Great forty years ago, was summering in Snotingaham instead of that cooler residence in the Pennine Hills, Tomtun [Tamworth].

Having not seen each other in more than a decade, the old friends joyously met, and set to drinking mead and reminiscing, with Osbjorn listening closely. Though quite purely an Anglo-Saxon, Earl Leofric had spent his youth and manhood hearing the rough Norse tongue, and understood the Anglo-Norse dialect of Northumbria as well as Earl Siward himself did.

Before leaving after a stay of two nights, Earl Siward was drawn aside by Earl Leofric and taken out of hearing and sight of others. "Old friend," said Earl Leofric, "I know I can trust you with anything. Here, I must show you something." Earl Leofric presented to Earl Siward a girl with that pleasing and understated Midlands beauty, with the features of Earl Leofric plain upon her.

"Not your daughter," said Earl Siward, who knew his chaste and devoted friend well; not for the world would he violate the vows he had made to his wife Godgifu, who had been past child-bearing age when this girl was born. "Your granddaughter, then; Aelfgar's girl."

"One and the same," said Earl Leofric, and paused. Then he said it quickly, "Ealdgyth here is contracted in marriage to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Wales."

Shrewd Leofric! King Gruffydd had unexpectedly succeeded in uniting all of Wales the previous year, and would likely face trouble from the Godwinsons, and especially from Earl Ralph the Timid of Hereford. Earl Leofric, too, was not dear to the Godwinsons; when he, old as he was, died, the Godwinsons would attempt to strip his son of either East Anglia or, preferably, large and mighty Mercia. To prevent this, the girl would allow an alliance which would last for two generations, barring an unfortunate death; Earl Aelfgar Leofricson of East Anglia would have his lands, and King Gruffydd ap Llywelyn would have an ally against the southern English.

Wishing him well in all things in public, and specifically with the marriage in private, Earl Siward continued on the trek south toward Winchester, and told his son Osbjorn of the Welsh situation; this caused Osbjorn, who had easily seduced the girl, some amused discomfort. King Gruffydd would be 50 years old next year, and Ealdgyth was only 18, after all; it would be cruel to allow her to go to such an ill fate with no taste of sweetness.

With this attitude lord Osbjorn traveled south...and into the arms of Ealdgyth Swannesha, the common law wife of Harold Godwinson. The same age as her sister-in-law Queen Aedgyth, Ealdgyth too could not get enough of Osbjorn; it was with much difficulty and mental acrobatics that he managed to avoid a mutual discovery of his double activities, and even more acrobatics to avoid being discovered by the king, or by the Godwinsons. The Northumbrians, with much of the hated Vikings still apparent in them, would be lynched at the slightest transgression.

They, specially chosen for their height and impressiveness, were tall and impressive, almost universally hay-haired in this land of southern brown-hairs, and carried wicked axes instead of swords. An axe was in a wealthy man the mark of a godless barbarian Viking in the south; swords were the weapons of noble men.

Osbjorn, however, soon knew that his activities with Aedgyth were quite known to King Edward; had to be, under the circumstances. It was his dalliance with Ealdgyth which needed to be specially hidden. The Earl's party had arrived in mid-September, and Osbjorn soon could not spend any time at all with the largely pregnant Aedgyth; he contented himself with Ealdgyth. Lucky for him that King Edward too had been tall and well-built in his youth.

The boy, named Prince Edmund after King Edward's brave and valiant elder brother, who had died staving off Knud's invasion in 1016, was apparently a great relief to the king; his succession was safe. A relief, too, it was to Harold Godwinson; on the king's death, he would have unlimited control. Many gifts were given to the royal couple, though Osbjorn had to restrain himself from saying anything more than "Congratulations" to the king.

And then a curious tale was heard, from the East. From lands as far as Hungary and...Kiev? Where was that? Slavs? Weren't they heathens? Edward, son of the Edmund Ironside who was the newborn prince's namesake, was alive! Prince Edmund had been born on the 11th of October, and the invitation to Edward the Exile of come home was sent out eight days later. Suddenly the mighty Godwinsons' hold on the Regency did not seem so strong.