Bowdewyn’s grim eyes scanned Woden, frustration filling him at his friend’s obsession. Convinced by a Saxon named Arw, his fellow warrior firmly believed that he was the rightful heir to the leadership of a small outpost on the borders of the Wealas land. The dwellings that Arw described had been settled only recently, a small fortified village to help hold back invading Silure Wealas. He knew it was futile to dispute Arw’s claims so instead, he took another approach.
“Why have the place anyway?” They walked towards Cuthred’s men, down the brown smeared slope that had been the major site of the battle, “The place is a haven for Wealas attacks.”
A mouth full of crooked teeth answered him, his friend’s grin reeking high spirits, “Not scared are you?”
The sudden interruption made them both look to the crowd of warriors the now surrounded Cuthred. It was only the victorious chanting to their King and his success. Maybe it was an important achievement: with Mercia so badly weakened Wessex was now the dominating force for miles.
“There will be land we can take from the Wealas, Bowdewyn, the village is not just a small outpost: it is full of possibilities.”
“Have you been there?”
The question caught Woden short and he stopped for a second, unsure of what to say. Indeed he was going by Arw’s word, and he had only met the man on a few occasions, but something told him what the Saxon said was true. Still taking the word of a semi-stranger on instinct alone wasn’t the best of reasons. He opted for ignoring the question.
Hundreds of warriors crowded around Cuthred and his guard, now raising his sword high to show his superiority over the fallen body before him. Eager men stood enthralled by a moving speech. The Saxons all wore the usual battle dress: some were lucky to have mail shirts and iron rimmed shields; other simply wore their tunics and leggings, aided by their tapered shields and spears. All bore marks from the battle; weapons chipped; blood smeared clothing; scars from battle.
Pushing his way through, Woden elbowed men aside as they began to disperse. A young man led a horse through the throng, a black stallion for the ruler. Forcing the last man aside, Woden’s way was quickly blocked by a large, dark haired man whose dress and armour suggested a high standing. He instantly recognised the symbol of the King’s Household on the shield.
“Let him through.”
Clear, deep and well-spoken, the voice had come from the King who was hoisting himself up onto his steed. From up high he looked down at Woden and for some reason it grated his nerves.
“I come for the debt you owe me.” The words came sharply, maybe too sharply, and Woden realised the man may very well have him killed for such arrogance. But the air of superiority seemed to bite into Woden’s mind, like an annoying itch that couldn’t be satisfied.
Cuthred tilted his head to one side, “The man who saved me in battle.” Woden’s red hair usually made him easily recognisable, “What do you want?”
Glimpsing Bowdweyn fidgeting out of the corner of his eye, Woden knew what his comrade wanted: money and women. But it was not what he came for. “I am the true heir to Wulfdun village and seek men to take it from the heathen bastard who stole its lands.”
“Wulfdun?” Cuthred murmured, unsure of the name. An aide ran to his side and he lent over, listening to what the young man had to say. Nodding he regained his posture and shrugged, “Take ten men and have your village.” Tugging the horse’s reigns he turned it away before leaving into the crowd.