They crept close.
The silence that had descended cloaked them, making it seem that even the forest creatures knew what was about to happen. In the blackness that surrounded them, hidden amongst the ash and oaks whose gnarled forms offered shelter to the eyes of their victims, they watched their foe.
And through those shadowy forms they could make out the Wealas; Siluries with ragged hair black as coal and dark eyes that matched. The camp fire’s flames, sending glowing ashes dancing lambent, reflected off their faces to illuminate the paint that decorated muscular torsos. Swirling designs marked their faces and arms, giving them an almost supernatural persona.
Woden knew what the paint signified, that the Wealas were ready for battle, but as he watched from his crouched position they seemed more relaxed than alert; a hefty spear leaning against a tree; roaring laughter and grins; drink being passed around. It all pointed towards an unprepared enemy. Their shoulders were relaxed, no tension in the muscles. They were at ease with the night.
Studying the Silures he estimated their number, fourteen at the most. It would be an easy number to defeat with the element of surprise. He gave a slight smile and looked across at Bowdewyn who studied them carefully from behind some undergrowth. The warrior’s eyes were fixed on their prey as Woden scanned the woods for the rest of the men, all eager like a pack of bloody thirsty wolves. And he would release them upon the lambs.
Rising suddenly from his position, his sword into the air, Woden roared a war cry that broke the silence asunder. His rage taking over, spittle spraying fourth as he yelled out, Woden charged.
The first Wealas wasn’t even aware of his death, the huge sword cutting into the back of his neck to almost sever the head in one clean stroke. The body clumped sideways as Woden charged on, smashing the rim of his shield into another Celt who sat on a log by the fire. Knocked backwards, the dark haired warrior scrabbled for his weapon, stunned and dazed, but Woden stabbed down to skewer the man’s chest.
All around Saxons burst out from the cover, surprising the band of Wealas that had thought the world was at peace. One tried to grab his painted shield but a huge axe head severed his arm, leaving him to scream in agony as he clasped the stump. Bowdewyn stabbed with his spear, the deadly point skewering a man as it punctured jacket and flesh alike before becoming embedded. Trying to heft the weapon out, the Saxon gave up and grabbed the Celt’s spear instead.
Already the enemy were fleeing into the forest, leaving weapons and spilt liquor; bitter smell stinging in the night. Shouts and screams rang out as the few that were remaining were finished off. Woden felt the warm wetness on his face and realised he had become showered with blood at the first semi-decapitation. Lifting his sword into the air he roared out in triumph and his men, filled with bloodlust and adrenalin, roared out in turn.
He had showed them strength. He had showed them courage. He had showed them victory.