A glow filled Woden as they rode on. Not a bright glow, like some beaming radiance of glee that would have filled him with happy thoughts of pride and accomplishment. No, this was a warm, dark glow that made him feel complete, as if he was taking his rightful position; his destiny.
And at the head of the band of men he was the leader. He rode tall, his steed seeming to sense his master’s demeanour and matching the posture. Behind, the voices and laughter of the other Saxons could be heard, swapping stories of the fight they had just won and anecdotes of battles past. Spirits had been lifted with the slaughter of the Wealas and, for the most part, they now looked upon him with a greater level of respect. He had proven his worth in battle.
They had left the woods some time back, the road’s muddy track taking them out into the resplendent Wessex countryside. The fields were wide and green; many hedges hacked down to allow the local farmers to grow communally. A kite rose from its perch, majestic wings carrying it up into the clear, blue sky where it circled before diving, dropping like a stone tossed into the air. With surprising agility it skimmed the ground where a field of golden corn ended and as it swooped upwards the prey could easily be seen squirming in it’s talons.
Bowdewyn dug his heels into the flanks of his horse and the animal stepped into a trot, catching up with Woden where he finally slowed his horse again. Up until then he had been in light conversation with the others, but now he looked across at his friend and smiled.
“Definitely an improvement in your mood.”
Once again his comrade had proven just how well he knew Woden. He thought he had kept the sense of achievement hidden but to his friend it wasn’t something he could mask. All the same he refused to look across, and Bowdewyn chuckled.
“Don’t deny it. You ride tall and your brow isn’t as creased as it usually is.”
Woden shrugged, “Any Saxon finds satisfaction in the glory of victory.”
With a look of agreement accompanied by a nod, Bowdewyn looked ahead at the hilly countryside. The landscape was full of dips and bumps; nothing mountainous that would hinder the journey, but shapes that helped to painted a new picture.
“But you had something to prove.” He pointed out, “And you proved it.”
The large Saxon finally laughed, quickly cutting himself short and looking back to see if his men had noticed. None had.
“We need these men, Bowdewyn. We need them if we are to take Wulfden.”
For a second the stocky man contemplated the words, trying to make sense of it all, “So you actually believe this Arw speaks the truth?”
Wulfden seemed lost in thought but he answered all the same, “He was right about the Wealas. And he was right about the forest.”
Bowdewyn frowned, “The forest?”
“When he visited me for the second time he told me how to find Wulfden. “ He didn’t even seem to believe his own words, “And everything he’s said has come true; the tracks, the forest and now this countryside full of hills.”
Shaking his head in astonishment, Bowdewyn fell silent. The two Saxons rode side by side, inseparable brother-in-arms. To the peasants that they passed, gathering the last of the corn that they reaped with sickles and loaded on to carts, they brought awe and fear; dark warriors, new to the land. The peace was matched by the world around them, the only noise being from the men behind and the thick mud that sucked at the horses’ hooves.
“Where did he say our journey would end?”
“Soon.” Murmured Woden, and for once he felt more confident in what Arw had told him. Over those hills there would be a new world. His world.