The man gestured to a large angular stone that sat against the wall, probably dug up from the fields so as to ease the passage of the plough, “Please, take a seat.” He eased himself down, his weary body obviously grateful for the rest and waited for Woden to join him, which he did, “I would offer you food but we have very little. Odell demands a lot.”
It all sounded like the thane was unpopular, a pleasing turn of events. If he had very little support from the local churls then there would be less opposition. He watched the chickens; a simple life scraping the ground with dry, scaly claws; head bobbing downward to peck the odd insect.
“Might I ask who you are?” The churl was at last beginning to ease his suspicions enough to ask his own questions.
Woden removed his helmet, and placed it under his arm. The armour gave him a regal appearance in a land of peasant farmers but it was stifling in such hot weather, “My name is Woden.” His red, long hair and beard were still a nuisance in the heat but he wouldn’t dare removed it, “How many thanes fight alongside Odell?”
The man paused, unsure of whether he should be answering such questions or not. Evidently he decided to, whether it was due to his bitterness of Odell or Woden’s size or sword he could not tell, “Just four. The village is only small, about ninety or so churls, but the slightest bit of resistance is subdued by his four warriors.” With a shake of the head he spat on the ground, “Last week he had a man tortured before executing him.”
“Why?” Asked Woden, curious to see how malicious his enemy could be.
The churl sighed, “He refused to give a whole pig to him,” his eyes suddenly shone with anger, “do you know how much that is? It was to feed his family for the winter!”
He knew all to well what it meant; without the meat, salted and hung, the man’s family would probably have starved. A taxation for using his land was fair but an extortion of so much? Maybe he wouldn’t be a generous ruler but he knew to gain the people’s trust you had to be fair.
Rising from his seat, Woden looked again towards the door where he had seen the girl disappear, “Your daughter…?” He left the question hanging, allowing the father to see what he was suggesting. However, the man was quick to reply.
“Betrothed.” His eyes were hard and Woden decided to let the matter drop. What did it matter anyway? She was attractive to the eye and would have been entertainment but then what? Without saying another word he turned back towards the road and headed to join his men.