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Author Topic: Walking with Saxons  (Read 11220 times)


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Walking with Saxons
« on: March 04, 2015, 03:46:08 PM »

Lately I got round to watching a DVD somebody gave me, mainly out of politeness since it was that Primeval series with Professor Cutter, Abby, Jeff and co. fighting off prehysterical beasties out of those twinkly Anomalies in the space-time continium, thingie.  My confession is that it was a sight better than the old rope I’d taken it for, which is why I’ve been ignoring it hitherto.  Who would have believed you could get some plausible human interest into a time-travel story involving dinosaurs-and-that?  Not badly filmed, even.     

The only fly in the leechdom was, of course, the curious way these Anomalies open up only into remote prehistoric periods which, as nobody in the series seems to suspect, just happen to be the ones covered in the Walking with Monsters series. With one and the same monsters.  When will the SAS trash Impossible Studios, one wonders..? 

If only an Old English monk or two were found wandering in the Forest of Dean, a stray ritual oxwain pop up across the rails of the Pimlico Line, or one of those warships King Alfred designed be spotted lurking in the mists of the Serpentine or... well, you get the idea.  And we could mount an expedition back, remember.

So I wondered if anyone had a wish-list?  With the option of being re-united with some long-lost loved one, if that makes it easier. 

Also can I take it as read that we’d ALL like to go back to the Battle of Hastings and change the course of English history?  ( Why I  was hoping my Súcendes Fyst-dynt spoke for all of us).  So apart from that, I mean.

I’ll kick off by wanting to visit King Alfred’s court towards the end of his reign, learn as much as possible about his educational programme, check out his whole  library ( you bet!) and sneak a photograph of him for use on a currency note.  With Emily Browning/ Babydoll out of Sucker Punch as my security escort, by way of jam on it.

Come on somebody, live a little!


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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 11:20:13 PM »
Hmmm, as an archives assistant I spent the first half of my 20s transcribing the diaries of Percy Harrison Fawcett, who was a famous (dare I say crazy) explorer who disappeared into the Amazon jungle with his son and a friend trying to find an ancient lost city inhabited by a mystical race of people who would help them fulfil some kind of prophecy and whatnot etc etc standard crazy person nonsense. I always said (usually when drunk down the pub) that if I could ever go back in time and meet any person at any time, then I would meet him just before he died, because to this day nobody knows for certain what happened to him. I would give anything just to know. There have been so many hoaxes..

As for changing the outcome of the battle of Hastings - as much as I love to imagine what Britain would be like if the Normans hadn't won, I don't think I would want it to go further than imagination. However, I would be up for sending a dinosaur into the Norman's camp, why not?

Seriously though, I would love to go back in time to the Anglo Saxon period not to witness the big events or to see the Kings (OK maybe King Alfred), but to see how people lived with each other and what they talked about and what they laughed at and what they sang, what they wore. Things that get lost, those are the things I would want to see if I went back in time. 


  • thegn
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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2015, 09:28:15 AM »
As a modern Heathen, I would like to go back and meet Coifi, the Heathen priest who turned Christian and desecrated the temple at Goodmanham. I would ask him all about Anglo Saxon Heathen practice (and find out more differences to the Icelandic Norse) and have a go at him for buying into an obscure imported Middle Eastern religious sect with his king. Obviously I would need Stephen Pollington as translator, and my mates in Ealdfaeder to act as my housecarl protectors. (Plus they'd never forgive me if I left them behind.)

Finally, returning to Hastings, I'd get it delayed for a couple of hours to allow Harolds reinforcements to arrive, and tell them to use their horses as cavalry instead of purely transport. Oh, and give them guns.


  • Ealdormann
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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2015, 10:29:44 AM »
How many wishes are we allowed? For starters, I absolutely agree with Bowerthane, Culfer and Blackdragon (I especially like the guns bit!!). But also I would like to tour England in around 600AD and see who was living where - had the Anglo-Saxons driven the Britons away, or were they living in harmony (?) or were they living in the same areas but in separate settlements?  I would just love to meet and have a chat with Edwin, Oswald, Oswiu, Hilda, Eanflæd, Penda, Offa, Alfred, Æthelflæd, Athelstan, Dunstan and Harold and find out what made them tick. I'd warn Edmund of East Anglia to gather a bigger army, Edward (the Martyr) not to go to Corfe, and Edmund Ironside to be very careful when he goes to the loo! And told the tanner's daughter to keep away from Duke Robert!


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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2015, 02:42:39 PM »

Percy Harrison Fawcett... a famous ( dare I say crazy) explorer who disappeared into the Amazon jungle with his son and a friend... to this day nobody knows for certain what happened to him. I would give anything just to know.”


Now how’s that for an eerie co-incidence? :)  Disappointed as I was at the paucity of feedback from this forum on my attempts to brush up my Old English ( whether using  movie dialogue or what-have-you) I’ve spent my idle moments over the last month or two trying to pester professional Anglo-Saxonists into giving me an opinion on how good or bad my Old English is getting.  What with this not being a mass spectator sport, you’ve no way to be sure whether you’ve wandered off into mungo-bungo land.  Those of you who have tackled the Old Mother Tongue will know what a conundrum some adjectival declensions are, and never mind the detachable noun-phrases or quite how to do a pluperfect in the subjunctive.

Well I haven’t got very far with them, either. As I feared, lecturers in Old English are up to their eyeballs in examination papers, locked into heroic administrative turf battles, chasing funding from South Korea etc.  The best I’ve got so far is “the Old English looks solid” from Professor Catherine Clarke of the University of Southampton.

Yet the worst I’ve done is failed to so much as find Professor Catherine Ball, who used to run her brilliant Old English Pages out of Georgetown University.  At all.  :'( [size=78%] [/size]Sorely to my distress as over the years I’ve developed great respect and affection for her, though we’ve had no contact beyond one exchange of polite emails years ago.  Yet this time I dared to hope we might get chatty, whereas not only have her Old English Pages been stricken from the face of the earth but so, so far as I can tell, has she.  She doesn’t seem to be on the faculty at Georgetown University any longer, so far as I can tell, because they wouldn’t even reply to my blódig email.

Then a friend gives me this here Primeval DVD, suggesting a truly historic explanation. ::) For all that GeorgetownUniversity lies in WashingtonDC and not Washington state, which is a bit to the left, that still doesn’t make it all a built-up area.  Disbelievers may scoff, but it’s a hard fact that there is a Forest of Dean-type forest all over some hills in the northern parts, called Forest Hills, where you’re not supposed to know the US Marine Corps are headquartered.  And as any Connor Temple will tell you, anomalies typically pop up in association with military bases.  What with the space aliens keeping an eye on we earthlings ever since we became nuclear-capable, and all.

But I am of course Just Being Silly, aren’t I?  For surely a far more conservative and down-to-earth explanation would be a doorway between time zones in the world’s history, as hypothesized by Professor Nick Cutter of the Central Metropolitan University, time’s equivalent to an earthquake strong enough to rip apart the boundaries between dimensions.  For if Professor Ball discovered one of those whilst, say, checking out that Internet rumour of a sighting near an out-of-town supermarket thereabouts of the dragon out of Beowulf scoffing Tracey Ullman, this would explain why she, like Helen Cutter, has mysteriously disappeared.

Already she may have discovered Percy Harrison Fawcett’s last camp, Culfer, with his bones peeking out of the camping ground.  A tragic consequence of trying to greet Cerdic and Cynric and their heorþwerod in fluent Maya.  Yet Professor Ball would know the period and could speak to the locals, so we may hope she is still there, in pre-Conquest England, waiting on the other side of the anomaly, right now!  Hwæt a poetic and richly deserved culmination to an admirable career!!!

Has she inveigled herself into Abbes Hilda’s convent at Whitby, we wonder, and as we read these words she is standing at the shoulder of a Benedictine deaconess as she and her sisters in Christ work upon one of those gospels, saints’ lives, Latin grammars and patristic works they sent to St Boniface in darkest Deutschland?  Discovering the illuminators’ compositional tricks, how they mixed their pigments and whether they had anything like a light box.  Why, parts of the Echternach Gospels might be her own work...

Or is she basking in the Medieval Warm Period ( another bit of hard science the Jehovah’s Warmists don’t like to talk about) having wisely deemed that mankind is not ready to share this gift, the Key to Time?  Has she instead been strolling at leisure throughout Old England like Kate Bush in the Sensual World video, sipping mead from one of the many handmaids whose devotion she so easily won, and just at the moment they’ve all gone skinny dipping together off Hengistbury Head in one big, girlie giggle?

Or maybe I am Just Being Silly again and she is in trouble and needs our help?  Twice in our period England was aswarm with axe-happy Viking hosts after all.  Should we, you know, team up and mount a rescue expedition?  Is it you who makes medieval costumes, Eanflaed?  Any irritating students who aren’t just massive intellects but can also do the action stuff care to volunteer?  What inoculation jabs would be appropriate?  What kind of weapons training would be best, Blackdragon?  And hadn’t Hannah Spearritt better take off all her clothes this time, in case everything goes wrong?

Ideas anyone?

The moral right of the author to identify “woggle board” as a nonce word, and get away with it, has been asserted.


  • Ealdormann
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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2015, 04:16:49 PM »
Bowerthane, you are bonkers and you clearly have too much time on your hands - but I like you!! And you are getting reactions to this thread, which is great. It's not me who makes costumes, that's Culfer (who is kindly making me one!). Once I'm kitted out, and someone lends me a seax, I'll join you in the time warp - but I'll be dispatching a few Vikings, not wondering about Hannah Spearritt, Kate Bush, etc! Blimey - perhaps I'm nearly as mad as you!


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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2015, 02:38:27 PM »
This is going through weird and coming out the other side.  Guess what I blundered into in the backwaters of my clunky old computer, up to something completely different, the other night?  A copy of Orosius’ History Against the Pagans that King Alfred had translated, and it feels that long ago since I downloaded it from forgottenwhere.com and then gave it up for lost. 

Now I’m on Disk Two of this Primeval DVD, right, so I’d not long been watching Professor Cutter speaking about how “Ancient civilizations spoke of monsters and dragons” and “Perhaps they weren’t as naive as we assumed” only to remind myself of this when I got to re-reading Book Four, Chapter Eight:

“Regulus, chosen by lot for the Carthaginian War, marched with his army to a point not far from the Bagrada River [ in North Africa, probably within marching distance of Carthage] and there pitched his camp.  In that place a reptile of astonishing size devoured many of the soldiers as they went down to the river to get water.  Regulus set out with his army to attack the reptile.  Neither the javelins they hurled nor the darts they rained upon its back had any effect.  These glided off its horrible scaly fins as if from a slanting testudo of shields and were in some miraculous fashion turned away from its body so that the creature suffered no injury.  Finally, when Regulus saw that it was killing a great number of his soldiers with its bites, was trampling them down by its charge, and driving them mad by its poisonous breath, he ordered ballistae brought up.  A stone taken from a wall was hurled by a ballista;this struck the spine of the serpent and caused its entire body to become numb....  Hence this serpent, which had for a long time withstood so many javelins unharmed, moved about disabled from the blow of a single stone and, quickly overcome by spears, was easily destroyed.  Its skin was brought to Rome – it is said to have been one hundred and twenty feet in length – and for some time was an object of wonder to all.”

Or maybe not so weird.  Consider that reference to vasa mortis or ‘instruments of death’ in Solomon and Saturn and how the scholarly consensus, or at least their best guess, is that it refers to, either a) some giant bird living out in a Mesopotamian wasteland, to be set loose to wreak death and destruction during the Christian apocalypse, b) something else to do with Psalm 7 verse 13 “He hath also prepared for him instruments of death” as this seems to be the origin of the expression, or c) God knows.  Ezekiel’s premonition of Nick Clegg, maybe. 
Yet was I the only one to wonder if this played a role in Professor Tolkien’s conceptualization of the winged Nazgul, whose beasts were of a somewhat pterodactylic leer and provenance? 

The moral right of the author to identify screenshots from The Singing Ringing Tree has been asserted.


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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2015, 02:18:27 PM »


from the non-running TV series Medieval

“Here’s the bad news,” began the Wise Man.  “Professor Ball is in trouble.  She crossed over to the Dark Ages through this Anomaly.  She was in Old York, England, when it fell to the Vikings.  We have no intelligence on her well-being, but she’s in danger.  The Vikings took hostage several court ladies who they’ve threatened to kill or worse if the English try to take back the city.  They’ve just fought off the first attempt and they think Professor Ball is one of those ladies.”

   “So do we?” suggested Sweet Pea.
   “So do we.”
   “We gotta go in.”
   “We gotta go in.  The good news is we got the Anomaly back –” he jerked his head towards the twinkling portal between then and now “– and we got good intelligence on the layout.  If Professor Ball is one of the hostages, she’s in the main hall.”
   Needless to say Anglo-Saxonists the world over, from the most august varsity lecturer to the humblest of re-enactors, had thrown themselves into this attempt to rescue one of their most distinguished academics.
   Poking a wide-angle camera and special microphone through the Anomaly on a boom had yielded smudgy photographs of a largely tumbledown complex of stone buildings that muddled their way outwards into many more of timber and wattle-and-daub.  Muddled because many stone ruins were incorporated into newer buildings, all kinds were thatched with river-reed and, amongst them, lay a sprinkling of stockpens, trees, a belltower and at least one hayrick. 
   More sinisterly, some buildings stood charred and gaping at the sky.  A sure sign of fire damage. 
   Guesswork and doubts amongst the experts gave way to the analysis that this was York’s old legionary fortress on the north bank of the River Ouse, the walls of whose main hall were still standing even though it, too, was now thatched with reed from the Ouse.  Archaeologists rustled up a ground plan for this, backed up by everybody about not trusting it too far for AD 866.
   At first there was some surprise to see nobody about, until somebody woke up to the realization that ordinary burghers, any who were still alive, must be hiding out in the woods.  Also it was realised that these ‘smudgy’ photographs had been taken with too much woodsmoke in the air.  A windy day yielded a clearer set showing nobody but a few Norsemen on their feet, all the other people being bodies.
   Snatches of conversation in Old Norse allowed linguists to deduce that several “sons of Ragnar” and their warband were in the Hall, whereas the main host was billeted, more or less, in the west and south of town.  Less because they’d tortured some captives to make them tell where the burghers had buried any valuables.  At one wretch’s directions they had ordered him and their other new slaves to dig up the floor of a brewhouse where several large barrels of ale and cider came to light. 
   So nothing but Northumbria’s booze was slowing the Heathen host down, for the moment.   

   Already the best photographs, blown up and clarified by false colours or draughted into planometric projections, papered the inside of the briefing tent in which all the leading decision makers were now gathered, set up by the US Marine Corps who’d done a highly proficient job of sealing off the area.  They’d always known there was a geomagnetic anomaly in Forest Hills DC because they included it in map-reading exercises deliberately: it screwed up the officer cadets’ compasses.  Seemingly it had always been an uncanny spot, with fossils in the rocks to make the Burgess Shale look strait-laced and a lost runestone, known only from a daguerreotype, long dismissed as a forgery that historians were now taking seriously, after all.  The site had been sacred to the local Indian tribe all of whom were, of course, long gone, remembered only as the Nacotchtank and for a strange story they told.
   “They’d seen White men before,” a crisply uniformed instructor from the nearby USMHQ had said.  “Even when the first trappers made it here in pilgrim times.  White people in strange clothes who spoke unknown words.  They claimed they’d come across them, and strange animals, wandering hereabouts.”
   It seemed like common sense that the US Marines would arrange the combat team tasked with Professor Ball’s rescue, but that’s when Bowerthane got involved.  Already Ðá Engliscan Ġesíþas, the world’s premier association of amateur Anglo-Saxonists, had contributed to the crisis by holding a lottery amongst its members willing to go as specialists to supply the military professionals with all the back-up and information that combat experience and training, however formidable, barely grazed.  Blackdragon, Bowerthane, Culfer and Eanflaed were the pick of the winners their Witan had seconded.  Bowerthane it was who urged all concerned to hire Amber, Babydoll, Blondie, Rocket and Rocket’s elder sister, their leader Sweet Pea, the all-girl commando team out of Sucker Punch, dark and deadly in their military glamour-wear, instead.
   Because nothing in the known multiverse could mess with them.
   Already Culfer and Eanflaed had excelled themselves at running up the right outfits for Northumbria in the Middle Saxon Period, dubbing Blackdragon and Bowerthane “the B-team” for their blokey bewilderment in the face of fashion.  Culfer had even procured a scramasax each, though Blackdragon had his own.  In fact his mates in Ealdfæder had offered him a whole range of weaponry but, somewhat to his chagrin, the all-girl commando team out of Sucker Punch had put their feet down about that in no uncertain terms.  It was risky enough having civvies tagging along, needing watching and otherwise creating complications.  The last thing they wanted was these amateurs getting mixed up in any fighting.
   Culfer and Eanflaed also ran up five hooded cloaks for the action girls, who insisted it was important to maintain the advantage of surprise until the last possible moment.  On their advice the four ġesíþas had a good night’s sleep and a knife-and-fork meal.  Blackdragon got a laugh suggesting they had an early-morning call for the big day but, since they were in America, they got one.  After breakfast they’d been given the best set of tests, jabs and pills the medical professionals could think of, as much to protect the contemps ( as Connie Willis had dubbed the contemporaries) as themselves.  Beyond that their best advice was to watch out for animal bites and pot-holes, not to stick your fingers in anything oozy and, if a contemp sneezed on you, you were nobody’s friend...
   Their final orders briefing over, the action girls had turned to strip-cleaning their stubby Heckler & Koch UMP45s and Glock handguns, Blondie her Daewoo K3, Babydoll her 1911-pattern Colt .45 as well as run some emery cloth along that chillingly beautiful wakisashi blade.  Sweet Pea checked through her command’s grenades, webbing, comms headsets and Amber’s bag of tricks.  It was probably just as well their four mission specialists, being British, didn’t understand firearms well enough to bottle out on the spot.   
   “We’ll be away shortly,” Culfer said, glancing at her watch.  “Ten minutes.”
   “Will this be a straight in-and-out, or will we have chance to look round?” Bowerthane asked the action girls. 
   “You stick behind us or you’re not coming back,” Blondie warned.  “’Cause we’re not dumb, we’re not expendable and we’re not coming looking.”
   “We won’t panic,” Blackdragon said, unused to being patronised.
   “No, you’ll panic in the right direction,” said Rocket.  “Could save your life.”
   “A soldier’s most lethal weapon is between her ears,” was how Sweet Pea put it.  “But in our case it’s between our ears.  In your case, it’s between the Vikings’ ears.  You! Showerbane, right?”
   “Bowerthane,” said he with dignity.
   “Bowerthane, gotcha.  Jump up and down.”
   First he, then each ġesíþa in turn, fell in with this odd request, to find that the action girls were checking to see if any of them rattled or jingled.  Eanflaed had to stuff some Kleenexes into her first-aid pohha to keep quiet, and Blackdragon asked David Jones, the editor of Wiþowinde, to look after his chiming wristwatch for the same reason.  Sweet Pea was especially concerned about the gadget Blackdragon had volunteered to train on.  Professor Ball’s cellphone had gone missing with her and the CIA had a device for triggering ring tones, at least at short range.
   “You don’t use that unless I say so,” she warned.
   If the ġesíþas hadn’t realised quite what they’d let themselves in for, now was the time to play catch-up.

   “AOK,” said Sweet Pea, satisfied at last.  “Now: you brief us.  Vikings right?  You guys say it’s bullshit about the horns on their helmets.  Any more bullshit we oughta know?  Are they as mean as we think?”
   The engliscan ġesíþas began a wordless discussion by eye.  Blackdragon was the first to speak:
   “Mean enough.  They’ll cut noses off women hostages.”
   “There’s no mention of rape in the sources,” said Culfer.  “But the loot and pillage is true enough.  But it’s more a question of attitude.  They’re the products of a pride-and-honour culture in a warrior-heroic age.”
   “Yes, we’re dealing with men who kill and sleep soundly at night,” said Blackdragon.  “The berserkers won’t muck about,” he added, darkly.
   “Medieval warfare, basically,” said Bowerthane with an edgy shrug, and Eanflaed explained what happened to Archbishop Ælfheah, pelted to death by a rabble of rowdy revellers.
   “Don’t underestimate them, yeah?” suggested Sweet Pea.  This won her a nod of informed assent from the ġesíþas
   That just about summed up Norse warriors.
   “That Hall,” Amber wanted to know.  “Are the windows glazed?”
   “Doubt it,” Culfer said, to murmurs of assent by the others.
   “They might be shuttered,” added Bowerthane.
   “There’s no livestock in these shots,” Rocket asked, nodding to the nearest wall.  “Can we count on that?”
   “We think the Northumbrians had time to evacuate the city,” Culfer responded.
   “Is there anything else to make a noise?” was Sweet Pea’s next question.
   “There might be dogs about,” suggested Bowerthane after a think.
   “Birds?” added Blackdragon with a shrug. 
   “Nothing unusual about that,” said Sweet Pea.  “We can work with that.  Now, have you any questions?  Any problems?”
   “What about these court ladies?” asked Culfer, a scholar and a lady herself.
   “We can only do what we can do,” returned Sweet Pea.  “And we can’t take all day.  Anything else? Good.”  A slick hand-signal from her and the action girls had fallen into marching order, their casual confidence gaining an edge of professional menace as the tension rose. 
   “Come back safely!” bade David, expressing a common sentiment as he and the whole Witan of Ðá Engliscan Ġesíþas joined their loved ones to see them off.
   “Keep your eyes open,” urged Geoffrey Littlejohns.
   “Bring us some souvenirs,” suggested Harry Ball ( no relation). 
   “Have a nice day,” was Linden Currie’s droll contribution, maybe jealous of the humdinger of a snog Blackdragon and his lady were having.
   “I’ll have white knuckles until we see them again,” Peter Horn confided to the Witan as the four ġesíþas turned to face the Anomaly.

[ To be continued... ]
« Last Edit: November 07, 2015, 01:55:20 PM by Bowerthane »


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Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2015, 02:19:43 PM »
[ ... here seems about right. ]

   “This is our operation now,” said Sweet Pea, at which the action girls braced up and cocked their weapons.  “Are you four on the bounce?” she asked, turning to the ġesíþas.  “We need you tight and talking, get it?”
   All four ġesíþas nodded.
   “Y’all ready for this?” Rocket cried with her saucy smirk, clapping Bowerthane on the shoulder.  “I know you are!”
   “We’ve dealt with worse,” said Amber, the sweet one.  “Try not to worry.  When we look worried is the time for you to worry, huh?”
   The ġesíþas nodded their gratitude.  Now that it came to it, not one of them was sure whether to hope or fear they were about to step back into their favourite historical period.  If Professor Ball could land in this kind of trouble, what chance did that give them?  Bowerthane caught himself rubbing sweat off his palms and he and Blackdragon swapped a dry grimace.  Dearie me but this was really going to happen, wasn’t it?
   “Weapons hot, ladies,” ordered Sweet Pea.
   One after another Amber, Babydoll, Blondie and Rocket checked her magazine and unflipped her safety catch.
   Gun butts to shoulders, all but Amber fell into Indian file behind Sweet Pea. 
   “Follow Blondie,” was Sweet Pea’s last instruction to the ġesíþas, allowing Amber to guard everyone’s rear as ‘tail-end Charlie’.
   Before leading everyone into AD 866.

Stepping into the Anomaly felt like walking through a tremble.  They felt it through their bodies like a flaky mist as each ġesíþa took a calming breath and walked into the web of twinkling splinters that dangled and sparkled as they span.
   And then it was behind them. 
   They found themselves standing under a dim but dawning sky, a damp breeze against their right cheeks and the last stars high and clear.  Already the action girls had spread out, casing the DZ.  Already more than one ġesíþa felt he or she ought to speak up because, going by some hawthorn hedge or thicket upon their left hand, they weren’t in York at all.  Yet beside it ran a path strewn with withy-mats and, as they looked about, they saw snugly thatched roofs with V-shaped gable ends, chiselled with writhing patterns.
   Even a city, in AD 866, had a rural leer to it.
   They were there.

  Between the trees to the south-west a few feathers of smoke were rising, telling them where the bulk of York lay and that some slaves were already up, having to light cooking fires and make up a longhearth or two.
   Isn’t it quiet? mouthed Eanflaed to her fellow ġesíþas, who nodded their understanding.  This was a world of scant ambient noise, no shish of tyres on far-off tarmac, no aero engines from overhead, no alarms going off.  The peace was eardrum-deep and somehow soothing.
   “Chilly,” remarked Bowerthane sotto voce, seeing their breath come out misty.  The Medieval Warm Period had yet to begin, and in November they were lucky there was no frost.  Yet the air felt wholesome and, since Culfer and Eanflaed had made sure their cloaks were thick, they helped themselves to some deep, heartening breaths.   
   They were standing in a back alley, little used if the untrodden mud and withy-mats were anything to go by.  There seemed to be a turning to the right, the direction they wanted to go, a little way ahead.  A gust in the dawn breeze rustled the trees and this seemed to bring everyone’s mind back to business. 
   “Let’s move out,” was Sweet Pea’s order.  “Stay close in, and keep quiet.”
   “YIKE!” cried Bowerthane, one foot skidding off without him on the November mud.  All nine of them froze, teeth on edge...  but they had the booze inside the Norsemen to thank for the hush that held.
   Sorry, Bowerthane mouthed.
   “Do you want to make a call?” Rocket whispered.  “Some old lady in the next state could have missed that.”  She nodded towards what was, more likely, Deira.   
   “I said I’m sorry,” whispered Bowerthane.
   “Take it easy,” purred Sweet Pea.  “I can always kill you silently.”
   Getting no more trouble from Bowerthane, the five fighting females fell into the classic infantryman’s crouch and filed their way forth into the maze of withy-matted ways between thatched buildings, wattle-and-daub huts and skirted their first beech-tree ( it had a pig-sty built round it), the ġesíþas struggling to match their speed and stealth.  They stopped again when Sweet Pea raised her fist because a dog began to bark but, if it had anything to do with them, nothing kept on happening until she waved the nifty nine on, once more. 
   It seemed like good luck that the roof of the main hall was lofty enough to remain in sight.  All they had to do was weave their way towards its north-eastern end, facing away from York’s main street, that the action girls expected to be less guarded.  The lack of woodsmoke creeping out through its thatch should have warned the ġesíþas, but none of them clocked it until too late.  Disturbing enough for them was the first dead body they found, a real one, left to lie by the invaders since the re-capture bid; and nobody wanted to look too close for fear of seeing how he’d died or what the abandoned dogs were living off.  And who among them had seen a dead body in real life before, in any world?
   Having to mind a broken chest and seeing bed linen trampled anyhow spoke of looting from the fall of the city, then the first body became a second and third.  When they came upon two more together with shields, lying under their mouldering cloaks, Blackdragon had an access of indignation.  Stepping forward he laid the cloak over a face that was showing.  The face of an English warrior.
   “Is this how the Vikings will be armed?” asked Sweet Pea.
   “No,” Blackdragon replied.  Pointing to the boiled-leather tunic and lack of a helm, he said, “This chap’s not a professional.  One of the fyrd, I’m guessing.”
   A what? mouthed Amber.
   “A militiaman,” Blackdragon said.
   “Like a state trooper,” added Bowerthane.
   “Gotcha,” breathed Sweet Pea, running a professional eye over their position.  “Looks like your good guys made it as far as the outer perimeter of the Hall.”
   “Hmm,” agreed Bowerthane with a nod, feeling bile in the back of his throat.  Not so much from his first sight of death ( something four years at Pearl Assurance prepares anyone for) as recalling the ignorant remarks by people who glibly dismissed the fyrd as an ill-disciplined rabble.  Well, these had pressed home an attack, and now we had eyewitnesses.  Then he felt a tug on his sleeve, and realised they were moving again.
   The seconds stole by and the stonework stole up, ivy-clad and crumbling, walls that bulged where clumsy repairs had been made.  The stars faded and the ġesíþas were finding it easier to keep up but harder not to want to look at things.  They glimpsed a fighting-pit matted with bloody fur and feathers.  Some of the woodcarving on doorjambs and gable-ends was in deep relief and painted with the care of a practised hand.  They even clapped eyes on an oxwain like that; not a ritual one, for Christianity had long been Northumbria’s official religion.  Just an everyday one.  Pre-Conquest England, they began to feel, was more ‘ethnic’ than scholarship or archaeology could tell.
   Who could blame Professor Ball for doing a Helen Cutter?       
   When they reached a stout post with a small cross-bar, set up for no apparent reason, Sweet Pea signed Blondie and Rocket to halt whilst nodding Babydoll and Amber to slink on.  The cross-bar was too small for any kind crucifix, and going by the bloodstains the ġesíþas guessed it was a whipping-post.
   Crueller and more beautiful, thought Bowerthane of this new world as it began to blush in the slow, sweet stillness of the dawn.  Spotting something, Eanflead began to pluck at the dead-hedging by her elbow and tuck sprigs inside her pohha.  In answer to Bowerthane’s expression she whispered, “Bindweed.  It’s bindweed.  Let’s take some back and give it to David, eh?”
    Yet no sooner had Bowerthane opened his mouth than a sharp signal from Rocket alerted Sweet Pea to two figures rounding a corner less than fifteen yards to their left.  Hair by hair the ġesíþas’ worst fears climbed up their spines as both proved to be mail-clad, armed with swords and one of them called out in Old Norse. 
   Yet Sweet Pea, Rocket and Blondie didn’t miss a beat.
   “They’re Zeros, right?” asked Sweet Pea.
   Only Blackdragon and Culfer could nod.
   The merest eye contact with their commander and Rocket and Blondie stood up and sauntered tartily toward the two Norse warriors.  Who came on more warily, yet even as they fought with their astonishment two cloaks dropped to the ground, leaving one Norseman open-mouthed and his comrade furrowing his brow, bewildered by these beauteous black-lapped valkyries and what in the nine worlds they were doing, here?
   Then the nearest one’s misty breath clenched back into his mouth, bursting out again through the slit in his throat left by Rocket’s bayonet.  Shoulders first, Blondie span herself into a roundhouse kick that knocked his comrade’s head from under his helm and splatted his teeth like shrapnel up the wall at his right hand.  Rocket’s target died in her arms, her bayonet sliding behind his ribs before she laid him, silently, to rest next to where Blondie’s target lay face up, his brow furrowed now by her tomahawk.
   “Oh all right,” murmured Blackdragon.  “That’s not a trick the US Marines could ha–” 
   “Bowerthane act your age!” rasped Eanflaed.  The usual suspect was only giving the dead Norsemen one of those ‘Hunger Games’ salutes.
   “I was merely indulging that moment of creativity,” answered he, innocent as a choirboy.
   “You still are.  Knock it off.”
   “Yes, don’t type this up and post it on our forum,” warned Culfer.  “We’ll have half a dozen Guardian-readers take it for a Nazi salute and we’ll have merry hell break loose about politics again.”
   Bowerthane gave a contrite nod.  It didn’t take much to give the usual patsies dirty thoughts.
   “Keep it down,” Sweet Pea reminded the ġesíþas.  More than one of whom wondered whether she meant their breakfasts at the undead blubbering from the first Norseman’s windpipe as his lungs shut down, or the sight of the second one’s lifeblood clotting on the muddy withy-mats.  Retrieving their weapons Rocket and Blondie had closed up on her as though nothing had happened.  None of them even mentioned the incident when Amber and Babydoll popped back up, stealthy come, stealthy go.  No longer was Blackdragon the only ġesíþa to wonder if getting Bowerthane to shut up about that film hadn’t been too high a price to pay, now.
   “Two Zeros guarding the back way,” Babydoll reported.  “Besides that, they’re cherries.”
   “We’re on,” said Sweet Pea, picking up her team by eye.  Glancing at the ġesíþas she added, “You guys calm down.  We haven’t started yet.”
   Abruptly the rescue mission got busy as the action girls moved out, Heckler & Koch butts to their shoulders again and the ġesíþas making themselves keep quiet and keep up.  Then, just as the rays of dawn slanted through the boughs of a horse chestnut to their left, the girls just crouched down and froze.  Freaking out the ġesíþas ( scuttling to do likewise) with the fear that something had gone wrong.  Until the freeze lasted...  and lasted, each girl still and patient for a reason that made no sense to the ġesíþas until the light improved, every bird was singing and even the clouds looked healthy. 

[ To be continued... ]


  • Guest
Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2015, 02:20:27 PM »
[ I’ll try here this time. ]

   Then they came back to life and moved in on the back of the Hall.  Scurrying from cold shadows to hard cover and back Sweet Pea led them towards a small stone-flagged courtyard until they had line-of-sight to a weather-beaten Roman arch that faced north-east, out of the Hall’s ivy-clad back wall, over steps that sagged from generations of feet. 
   Flanking the archway stood two sentries, looking bored but brawny, sleepless but well-armed.  Both wore helms like hangmen’s hoods and mail-shirts rusty about the armpits.  Both held man-high Dane-axes, the most feared weapon of the Dark Ages. 
   Between them were two doors, their timbers bound together by wrought-iron braces and risted with low reliefs and long rune-rows.   
   “Holy Woden,” breathed Blackdragon, recognising the word Egil by the head of a horseback bowman, “I can read those!”  His surprise might have got the better of his caution had Sweet Pea not signed for quiet that same moment.
   No sooner had she done so, however, than a ġesíþa or two began to look about sharply, wondering which of them had just spat.  Then they did it again.  Only to realise the right-hand sentry was buckling at his knees, his mate was sputtering from a bloody hole in his Adam’s apple, and Amber was untwisting a silencer from her Glock.  Each sentry left a red stain, as if spray-painted, to dribble down the wall after him. 
   For their part the ġesíþas were left with five fallen cloaks for a security escort.  In one move the all-girl combat team had hustled out and squared up to the doors.
   “OK ladies,” came Sweet Pea’s order.  “Light up this gig,”
   Babydoll and Rocket bowled a grenade each over the gable-end.  Amber flipped up a limpet bomb that clutched itself to timbers at least eight inches thick and began to wheep.  They backed off in time for the double-barrelled thunderclap that drew the ġesíþas’ eyes to an eruption of blazing thatch reaching into the dawn sky from the far end of the Hall.  Dogs barked, an outbreak of whinnying off to their right spoke of where the stables lay, and hard on their heels came rising shouts, footfalls and a wooden bump from within. 
   The action girls levelled their gun-barrels, tensing in time as if they were all the same animal. 
   It felt far too long before the limpet bomb wheep-wheept itself to a halt. 
   A savage splash of splinters and the doors slapped open before them.
   “LET'S ROCK!” rapped Sweet Pea, punching the air as smoke hit the ġesíþas like a rude cough.  The four specialists were left nursing their eardrums and jaws, root canals still singing from the concussion, as Sweet Pea led her sister, Babydoll and Blondie into the fading fume and Amber took point under the arch, watching their backs.
   “Oh no!” gasped Eanflaed.  Inside was far dimmer than anyone expected.  They’d planned on the Hall having a longhearth, but its makeover to Old English custom was not yet full.  This hall was lit by tall braziers and the candles on the mead-boards, and the fist of wind from the blasted doors had blown out most of the latter.  You could just about pick out a few Norse warriors sitting along the mead-boards and the backs of what looked to be more bunched at the far end, maybe under the impression Thor had struck the south-western gable with his hammer. 
   You certainly couldn’t see any hostages.  Anyhow the modern-day interlopers could hardly wait for their eyesight to adjust to this gloom. 
   Yet the action girls slid in like a pack of raptors.  With an organic dexterity their holographic night sights sprouted into mid-air above their daylight ones even as they bounded onto the rushes, and through these they let rip: pumping controlled fire into the half-light.  The four ġesíþas felt their scalps rustle to see the results flickering like vintage newsreels, muzzle flashes making snapshots of a Norse warrior choking blood into his mead-horn, of this Norseman hit in mid-shout, that Norseman turning their way and knocked back – yet fastest of all the girls gunned down any Norseman reaching for anything.
   Hard on the heels of that came a pair of G60 stun grenades, bowled by Rocket and Blondie deep into the yells and yammerings of shocked and stumbling Danes, dazed underlings and ( the first indication there were any females in the room) the screaming of a woman who could not stop.
   What ambushed the rescue party were the animals.  Hunting hounds had been lolling in the rushes, cracking bones or licking themselves, or nosing along the mead-benches for titbits, long friends with a few cats kept as mousers.  Blind terror was now spraying them in all directions until, trapped inside stone walls, the flash-bang of the stun grenades sent them flying into the modern-day interlopers.  Rocket cursed as her trigger finger beat her better judgement, skewering a huge boarhound in mid-leap with a three-shot burst.  One of the yowling cats nearly freaked out Blackdragon, flashing between his feet before he knew what the fizzing thing was. 
   “Dammit,” rasped Sweet Pea, tugging out a flare and lobbing it, fuse rasping, into the middle of the Hall.  Glaring and sickly its all-too-modern green cast stark and quivering shadows as it lit up the Hall.  You could even see the wisps of smoke raised by the girls’ spent bullet cases, strewn among the rushes, now.
   There was still no sign of any hostages.
   What else you could see was more Norsemen falling at the far end of the Hall, bunched near the opposite doors in the act of finding out what the first ear-puncher was all about.  More than one ġesíþa had to swallow hard, or felt their bellies flip-flop, to see the flinty efficiency with which the professionals pumped parabolic pay dirt into the thickest parts of the bunches. 
   Yet to the girls it was just business. 

   “Hold your fire!” barked Sweet Pea, sticking up a clenched fist. 
   “OK, go in,” bade Amber, nodding over her shoulder as if suggesting coffee. 
   Quivering like thrown scramasaxes, the ġesíþas girded a loin or two and stepped under the archway, themselves.  Tall and terrifying their shadows jostled upon the tapestries as they hurried between the mead-boards.  Terrifying because groans and wails reached for you from either side and you just didn’t know what could come leaping out at you.
   “Blackdragon, Culfer, tell them to stay down,” ordered Sweet Pea, slapping home a fresh magazine.   
   “SITT NIÐRA!” shouted Blackdragon.  “SVONA NÚ!”
   “ĠEHEALDAÐ OFDÚNE!” added Culfer.  “Wé sind fréondas!
   As one the action girls stalked deeper into the Hall, Rocket and Blondie breaking to left and right to scan the flanks over open sights, Babydoll doubling off to take point near the south-western doors.  The skitter of efficient feet mingled with groans and wails as the all-girl commando team checked through the living and the dead.  Hands were kicked off sword hilts.  More than one shot rang out as one or another survivor showed any fight.
   “Got Zero Three here,” reported Rocket, using the code name for Sidroc Ragnarsson, the third most important Norseman in the heathen host.   
   Then something tugged Bowerthane’s cloak.  Swallowing his heart and otherwise calming down a bit he saw nothing worse than Culfer, pointing rightwards.  Already Eanflaed and Blackdragon were raising their eyes because, over their heads, running the length of the Hall, was hung a tapestry in colours fresh and marrowy enough to defy the green sheen in which everything was slathered.  Silver leaf had been sewn upon some figures to look like mail-shirts.  A king’s crown boasted real jewels, and the long lumpy bit with some longships underneath was meant to be Bamburgh Rock, before the present castle was built.  They recognised names like Swabdæġ and Arendel and realised the tapestry was telling some story from the foundation of the Northumbrian royal house.
   It began to dawn on them that the scene with the sparrow in King Edwin’s hall, so touchingly described by Bede, may not have taken place in an ordinary mead-hall.  It could have been here. 
   “Got a modern bracelet,” Blondie reported, upon reaching the high seat.
   “She can’t be far,” called Sweet Pea.  “Keep looking.  Blackdragon?  Try her mobile.”
   Blackdragon tugged out a keypad with an aerial like a tuning fork, but his first attempt ended in a grumble about the light.  He hustled up to Sweet Pea’s flare where a scattering of chests, bales and barrels that seemed to hold the pick of the loot could now be seen piled before the high seat ( quite possibly the throne of the Northumbrian kings).  Even a prize gyrfalcon dangled from a perch, dead from shock.  The last response Blackdragon expected was a prepubescent yelp from behind, a clarinet melody from Bach’s Little Fugue in G-minor and the diode glint of a cellphone-like object jumping out from the stacked loot, right behind him. 
   “Hot target, sis?” called Rocket before the cellphone landed.  Already she and Blondie were on guard, muzzles of both Heckler & Kochs tracking something skittering between the chests and barrels.     
   “Negative,” was Sweet Pea’s order.  From her line of sight it was clearly something small.
   “Boal fréo, síen híe þín folc?” piped the prepubescent voice.
   “Ġea Bǽda déorlinge, þú eart ġesunde,” came a reply, nearer to where that keening was coming from.  “He’s okay,” the same voice added.  “He’s cute.”
   “Who said that?” asked Eanflaed, turning round.
   “Ðú eart ġesunde, Bǽda.  Híe sind fréondas,” soothed the voice.  At which a stick-thin slave-boy scrawmed out from between a barrel and a chest.  With his back to the flare there was little to see beside the glint of tears upon a grubby face.  One knee was quivering up and down.  As one Blondie and Rocket stepped back a pace and put their muzzles up.
   “Mæġ iċ gán, fréo?” he begged. 
   “Ðú lá mæġ, sweetheart.”
   At which he abruptly bowed his head and legged it out the door.
   “He was bringing us food,” came the voice, hoarsening with effort.  “I let him look at the photos on my Smartphone.”
   “Identify yourself,” was Sweet Pea’s order, but already she too had put up her Heckler & Koch.
   “Professor Catherine Ball, University of Georgetown, upstate DC,” was the reply.  “And I’m kind of stuck in the middle, here.”
   “Geronimo!” called out the other.  A wave of relief washed over all concerned. 
   “It’s her!” cried Blackdragon, leading the move towards the loot.  For amongst it all, clutched together like sheep in a blizzard, the ġesíþas could now see a group of figures.  One was clutching her head in her arms, weeping shrilly.  Her neighbour was making feeble gestures to soothe her.  Yet otherwise they were huddled low, laying or squatting amongst the loot.
   “Wait up!” called Sweet Pea.  “Professor Ball, are there any Vikings with you?”
   “What? Oh, no no.  It’s just us.”
   Sweet Pea tossed a “CLEAR!” over her shoulder before turning back to the ġesíþas.  “OK you guys,” she bade, jabbing a finger at where the keening was coming from.  “Bring her out.”
   Yet the attempt to reach Professor Ball proved less than straightforward.  They kept having to crab to squeeze round this barrel or that chest.   Adding to their distractions was the carat and bullion value of the loot that was getting in their way: church plate, torn-off covers of books, polychrome hilts and more silver pennies than any Anglo-Saxonist had seen in one place in their life, before.  Then they froze to hear a sudden scuffle ending in a throaty gurgle that spoke of a not-so-doggo Dane having a disagreement with Babydoll’s bushido blade.
   “CLEAR!” came her call from the far end of the Hall.

[ To be continued... ]

« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 02:19:06 PM by Bowerthane »


  • Guest
Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2015, 02:21:34 PM »
[ ...  or why not here?]

   Blackdragon was the first to reach the sorry group.  Yet when he made to take the nearest woman’s hand to lift her, she shuddered back as though he were a live wire.  He and Bowerthane backed off, holding up their hands with fingers spread, mortified to fear their good intentions had made matters worse.  It didn’t help that Rocket chose that moment to call out “Zero Five is down!” to report that Frana Ragnarsson was off to Valhalla.  Some of the hostages were scared to open their eyes, even.
   “Let me try,” suggested Culfer, pulling clear her veil and headcloth to let them see her smile.  The feminine touch seemed to do the trick as the weeping woman let Culfer nurse her to her feet and Eanflaed joined in, offering a Kleenex. 
   “Wé sind fréondas,” she said.  “Fréondas! Wé sind Engliscan folc,” and this time the woman wept for relief.
   Pity overcame the ġesíþas’ fears, making it sink in how mean they’d feel making no effort to free all the hostages.  For this at least they unsheathed their scramasaxes and hastened to cut the ropes by which their wrists and ankles were tied.  To find they weren’t ropes: the Norsemen had used the women’s veils and headcloths to bind them.  Bowerthane sucked his breath to find he had cut in two a beautiful square yard of fine linen.  Beautiful because intertwined birds in fresh colours had been embroidered all about the edges inamongst a winding rune-row, some of which said in burgundy thread: eallan fuġlas folcuange.
   All the fowl of Folkwang...
   Even the cloth had character.  It lacked the slick regularity of machine-made millinery.  Somebody had sat before a loom and woven that.  He caught himself reminded of Kipling’s lines:

    Trackways and Camp and City lost,
     Salt marsh where now is corn –
    Old Wars, Old Peace, Old Arts that cease,
    And so was England born!

   Less romantically, shocking especially to the only two men in the rescue party, was how young some of these ‘court ladies’ proved to be.  These were handmaids, as young as schoolgirls in modern York, who had risked everything by refusing to leave their mistresses.  Suddenly knowing the Dane was the old enemy felt a deal less abstract, and even Bowerthane felt a pang of regret that he hadn’t been trusted with a weapon. 
   Stirring the rushes brought a smell of rosemary and lavender to their noses, herbs strewn amongst them to sweeten the air.  Yet this was nothing to feeling the warmth of flesh that had lived and died twelve hundred years before they were born.  It was a curiously moving experience, bringing a dignity to how they helped the ladies and maids to their feet, to straighten their clothes, or pick up stray cloaks and héafodcláþas for them; and found that, thereby, they’d given them back their dignity, too.
   “Ué ne uénen huá ġé béon,” said one of the tallest, most aristocratic of the ladies, “ah uesaþ éou bletsade under heofne.”
   Understanding those words, or just the homely fluency in the mouth that spoke them, brought the ġesíþas to a slow stop.  It was a moment out of time, each group regarding the other, each seeing a whole world in the eyes of the other.  If these ġesíþas did nothing more with their lives again, they had made their stay on earth worthwhile. 
   Culfer was the first to remember her manners.  Dropping a curtsy, she said:
   “Se wynnlust is ús.”
   Behind her the other ġesíþas bobbed and bowed.
   “Ġé sind wilcume,” said Eanflaed.
   “We ain’t got till payday,” came Sweet Pea’s reminder.  “Where’s the Professor?” Yet at that moment a dark form launched itself from under the mead-boards to the left of the high seat.  Opening fire, Rocket stitched the tapestry with black holes after it and sent half the hostages back to the floor.  Others wailed and one clutched herself to Blackdragon, gabbling.  Yet it was too late: the clunk of a latch and a shout in Norse told of a side-door behind the tapestry.  A Norseman had scuttled out.  Bowerthane’s Old Norse was embarrassingly bad, but even he caught the words svart valkyrie and hilp!
   “He’s calling for help!” he called to Sweet Pea.
   “Is that all?” she demanded.
   “I didn’t catch it all,” said Bowerthane, looking to the other ġesíþas.  Culfer brushed back her wundenfeax and Blackdragon cocked an ear, yet even then there came a deep, menacing lowing.
   “That’s a war-horn!” Eanflaed exclaimed.
   “We’re not finished!” called Blackdragon, yet to work his way by the last few ladies.  Culfer was opposite him, having found wriggle-room from the other side. 
   But already it was too late.
   “We’ve woken the neighbours!” came Babydoll’s warning.  Dogs were barking again and there came a bumping from outside the opposite archway.  A crash against the main doors soon followed, rooting every ġesíþa’s eye upon timbers that began to jolt as they were battered.  Blondie and Rocket came hustling up even as Babydoll fell back.  Again their gun-barrels levelled as the actions girls fell into positions between the hostages and the battering at the doors.  The ġesíþas did their best to reassure them, yet some were already wailing or genuflecting and two hitched their hems and fled.
   With a slow but horrible certainty, the doors were giving inwards.

   “Grendel?” David asked.  “What do you mean, Grendel?”
   “Well think of episode six,” Connor Temple replied.  “The one with the superbat in it.”
   Marine Corps sentries crossed between them and the Anomaly as they spoke. 
   “I never really followed the series.”
   “It was a just like Grendel, an attack predator that moved like a gorilla only much faster, bigger and much deadlier.” In his irritating way, Connor already had his laptop open, keying up details.  More out of politeness David looked over his arm.  “It nearly killed me.  Only dogs could track it because it orientated using echolocation,” Connor went on, “because it evolved from a bat.”
   “No, no, you’re losing me,” David protested.  “Grendel didn’t have wings.”
   “Well neither did the superbat in episode six.  It had evolved from bats, losing its wings but everything else was more efficient.  Brutally efficient, look.”  He had called up a photograph of an ugly but agile beast.  There was no denying that its long, back-turned talons made anatomical sense in a way Anglo-Saxonists had struggled to do in their attempts to reconstruct Grendel’s physiology.  At least two film-makers had quietly turned a blind eye to those steel-hard talons.   
   “Now think of where Grendel and his Dam came from.  A grotto beneath some kind of mere.  But they’d suffocate, there’s no fresh air – unless there was another anomaly down there.”
   David sighed.  “And you’re saying that one of those was running around in Geatland in the Migration Period?” he asked.
   “Running around anywhere.  This is your people’s information I’ve gathered, here: Beowulf was set in Scandinavia – right? – but it was composed in this country.  Then there’s a lost medieval place-name, ‘Grendelsmere’.  I’ll bet that’s where the anomaly was, and your Old English knew what Grendel was.”
   “There’s no such creature in the fossil record,” David pointed out.
   “But that’s just my point!  The superbat in episode six was from the future.  Then look at their intelligence: both are at least the equal of humans, and yet inhuman.”
   “No, no, no, wait a minute,” replied David.  “These anomalies attract metal.”
   “So, how did Grendel’s grotto come to be filled with treasure and war-gear if there was an anomaly there?  Beowulf used a sword he found in it, and Grendel’s dam used a knife.”
   “Oh...  I didn’t read all of the, you know, the actual poem. Thing.”
   Taking a slow, calming breath David explained, “He went in with one, wearing a mail-shirt and helm.  An anomaly would have just sucked him in.”
   “Well...  maybe that’s just something the bards made up.”
   David cleared his throat.  “Like Grendel?” he suggested.
   “Yes, ahhh.”
   “So you...  don’t think there’s any chance of them running into Grendel over there?”
   “No Grendels?
   “Not a toenail clipping.  I’d just shut up about it if I were you.”

   Without warning a widening shaft of brightness showed the ġesíþas the main doors were open.  War-cries and horn-calls suddenly blared.  Axes and swords aloft a milling mass of men came roaring under the archway.  Like deer in headlights the ġesíþas stood in their jumbling shadows, and doubt entered even Bowerthane’s mind whether the angel warriors from Sucker Punch could slow this lot down.  At least Babydoll had put the crosswise mead-boards between her and the incoming horde, which was more initiative than the others seemed to be taking. 
   “They’re all yours, Baby,” said Sweet Pea.
   Springing with deadly grace, Babydoll alighted upon the mead-boards before her.  Bowing her head, she knelt on one knee and willed her whole mind into her samurai blade.  Rowdy and arrogant the Norse host charged.  Clearly they’d been drinking and didn’t believe there was anyone left in York who could stand up to them, and the nearest warrior’s head whirred aside before he knew Babydoll had struck.  A headless axeman on her other side was already teetering beneath a ruddy splash as a sleek samurai blade slashed a parting in his shield-mate’s hair from crown to crotch, who never saw the girl on the other end of it.
   “Ugh!” gulped Bowerthane as the ġesíþas felt rather than saw her next assailant’s neck break, her second or third high kick laying into him because nobody registered the first one.  Incensed or scornful first this berserker, then that champion who’d fought the Byzantines or Russians, leapt forward with axe or sword – only to be batted every which way by a black-and-blonde blur with a bushido blade and a 1911-pattern Colt .45.
   “Get the Professor!” barked Sweet Pea, guessing rightly that the ġesíþas’ nerve was slipping.  Up from behind them ran Amber, falling into a firing position with Rocket and Blondie even as Sweet Pea bowled a couple of fragmentation grenades onto the front steps before joining them, blazing at the thickest parts of the Norsemen crowding over the threshold.
   “Come to mama!” jeered Rocket, slapping home a fresh magazine.
   They came on, with savage abandon but not a lot else, whilst the action girls were thinking inside one another’s heads; gunning down those out of Babydoll’s reach or trying to outflank her.  Sprays of red settled over the bodies of the fallen as Norsemen threw themselves into the hail of bullets only to bite the rushes.  It couldn’t go on, and when the thug, thug of the grenades cut off their re-enforcements, even the Norsemen knew it.
   Yet if this was victory, it was short-lived.  Groping and squeezing round this barrel or the next chest, the ġesíþas no sooner spotted Professor Ball than one of the court ladies gave a cry of dismay.
   “Ðá hornas byrnaþ!” she cried, pointing upwards.
   “Uara fýr!” cried another.
   High over the ugly jumble of corpses and weapons before Babydoll hung an elven-strange sight: roof-timbers standing out charcoal-black against a lava-like glow, surly and sinister.  The moderns realised they’d set fire to the thatch there.  And it was gnawing its way down.
   “The gables are burning!” translated Blackdragon.
    With a disconcerting knowingness, several of the shadowy shapes were no longer lying doggo but making breaks for the north-eastern archway, and even more hostages fled after them.  Others stayed only to grab at the ġesíþas, shouting, “Fýr!” and “Flíehaþ!
   “The contemps understand fire and thatch,” Professor Ball called out.  “We’ve got to get out!”

[ To be continued... ]
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 02:24:28 PM by Bowerthane »


  • Guest
Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2015, 02:22:18 PM »
[ ...  or perhaps...  here. ]

   Of course the Norsemen were hanging back already, having learned to fear this black-lapped valkyrie and wiser to rune-charmed ironmongery that could spit death from a distance.  Babydoll was back on one knee, catching her breath with her bloodied bushido blade on high guard.  Warriors at the front hurled abuse, cursing her for an evil völva and a kuni-vargr, but nothing harder than a candlestick.   
   Yet they were still Vikings: the terror of the Northern World.  They weren’t mucking about either.  From the back calmer voices were barking orders.  Men there found themselves pushed aside to make room.
   “The Professor, dammit!” was what Sweet Pea threw at the ġesíþas, hectoring them to stick to their last.  At least with the hostages out of the way Bowerthane and Eanflaed managed to blunder their way free of the last lumber to reach Professor Ball and help her to her feet.  Eanflaed hurried to give her the thoroughmost medical check she could, under the circumstances.
   “She’s suffering from mild malnutrition and some gastroenterine trouble,” she reported to Sweet Pea.  “But that’s the worst.  She’s sound in wind and limb.”
   “Tell me about it,” wheezed the Professor.  “I can’t hold anything down here.  ‘S like the goddam Aztec two-step.”
   “INCOMING!” yelled Babydoll as she parried a spear.  Clearly the Norsemen had found spears and bowmen, the first arrows heralded by a wicked whiz by their ears.
   “They’re getting their heads back on,” Sweet Pea warned. 
   “Get some protein down you,” Eanflaed urged Professor Ball, rummaging a bottle of high-energy drink out of her first-aid pohha
   “THIS CAN'T LAST, YOU GUYS!” hollered Babydoll from the front line.  Even she could only parry so many arrows, spears and now throwing-axes. 
   “Oo-er!” squawked Bowerthane as arrows began to shoot their way or splinter chillingly against the barrels and chests.  The last of the contemps had fled and if anyone still had any hope of trousering a memento, this was the time to forget it. 
   “Gotta hustle you,” Sweet Pea told the specialists.  “Blackdragon?  Powerdrain?  Get her up.”
   Hurriedly the B-team took an arm each and tugged it across their shoulders.
   “Get this under her knees,” put in Culfer, scooping Professor Ball’s feet up and passing a fallen spearshaft under them.  Getting the idea, Blackdragon and Bowerthane grabbed an end each and, struggling to be gentle, humped themselves upright and steeled themselves for the break. 
   “By the left?” suggested Bowerthane.
   “I’ve got her,” huffed Blackdragon.  “Just go!”
   “BABY!” barked Sweet Pea, “GET OUTTA THERE!!!”  With a click and hustle she, Amber, Blondie and Rocket switched to tracer rounds. 
   A fresh wave of axe-wielding warriors surged up behind Babydoll even as she sheathed her wakisashi blade over her shoulder.  As Baby turned, her sisters-in-arms opened up with covering fire.  With heart-stopping grace she threw herself into a ninja cartwheel that cheated the last arrows and landed her, bounding out of a deadly blizzard of tracer fire, to rejoin her team. 
   “Hit us harder you mothers!” sassed Blondie who, perhaps more scarily than anything, seemed to be enjoying it.  Then something hit them harder.  An ugly whine from above spoke of the tooth-breaking agony of the roof-timbers, and it ended in a split and a hurtling crash that brought down a blizzard of fire and wreckage.  With scant time to wince the time travellers were hit by a dizzy blitz of burning thatch, matchwood and racket.  They reeled as though the world were on the skids, smoke belched into everything and Blondie swore as the blazing reeds flurried over her. 
   Oh no, the tapestries! thought Culfer.  Quickly followed by, Things you think of, at times like these!  Yet matters soon became worse.  Bowerthane was too near one falling beam, the flaming butt-end of which hit his head with a short, sharp bonk that would have been comical under any other circumstances.  As it was he nearly lost his footing, struggling to hang on to Professor Ball as his head seemed to swim one way, then another.
   Yet it was worse for the other ġesíþas.  Instead of a bonk they heard the boom of a far-off cannon and found themselves portrayed with ludicrous hairdos.  They knew Bowerthane’s mind was wandering when their skin turned blue and they were about to make love, Na’vi style.  It seemed like mere luck he got a grip, first. 
   “That was close,” breathed Culfer.  Proper little God-playing megalomaniacs these proofreaders who critique everybody else’s novels but never seem to publish anything, themselves.
   “Easy come, easy go,” murmured Blackdragon stoically, having drawn the conclusion that Bowerthane was past it from the moment he clapped eyes on him. 
   “Casualties?” came Sweet Pea’s order.  The fume was settling, but the action girls’ night sights keyed on body heat, air density or infra-red and the fires now scattered about the Hall left them useless.  They could all be standing in Lady Hel’s hall now, by the look of things.
   “AOK here,” came Blondie’s voice.
   “AOK too,” reported Babydoll, shaking her ice-blonde locks free of smouldering shreds of reed.
   “AOK sis,” said Rocket.
   A gristly lurch from above clenched them into another icy hush...  but nothing happened yet. 
   “Go to EF,” Sweet Sea ordered, snatching five holograms out of sight.  “Professor?”
   “I’ve had it worse.”
   “Keep still,” urged Eanflaed, hurrying to pat out a smouldering patch on Professor Ball’s cloak.  Blackdragon and Bowerthane could do no more than wince and hang on to her, so Culfer did her best to rid them of glowing shreds of reed, too. 
   “Talk to me ladies!” rapped Sweet Pea.  “Where’s the Zeros?”
   “Nothing visual,” reported Rocket. 
   “Staying tight,” said Blondie.
   Sweet Pea turned to the ġesíþas.  “How you bearing up?”
   “Shaken but not stirred,” reported Blackdragon.
   “Now or never,” was the other’s order.   “Got our six, Amber?”
   “You’re good to go,” reported she.
   “Wrap it up!” 
   Yet they turned to follow Sweet Pea out only to find their retreat was cut off, already.
   “Oh no!” said Eanflaed.  Fires had broken out behind them now, where the spent ammunition cases lay. 
   “I’ll get it,” said Culfer.  Hurrying forward she hitched her hem and began to kick aside the burning rushes.  This time it was Bowerthane’s turn to think Things you think of!, for her kicks and stamping were uncovering a Roman mosaic in better nick than anything you’d see in a museum.  He’d caught himself thinking how irresponsible it was to leave it here where just anyone could walk on it...
   “Smart work,” said Sweet Pea.  “Now, let’s get outta here!”
   At last the B-team yomped towards the bright outline of the north-eastern archway. 

   Spilling into the courtyard the ġesíþas all but rammed into a clutch of people outside, their heart-stopping panic stymied only by the recollection that some surviving contemps had made it out, first.  Only one was a Norseman, but the meat skewer a Northumbrian thrall was extricating from his ribcage told you how little he was to be feared.  A coughing man, two benchmaids and that grubby little slave-boy were Northumbrians too and the man seemed to know some of the hostages.  All the contemps still kept a wary distance from the action girls, but they were used to that.   
   “Crumbs, I’m actually hot,” remarked Bowerthane.  Having to repeat himself as he and his fellow ġesíþas realised they were half deaf from gunfire.  It was an unsought boon to breathe fresh air and see clearly, once again.
   “Nothing to it, huh?” Blondie joked to the ġesíþas.  “Shout, shift and shoot.  ‘S all ya gotta do!”
   “Tch, was that it?” was Blackdragon’s riposte, pretending to be huffy.
   “These are yours,” Rocket said to Professor Ball, offering her back her bracelet and Smartphone.
   “You got some heart showing up here,” was all she could say, her voice thick with emotion.
   “We Anglo-Saxonists must stick together,” quipped Bowerthane.
   “Bidde, ne forhtaþ úre hildmæġdenu,” Culfer said to the Northumbrians.  “Híe éac sind fréondas, wé sweraþ.
   “Syndun híæ...  éoc Seaxe?” asked the thrall, lowering his skewer a little. 
   “Híe sind of feorweġe.”
   A little conferring and the nearest Northumbrians risked a step or two forward and bobbed and bowed to the action girls.  Some genuflected.  Suddenly unsure themselves, the action girls replied with sober nods but for a jaunty salute from Rocket.  Amber smiled and winked at the slave-boy, who made to hide behind one of the handmaids, but then blushed and smiled back.
   “Our pleasure,” added Sweet Pea with full military correctness.
   “Héo cwæþ þone wynnlust is hiera,” explained Culfer.
   “Mission accomplished, eh?” breathed Eanflaed.
   “This isn’t the end!” Sweet Pea was quick to warn them, mindful of the daylight now to be glimpsed through the blasted arch.  “We can’t wait here.”
   “Nuts,” was Professor Ball’s somewhat startling comment, hobbling towards the little slave-boy.  “Boal fréo sceal nú gán,” she ventured to explain, leaving him in tears before she got any further.  “Ðú móst þis habban,” she said, dabbing his eyes and handing him her Smartphone.  Some ġesíþas might have raised objections to the hazards of turning anyone in the past loose with anachronistic technology, but Professor Ball had just told the commander of the most deadly combat team of all time to back off.  Exchanging kisses with the slave-boy, she treated him to one last hug, making it dreadfully obvious who had discovered more kindness at her hands in the last few days than he’d known, all his life.
   “Huá béon éou?” the most distinguished-looking lady asked them.  Yet already the action girls had checked their ammunition and were falling into marching order.
   “We are leaving,” Sweet Pea spelt out.  “I won’t ask you again.”
   “Wé ne bíden,” explained Culfer.  “Ġé scallaþ fléogan.”
   “If we’re in danger they’re in danger,” said Professor Ball.
   “The city’s clear to the south-east,” pointed out Sweet Pea.  “Tell them that.”
   Giving the slave-boy’s hand a farewell squeeze, Professor Ball rendered their best advice into Old Northumbrian, Culfer and Bowerthane gave the two men their scramasaxes and, after another exchange of bobs, bows and best wishes, the Northumbrians made off together in the direction of Helen’s Gate.
   “And good luck,” murmured Bowerthane, wondering whether the distinguished lady knew she were a widow, yet.  His waters were telling him she was the queen of King Ælla or King Osberht.
   “Move out!” snapped Sweet Pea.  “Do it now.”

   They passed the whipping-post like an old friend, but who in the seven kingdoms was this?  For an agelong instant both the rescue party and a dozen or so Norsemen ( for some reason nobody ever had a chance to count them, though clearly some were warriors) blundered about one another wondering who this was they’d bumped into.  Unlike a flash, Bowerthane and Blackdragon were more worried about Professor Ball, abruptly jerking herself to her feet...
   Then everything went mad. 
   “They’re Danes!” Professor Ball tried to shout, shoving Bowerthane sharply enough to spare him a spear-thrust.
   “Zeros here!” yelled Rocket at the same time.  Already one warrior’s haymaker had hit Sweet Pea’s head and sent her reeling.  Bedlam and bumping bodies made it hard to follow what happened next.  As if in another world Bowerthane watched one Viking lunge right for Eanflaed, believing it was for real only when she was grappling to keep his hands from her windpipe.  All about them was a blur of haste, yells and a flap to do something.  Yet by then three more had spears on guard.  Amber grabbed a thrust meant for her but it cost her her balance.  Blackdragon jumped between Culfer and another, but he could only bar his teeth at the ghastly realisation that he had nothing to put between it and him.

[ To be continued... ]
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 02:21:09 PM by Bowerthane »


  • Guest
Re: Walking with Saxons
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2015, 02:21:35 PM »
[ on and on it goes... ]

   Bullying himself out of his slow-motion daze Bowerthane made his hands grab Eanflaed’s assailant.  Yet he was burly and hardly noticed.  A spatter of .46 rounds at close range knocked Blackdragon’s assailant staggering, taken down by Rocket, caught in a disbelief that lasted longer than his life.  Yet any hope that automatic weapons would jolt the Norsemen was dashed sooner: they just didn’t know what firearms were.  Swaying in a messy scuffle Bowerthane cursed himself for not having a better idea, then felt his innards dissolve at the hiss of drawn swords.
   “Take ’em down!” rapped Rocket, high kicking the nearest spearman and parrying a sword thrust with her sweet old flintlock pistol.  Babydoll and Blondie closed ranks on Professor Ball.  Yet robbed of its commander the rescue bid was teetering on the brink of collapse.
   More use was the Norsemen’s ignorance of who they ought to fear and Eanflaed’s forefinger.  One shoved past Babydoll to attack Blackdragon, but as he raised his sword he lost a lung to hers and flew sprawling as she kicked him off it.  Another thought he had time to laugh at Bowerthane, thinking he was trying to hide behind Eanflaed, only to lurch back with black holes stitched across his mail-shirt when Blondie opened up with her Daewoo K3.  The back of another’s head burst like a melon, leaving a gory splat on the wall behind him and Babydoll seeking another point-blank target for her Colt .45.  Sweet Pea got back on her feet just in time for yet another Norseman to nose in, all innocent curiosity, thinking the big flap was somewhere else.  He took the sword-stroke meant for her, but before his killer could curse Sweet Pea’s mid-chop left him waist-deep in a wattle-and-daub wall where a short, sharp burst from her Heckler & Koch shook him to death.  By now Amber was back on her feet too, the air was juddering with the report of the girls’ automatic fire and the up-close ripping of machine weapons was at least putting the survivors off their stroke.  At last some Norsemen began to back off, bewildered ones clutched their shields and another sank to his knees when Babydoll’s bushido blade burst out of his midriff, gurgling his last.  When a third slumped to his knees with Amber’s bullets in his chest the last few simply fled, yelping their bewilderment, leaving the ġesíþas’ hearts pounding and the dry taste of fear under their tongues. 
   It was like discovering bliss to hear nothing but their own panting and their own blood pumping in their ears, still...
   As for Eanflaed, when it came to it she’d found it was her assailant’s bad breath that nearly knocked her down at close quarters.  Yet as her eyes watered, it reminded her of some hint Bowerthane dropped about going for the eyes or the groin, a tip he’d picked up from his spell as a Victim Support volunteer.  The first the Norseman knew about it was when her forefinger stabbed deep into his eyeball and left him howling and floundering like a spitted boar.
   “Nice,” Amber congratulated her, popping up at her side and battering him against the wall with the last few rounds of her Glock.
   “Are we making a soldier out of you?” asked Sweet Pea, tugging Eanflaed’s shoulders against her with sisterly solicitude.  “Shallow breaths but swallow, huh?” she confided.  “Casualties?” she called to the others.  Blackdragon was pawing at his stomach where that Norseman’s spearhead was going.   
   “What did I just do?” he asked himself, voice wan with disbelief.  Culfer took his hand and squeezed it, whispering something in his ear.  Bowerthane checked on Professor Ball, who had saved his life too.  In grimaces, knowing glances and rueful sighs the ġesíþas held the wordless conversation of people who, quite possibly, would spend the rest of their lives coming to terms with how close that was.
   “This place kind of gets you like that,” observed Professor Ball.
   “You’re telling me,” said Eanflaed, massaging her throat.  “I thought power cuts put ‘the good old days’ in perspective.”
   “Otherwise I think we’re all ri-” began Bowerthane but, “sh*t that hurt!” he ouched when Rocket slapped in a fresh magazine.  Her old one had hit the back of his hand and was hot.  At first he, then everybody, creased up in hysterical mirth at the absurdity of it.  It wasn’t really that funny but Sweet Pea laughed with them, knowing there was nothing like self-conscious irony for getting suppressed panic and hysterical disbelief out of your system. 
   “They’ll get James Murray to play you in the film version,” Eanflaed told Blackdragon.
   “I should be holding her hand!” he replied, nodding to Rocket.
   “They’ll get Sigourney Weaver to play you, Eanflaed,” suggested Culfer.
   “Her?  Do I look like I’m going back for the cat?” 
   “Please Miss, may I throw up?” sang Bowerthane, jumping up and down with his hand up.  Yet for once the old card wasn’t being entirely facetious.
   “OK, OK, back the way we came,” Sweet Pea said at last.  “Retrace our steps and don’t stop for anything.”
   “Yeah, let’s go home,” said Blackdragon to general agreement.
   “Count me in,” said Culfer.  “I’ve got a rat to feed.”
   “Mhh,” agreed Eanflaed.  “I said to myself, I can’t die, I’ve just had my kitchen done!” 
   Riding the new mood, Blackdragon and Bowerthane got Professor Ball cradled between them once more, the action girls fell back into marching order and, turning their backs on a blazing longhall now collapsing in a bloom of smoke, the rescue party made off. 

   It felt like no time at all that they were well on the way to their own time, with nothing worse to stop them than the glowing coal of the rising sun in their eyes.  Never a pig-sty did hearts more good than the one under the beech tree as the tearaway time-trippers sped by, wheeling left for the last lap.  Yet Lady Wyrd had her secrets.  They turned the last corner only to wonder whether they had.  The Anomaly was twinkling all right and sprinkling light before it like a Christmas tree, but wasn’t it too far away?
   “Where’s it going?” demanded Eanflaed, her voice suddenly shrill.
   “It’s not going anywhere,” said Blackdragon.  “It’s shrinking.  The Anomaly is closing!”
   “Go!” bawled Sweet Pea.  “GO! GO! GO!”   
   Only the speed of their feet could save them now...

WILL we all be marooned in Northumbria, AD 866?

WILL David get a chiming wristwatch to
remember us by?

WILL Cerdic the Rat starve?

WILL your mothers have my guts for garters if I keep you up past your
lights-out making up more of this nonsense?

WILL Playtex offer Lord Sewel an advertising contract?

WILL this affect the Euro?

WILL the ...  oh all right Eanflaed, I’ll go and grow up.


The moral right of the author to identify his readers not knowing whether to
laugh or cry has been asserted.

( Recommend the moderators delete the ‘The End’ thread and everyone ignore it. Today, it seems, the library machine will let me upload the last section.  Go figure!)

« Last Edit: October 24, 2015, 01:27:59 PM by Bowerthane »