Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dux Britanniarum - Beginning the campaign

Ebba was Wodenborn, son of a foederatii dwelling in that part of south-eastern Britain his people had named Ceint. He was used to the relics of the old Romans - or so he thought. Leading his men through the early morning on their first raid into the soft heartland of the effete Romano-British they'd come across one of the old Roman canal and dyke systems. The watercourse stretched for miles across the misty flat landscape, running as straight as an arrow from horizon to horizon. Time had worn away at the banks, and parts of the low lying land had flooded with the spring rains, but the canal still carried water, the dyke still held back most of the floods. It all had a sobering effect on Ebba's men. Even the braggarts making up the contingent of warriors from the old country across the sea fell silent in the presence of such monumental works. Ebba sucked his teeth as they walked, contemplating the canal and wondering how he and his warriors would have measured up against the Romans of old.

Everyone cheered up when they reached a juicy target for their raid - a cattle farm, not far from the canal, guarded by a man and his sons. The man and two of his boys had perished in defence of their property at the hands of the Saxon warriors. The rest and their womenfolk had fled in terror. Mindful that the Romano-British were not entirely without teeth and might well be somewhere close by, Ebba had called his men off pursuing the peasants. They'd reluctantly come to heel, but appeared satisfied with the booty - six prime head of cattle.

Now they were on the return journey to the coast, driving the obstinate cattle before them. The mist had thickened during the day and Ebba cast his gaze all around, trying not to let his anxiety show on his face. A niggling itch in the back of his mind told him the enemy were close to hand, their forces gathering somewhere in the pestilential mist. Barking sharp words of command Ebba deployed his force as best he could, allowing for the landscape. Woodland lay to the right, interspersed with breaks of bracken and gorse. To his left more bracken and gorse, and an outcrop of rock at the western end of a low hill. The way ahead looked clear of obstacles, so Ebba directed the cattle drovers to steer the beasts in that direction.

A low, eerie sound carried through the mists. Someone was blowing a horn, the baritone note humming and throbbing through the murky air. All around Ebba his men instinctively gripped shield and spear as they tensed, looking for the source of the noise. Away to the left a shout rose. 'Enemy! Over there!"

Ebba looked in the direction of his left flank. Glints of something reflecting the weak sunlight sparked here and there until, emerging from the mist hard on his left flank came lines of men, girded for war and marching with purpose in their step. Ebba swore, snatched his helmet from the strap where it hung from his belt and jammed it on his head. "Drovers! Get those beasts moving. Hearthguard, to me!"

As his men began to move to the commands of his lords, Ebba growled softly. The Romans may have caught me by surprise, but we'll see who emerges the victor in this fight...

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