Sunday, 14 January 2018

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 17 - Spring

At last. A morning where it isn't just miserably wet and grey. I was starting to hate these British winters.

This past one, particularly. Strange, as old Theobald used to say about Leofric the Drunkard, how you don't miss something till it's not there any more. No Ecgwine, blue eyes aflame, brashly questioning the Young Wolf's decisions. No Lavinia, with her head of raven-dark hair leaning next to his unruly straw-pale mop, slim hand on his arm and the quiet word that tempers his rashness. Truth, we'd seen less of that this last year, as he'd started to learn wisdom from all of us, and she'd thus had to do it more infrequently.

But Ecgwine's dead, a British spear in his side, and she... who knows? Left in the night on Aelfric's second-best horse. The Cyning's Hall in Caer Lind Colon - Odin's blood, that's still a barbarous mouthful of a name - seems that bit darker without them both, and we...

We have become grim.

Resolute.

Cold.

Iron.

The ring of metal on metal has been the music of the Hall most days, with none questioning our Cyning's resolve to make us harder, better. Which is why I'm here in one of the Hall's outbuildings, sorting through a batch of new-made spear points. That and it gives me something to do.

We're missing Beornwulf too this winter, sent on a thankless task to bear news of his son's passing to Ecgfrith across the great sea - Ecgfrith the Cyning, Aelfric's father's brother, who charged us - me and Aelfric especially - to take care of his son and make him a man. "You can't argue we managed one of those...."

"Mmm?" Aelfric, damn him, still has a habit of sneaking up on me.

"I... uh. Just musing aloud." He eyes me for a moment, with that maddeningly prompting look of his. I sigh. "Ecgwine." Again the regard. "Your uncle. 'Keep him safe. Make him a man.'"

Aelfric nods, "We tried." A pause, then, ruefully. "And we were..."

"Ho there!!!!!" It's a yell from the gate, young Hedric. "Someone's coming up the round. A band of men..."

The Young Wolf treats me to a sudden grin. "I'll bet you it's Beornwulf."

I grin back. "Not taking that bet. I'll catch you up when I've tidied this lot away."

I head for the gate, slipping through between a couple of the buildings to join the throng: there's much backslapping of Beornwulf, and the group of warriors he's brought across the sea with him. Hel's teeth, he's even managed to persuade the tall, rangy Deorwine, one of Ecgfrith's Gedriht that I actually don't have any grievance with, to join him. He's a skilled horseman, and a fine warrior, quiet yet intelligent: never a score of words when two will do. I'm just about to clasp him by the hand when a slap on my back nearly knocks the breath out of me.

"Not dead yet, then, Godric?"

I really should have spotted that distinctive hair amid the small crowd, but she isn't tall, certainly not among men. The voice, though, is unmistakably hers, a low alto rasp. I allow myself a second or two, as Deorwine gives me a knowing wink, lips quirking in an amused grin, before I turn. "Gytha."

There might be even more grey in her locks, but other than that she hasn't changed in the time since we left. Hair the colour of iron down to her shoulders; the same well-worn mail; axe and sword at her belt; the white line of a scar the length of her cheek from a blade; eyes the grey of a winter sky.

A smile, rendered slightly crooked by that scar, quirks her lips. "Miss me?"

She always did start with the difficult questions.

Now if I could actually find the box that has Bad Squiddo's shieldmaiden warriors blister in it (which I'd link to, but I can't find it on Annie's site either!), I'd have Gytha painted up by now. Unfortunately, I suspect it's somewhere in the stuff we cleared out of the workshop so the builders could do their stuff, which means I have almost no space to move stuff into to search for it. That and it's cold out.

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