One of the new arrivals over the winter was Wulfhere's bastard son, Beornwulf. With a name like that - Strong Wolf, Wolf Prince - you'd expect him maybe to be built like his father, tall as one of the standing stones in Linnius and twice as wide, but far from it. He's lean, wiry, not that much taller than Ecgwine's lass Lavinia, though he does have his father's fiery hair. Far as I can tell, Wulfhere sired him on a peasant lass in Germany after his first raid, Odin-knows how many years ago, and... well, basically, Beornwulf's got where he is today on his own with no help from his father. The reunion was a little frosty, but he brought half a dozen men with him, and he's pretty useful with a blade. His men call him the Righteous. I guess we'll find out why sooner or later: he certainly prays to Thor and Odin a lot.
Anyway. Come spring, I was doing my usual morning walk to clear my head (Wulfhere's mead is strong stuff), and I came across a bunch of the young lads shooting at trees with their bows, and with them, who but Lavinia, in a man's leggings and a leather shirt. So I found myself a trunk to lean against just out of sight, and watched for a while. Girl's good. In fact, she's a better shot than most of the lads. Something tells me there's going to be trouble there.
A week later, and we're headed for the Britons' lands again. Ecgwine's sulking, mostly because his girl has tagged along with the lads with her bow, and made it very clear that she's not to be dissuaded. The lads are teasing him about who wears the breeches in that partnership: appealing to Aelfric didn't work, either, as the Young Wolf shrugged and said, basically, "your woman: you deal." Beornwulf seems amused by this - he's coming along as well, as part of Aelfric's hearthguard, which is good, as I want him somewhere where I can keep an eye on him. Not, of course, that I'm going to tell him that's because his father asked me to.
"I thought you said," observes Aelfric, just a little tartly, as we cross the little stream and range out between the two woods that bracket a trail, "that the village was in the valley."
I strain my eyes to check in the early morning light. Several torches and fires, and movement. Some of the buildings are down in the valley, but it's clear our main goal is a knot of huts on a hill overlooking a stone circle. I shrug, as there's not a lot to do but acknowledge the fact. "I was wrong."
Aelfric treats me to one of those wolfish grins of his. "Let's go. Ecgwine? Take your men and the bows..." a nod towards where Lavinia's stringing hers, "through the woods on the right and see what you can find in the village. Quietly now. Leofric, Beornwulf, with me and Godric. Let's give them something to think about."
Ecgwine nods, glances across at his woman, who looks up, gives her bowstring an experimental tug, and returns his look with a blankly innocent one of her own. He sighs, turns on his heel, resigned. "Let's go." And I swear she catches me looking, grins and winks at me.