Wednesday 7 December 2016

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 15 - St. Cuthbert's Hol(e)y Relics

"Right. Off your rear ends, the lot of you."

Here we go again. I get to my feet - Odin's beard, but I'm starting to get stiffer as the years go by - and head over to pick up sword, spear and shield from where I've propped them. "What is it this time?"

Aelfric grins, that teeth-bared wolf-smile of his. "The Britons are apparently making ready to receive another of their holy relics. A handful of their unarmed holy men and a dozen men to guard it on the old road."

Ecgwene joins us. "What are we waiting for then?" 

Too keen by half, that lad.

Aelfric's right, anyway. A little knot of men and pack-mules are making a slow and steady pace along the old road, and we find them maybe four hundred paces from safety. He's getting a little keen, though, giving the cluster of Britons led by that Lord we had as a guest - Geraint - the charge. They peel off from the monks to head him off...

Ecgwine heads after the monks, and makes rather quick work of getting the mules off them and heading back away. Lad is definitely guilty of over confidence there, though - he has no respect for that hat short Lord of theirs who comes after him with his men, quite prepared to turn his back as they retreat with the treasure. I learned his name the other week - I think it was Lavinia who found out -  'Maximus Minimus', the Great Little Man. Evidently somebody has a sense of humour, anyway. But, to be fair... he may be short, but he's no coward, and he and his men aren't about to let Ecgwene away without a fight.

Meanwhile, we're facing off against Geraint and that Praefect of theirs and their hearth guard, me and Aelfric side by side as we have been for what seems like years now. It's a back and forth rough-house of a fight, and for all we give a good account of ourselves, in the end they push us back. Out of the corner of my eye I see Ecgwene's men likewise retreating without the monks' goods...

"If," I observe drily to Aelfric, "Your next words are 'that went well' again, I may do something that I regret later."

My reward is a bark of laughter, quickly suppressed,  as the Young Wolf removes his rather rent mail shirt, then eyes it ruefully, "No. Overconfidence is just as bad as being fat and lazy. Ecgwene needs to learn that." Quietly, "Mayhap you should have a word in the ear of that woman of his."

I snort. "I suspect she's telling him that without any need for words from me."

He sighs, lets the mail fall to the floor with a growl of frustration. "Damnation. They are growing more skilled in our ways. These defeats are growing costly." 

Indeed they are: once again the women are moving among our wounded, and once again there are far too damn many of them for my liking. I sigh, look across at him. "What now, then?"

The Young Wolf shrugs. "We heal." A pause, and then a chuckle, an echo of the teenager I first met nearly a decade ago, "Who knows? We take up boar hunting for profit for a while?"

[OK. Now I'm caught up barring Monday's game. Watch this space!]

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