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The Children of Snotingas: HILD




Hild



HILD

The Children of Snotingas



By C.S. Woolley



Mightier Than the Sword UK Publications

©2017



The Children of Snotingas:

HILD


By C. S. Woolley


Cover design by C. S. Woolley

Illustrations by Davy Ross

Map by Inkarnate

A Mightier Than the Sword UK Publication


Smashwords Edition


Copyright © c. s. woolley 2017


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publishers.


To prevent unauthorised copies of this book being made a number of intentional errors have been included.




For

PHOEBE

Contents



Characters

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Historical Note

Also by the same author

From left to right: Kipp, Morven and Nyle



The Characters


Ravinger

Youngest Son of Snot

Hawk

Son of a Thane of Mercna

Lyndon

Son of a Thane of Mercna

Brea

Daughter of a Thane of Mercna

Idina

Daughter of a Thane of Mercna

Luella

Daughter of a Thane of Mercna

Kipp

Son of a Thane of Nordanhymbria

Morven

Son of a Thane of Nordanhymbria

Nyle

Son of a Thane of Nordanhymbria

Fern

Daughter of a warrior of Mercna

Ransom

Son of a ceorl of Mercna

Seward

Son of a ceorl of Mercna

Tostig

Son of a ceorl of Mercna

Radella

Daughter of a ceorl of Mercna

Wayland

Son of a slave of Mercna

Halsey

Son of a slave of Mercna

Channing

Son of a slave of Mercna

Calder

A Thane of Mercna

Burne

A Thane of Mercna

Penda

King of Mercna

Snot

Thane of Snotingas

Cynewise

Wife of Snot

Parr

A warrior of Mercna

Mather

A ceorl of Mercna

Sherwood

A slave of Mercna

Borden

A Thane of Nordanhymbria

Arley

A Thane of Nordanhymbria

Eldon

A Thane of Nordanhymbria

Teller

A messenger of Mercna

Eorl

Eldest son of Snot





Prologue


Ransom, Seward, Tostig, Wayland, Halsey and Channing have passed the first trial of training to be warriors. The first of the ceorls and slaves that have been allowed to rise out of the caste they were born into, it is a sign that times are changing in Mercna.

The attitudes towards the slaves and ceorls in Snotingham are changing as well. Ravinger, the youngest son of Snot the war chief, was once more opposed than any other to training the sons of the lower order to be warriors. Now he was the strongest supporter of the idea.

He had trained the boys along with his friends, Lyndon and Hawk, and some help from Fern. Lyndon and Hawk were the sons of other thanes in Mercna. They had come to learn from Snot the war chief and Parr, his strongest warrior.

Fern was Parr’s daughter. She wasn’t a warrior, women weren’t allowed to fight like men in Snotingham, but Parr had trained her to fight since she had been old enough to stand.

She was a skilled fighter that was charged with protecting the Snotingas when the warriors were away fighting the Nordanhymbrians. It was clear to everyone that times were changing in Snotingham, not only were the children forging new futures for themselves, but all the people of Mercna were under the rule of King Penda.

Penda had taken the throne of Mercna from his cousin, Ceorl. Ceorl had been a weak king that had lived under the heel of King Eadwine of Nordanhymbria. But Penda was strong.

When he became king, Penda had named Snot as one of his war chiefs and declared war on the Nordanhymbrians. The first years of the war were nothing more than raids into the Nordanhymbrian lands, finding hostages and repelling raiders when the Nordanhymbrians came to rescue their kinsmen and take hostages of their own.

In Snot’s first raid, he took three prisoners, Kipp, Morven and Nyle, all sons of the thanes of Nordanhymbria. But their fathers didn’t come for them. Instead they plotted, planned and relied on their sons to find a way home.





Chapter 1


Ravinger stood outside the hall. A messenger had arrived not long before dawn to parley with Snot. The unexpected arrival of a messenger rarely brought good news. Snot had taken the messenger into the hall to talk to him away from prying eyes and ears along with Parr.

Parr had come out of the hall a few minutes later and went in search of Cynewise, Ravinger’s mother, Snot’s wife and matriarch of the Anglo-Saxons.

Ravinger had been sparring with Fern when Parr came in search of him. Though Fern wasn’t allowed to fight or train alongside the warriors of the Snotingas, Ravinger, Lyndon and Hawk had all started sparring with her to try and become better fighters before they went off to fight the Nordanhymbrians.

All of Ravinger’s older brothers had fought beside their father already. Two of them had died in battle, but he still had four brothers left. None of them were in Snotingham any longer. His oldest brother had been disguised as a slave and sent away to spy on their enemy. Two of his other brothers had gone to learn from other thanes in Mercna and his last brother was part of Penda’s war band.

Being part of the king’s war band and being a spy were the highest honours that the men of Mercna could aspire to, but they were also the most dangerous.

Ravinger had not given the safety of his brothers any thought until the messenger had arrived. When Parr had come in search of him, Ravinger had gone to the hall to find his mother in tears and his father pointing his sword at the messenger.

“What’s happened?” Ravinger asked, as he looked between his parents.

“Your brother, Eorl, is dead.” Snot said in a firm voice.

“How?” Ravinger felt shock wash over him at the thought that his eldest brother was dead.

“This messenger has come from Eoforwīc, Eldon discovered Eorl meeting with this messenger. Eldon and his guard cut down Eorl as this messenger fled. Eorl was unarmed and this coward gave him no help.” Snot roared.

Ravinger didn’t know what to say. His mind was whirling with emotions and his mother’s tears weren’t helping him to think through it all.

“My thane, Teller brought news of Eorl’s death, though he may have left your son to die, he came to you with news of it so that you could avenge Eorl.” Parr tried to calm the war chief’s mood.

From the look on Teller’s face it was clear that he knew that he had betrayed the trust of Snot but he was not afraid of the punishment he might face.

“If Teller was doing the task I assigned him to the people of Eoforwīc wouldn’t have discovered and killed my son. For that alone Teller deserves to die.” Snot roared.

“My thane, please stay your sword today. Have your people pass judgement over Teller’s actions when your anger has cooled to sadness. It is your right to demand the heads of the men that took your son from you, but it was not Teller’s blade that ended his life.” Parr replied.

“Very well, I will accept your counsel, Parr. Teller will be placed under guard until tomorrow when the people will decide what is to be done with him.” Snot ordered. Parr nodded and went to fetch men to guard the messenger.

It wasn’t mercy or compassion that had caused Parr to intervene on Teller’s behalf, but suspicion. Teller had told Snot of the ambush, of the death of Eorl, but not how he had managed to escape the ambush. Something about this struck Parr as odd and worth investigating.

Parr had a niggling doubt in the back of his mind that told him that Teller wasn’t telling the truth about the attack.

Ravinger felt the air in the hall was stifling. His chest felt tight and any gulp of air he tried to force into his lungs seemed to stick in his throat. He felt dizzy and sick. His father had turned his attention towards Cynewise and Ravinger had no reason to stay in the hall. He hurried outside.

The cool air of the early morning was a welcome relief, but he still couldn’t breathe properly. He stood and watched the sun slowly rising, choking as he desperately tried to take deeper breaths.

“Ravinger? What’s wrong?” Brea asked from behind him. Brea was Ravinger’s fiancée. She was the daughter of Mann, one of Penda’s war chiefs, and had come to live in Snotingham before she married Ravinger so that the Snotingas could get to know her before she married the son of their war chief.

“Brea? Why are you awake?” Ravinger gasped, as he turned to look at the young girl.

“Fern came to get me after your sparring was interrupted. She said it sounded like you would need me.” Brea replied gently.

“Eorl is dead.” Ravinger’s voice cracked as he spoke. His composure failed and the young warrior broke down in tears. Brea moved to his side and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

The news of Eorl’s death and Teller being placed under guard spread around Snotingham before the sun had barely warmed away the chill of the night.

Nobody had any sympathy for Teller and no one was allowed to see him, save for Parr. The warrior left Teller sat on his own for several hours without food or water before he went to talk to him about what had happened to Eorl.

Fern had gone with her father, but he had told his daughter that she had to wait outside whilst he spoke to Teller.

Idina and Luella were left to take care of the three prisoners from Nordanhymbria on their own. Kipp, Morven and Nyle were all the sons of enemy thanes that had been captured during the first raid that Snot had made under King Penda’s banner.

They had been brought back to Snotingham to prevent the Nordanhymbrians from attacking Mercna. As prisoners, the boys were not slaves but a type of guest that had to be looked after. It was the job of the daughters of thanes and warriors to do this.

Snot had assigned Brea, Luella and Idina to the task of looking after the prisoners and Fern was to act as their bodyguard.

The three prisoners knew that something had happened but no one was telling them anything. They weren’t allowed outside of the hut that they slept in, and when Luella and Idina brought their meals, neither girl spoke to them.

For the most part, the three boys were left on their own, which gave them ample time to plot their next bid for freedom.

“Why should we even try to escape?” Morven complained as he lay back and stared at the straw of the roof above him.

“Because we need to get home and tell our fathers about the weaknesses there are in Snotingham and how they can beat Snot’s pathetic war band.” Nyle snarled.

“Pathetic? A girl keeps beating us on her own, and the war band beat Kipp’s father’s war band easily – or don’t you remember how we were captured?” Morven replied crossly.

Kipp sat silently in the corner. He wasn’t interested in arguing with his friends. He wanted to get out of Snotingham and go home as much as Nyle did, but he knew that there was only one way that was going to happen. They would need to kill Snot and all of the warriors in the settlement.

The boys had tried to cause problems in Snotingham that would distract the residents long enough for them to escape, but each attempt they had made had been foiled by the girls that were looking after them.

“Well that girl that keeps beating us, I think she likes me. If I can make her fall in love with me then she will help us escape.” Nyle shot back at Morven.

“You think that every girl likes you.” Morven mocked.

“Well, maybe they do, but this girl goes bright red whenever I am close to her.” Nyle said defensively.

“I’ve never noticed it.” Morven shrugged.

“Well she does, you’ll see. I’ll get her to fall in love with me. She’ll let us escape and then we can come back here with our father’s men and kill every wretched person in this horrible place.” Nyle replied flatly.

“They won’t kill everyone. They’ll take slaves and hostages to try and force Penda to stop the war.” Kipp snorted.

“I still don’t think you’ll get her to fall in love with you. Maybe we should just all wait and see what happens. Life isn’t bad here. Pretty girls look after us and we get food without having to do any work.” Morven said sleepily.

“You really are the laziest person I know,” Nyle said shaking his head, “We are warriors. We have to escape and go back. If we don’t, we’ll end up being slaves and I am not spending the rest of my life being a slave.”



Chapter 2


It didn’t matter what Parr said or did, Teller didn’t tell him anything about the ambush. This made Parr even more suspicious about what had happened to Eorl.

There were very few times that the Snotingas gathered together to listen to judgements being handed out. Most of the time it was people stealing from each other or someone breaking into the home of another person, but there were odd cases when someone was killed and wergild had to be paid.

This occasion was very different. Teller hadn’t killed Eorl himself, or at least Teller’s story said that the men of Eoforwīc had killed Eorl.

The Snotingas were gathered together, all except the men guarding Morven, Kipp and Nyle. They all either stood or sat in the long hall in a layered circle that surrounded the messenger.

Teller had been brought in by Parr and the warrior stood next to the messenger with his hand on the hilt of the blade, just in case Teller decided to do something stupid.

Fern had taken her father’s place next to Snot, though by rights it belonged to one of the other warriors. None of the Snotingas told her not to stand there though. It was the place where those that were protectors of the war chief stood, and by choosing to stand there, Fern was making a statement to all of the Snotingas.

Cynewise sat beside her husband and felt strangely proud of the young girl. She had always felt that Fern was a tearaway who needed to behave more like the other girls. But as she stood next to Snot with a serious look on her face, Cynewise knew that Fern understood better than any child, how important position and loyalty were in Snotingham.

Ravinger stood next to Fern with Brea at his shoulder. Beside Cynewise, Calder, thane of Hetfelle to the north of Snotingham, was stood. Calder was Luella’s father and had come to Snotingham to see how the experiment of training slaves and ceorls to be warriors had gone.

He had stayed to help train Seward as an axewielder. There were very few warriors that were trained to use an axe as their primary weapon in battle amongst the Mercian people, but Calder was one of the best that Snot had ever known. Calder saw a lot of promise in Seward’s abilities so had chosen to stay for an extra month to help train him.

Hetfelle was not a large place, but it had strong warriors and was dangerously close to Nordanhymbria. Calder had sent his eldest daughter to live with Snot as he felt that she would be safer with the war chief when the warriors were away fighting.

Luella stood next to her father with Idina, Hawk and Lyndon. Behind them, Ransom, Seward, Tostig, Wayland, Halsey and Channing were stood with the other warriors of the Snotingas.

Radella was sat on the opposite side of the circle to Fern. She was paying no attention to Teller whatsoever but instead was completely focused on Fern. Radella both admired and hated Fern, even more so since Fern had helped Radella’s brother to rise from being a ceorl to being a warrior.

When Snot was sure that everyone had assembled he held up his hand for quiet.

“Teller, you know why you are here?” Snot asked in a voice that filled the hall and caused the rafters to shake.

“Yes, my lord, I stood by whilst your son was killed. I ran like a coward. I am here to face judgement.” Teller spoke clearly and his voice didn’t tremble.

A murmur of disgust ran around the hall. The people talked tutted and grunted to one another. Even the slaves shook their heads and muttered things about cowardice and treachery.

“You can hear what my people think of your actions. What reason do you give for such a deplorable act?” Snot demanded.

“My only thought was to flee to save my own life so that I could return to you and bring you news of your son’s death – no matter what the consequences to myself.” Teller replied calmly, but his hands were twitching as he spoke.

“You claim loyalty was your motivation for abandoning my son? For fleeing without fighting?” Snot roared.

“There was nothing that I could do to save your son. I am not a warrior, I am a messenger, and I brought you the message of your son’s death. I did my duty by you.” Teller said shortly.

“Watch your tone.” Parr growled.

“You were charged with secretly bringing messages from my son to this hall. My son was spying on our enemies. You failed in secrecy as my son was discovered and killed. That is your crime. You failed in your duty and your failure cost my son his life.” Snot thundered.

“Whatever punishment you would call for, I will abide, my lord.” was all the reply that Teller offered.

The gathered Snotingas cried out with disgust at such disrespect being shown to the war chief. The messenger showed no remorse for abandoning Eorl to the enemy and the hall was soon filled with cries for his life to be taken.

Snot sat and listened to the calls from his people. The sound of “kill him” and “death” echoing off the walls brought no peace to his heart. He knew that Parr had been right in asking the war chief to wait until his anger had faded and the grief of losing his son was all that remained.

Snot knew what judgement had to be passed. He waited and watched Teller to see if the hatred shown to him by the Snotingas would shake his composure, but there were no signs that the threats being hurled at him even reached his ears.

Snot held up his hand for silence and waited for his people to quieten down. When a hush had fallen on the room, Snot rose to his feet.

“My first instinct was to kill you where you stood for abandoning my son. The people here all believe that you deserve to die for what you did,” a murmur of agreement ran around the room, “but death is too easy and too good for a man like you. Therefore I pass the judgement of Nithing upon you.” Snot announced.

Ravinger, with a frown on his face, snapped his head to look at his father.

“By my right as thane and war chief, you no longer have a lord, a name or a title. You are sentenced to wander the lands without any protection, any property or any clothes. Everything you currently possess will be taken from you and will pass to Aisly, wife of my son, now widow thanks to you. Take his clothes from him and run him from my lands.” Snot finished and sat down to watch.


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