DAS in 2015 / Britain in 875

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 875 records that:

This year went the Great Army from Repton; and Halfdan advanced with some of the army against the Northumbrians, and fixed his winter-quarters by the river Tine. The army then subdued that land, and oft invaded the Picts and the Strathclydwallians. Meanwhile the three kings, Guthrum, Oskytel, and Anwind, went from Repton to Cambridge with a vast army, and sat there one year. This summer King Alfred went out to sea with an armed fleet, and fought with seven ship-rovers, one of whom he took, and dispersed the others.

Meanwhile at around this time the Heimskringla says that:

King Harald of Norway heard that the vikings, who were in the West sea in winter, plundered far and wide in the middle part of Norway; and therefore every summer he made an expedition to search the isles and out-skerries on the coast. Wheresoever the vikings heard of him they all took to flight, and most of them out into the open ocean. At last the king grew weary of this work, and therefore one summer he sailed with his fleet right out into the West sea. First he came to Hjaltland (Shetland), and he slew all the vikings who could not save themselves by flight. Then King Harald sailed southwards, to the Orkney Islands, and cleared them all of vikings. Thereafter he proceeded to the Sudreys (Hebrides), plundered there, and slew many vikings who formerly had had men-at-arms under them. Many a battle was fought, and King Harald was always victorious. He then plundered far and wide in Scotland itself, and had a battle there. When he was come westward as far as the Isle of Man, the report of his exploits on the land had gone before him; for all the inhabitants had fled over to Scotland, and the island was left entirely bare both of people and goods, so that King Harald and his men made no booty when they landed. …
King Harald gave Ragnvald, Earl of More, the Orkney and Shetland isles, when he sailed from the West; but Ragnvald immediately gave both these countries to his brother Sigurd, who remained behind them; and King Harald, before sailing eastward, gave Sigurd the earldom of them.

In 874/2014 Mercia lost her last independent king and the Vikings lost their unifying leader. The overarching themes of 875/2015 will be dealing with these losses:

  • The Viking Great Army has lost Ivar and so splits into two parts, with Ivar’s brother Halfdan Ragnarsson marching north to fight Northumbrians, Picts, and Strathclydwallians; and the other army under Guthrum and pals marching South-East to East Anglia. How will all our Viking units react to this? Which part of the army will they follow? Will they strike out on their own? Presumably the Holmbyggjar will head towards East Anglia, hoping to find homes there? How about the Westmen, will they accept Halfdan as King of Northumbria, ruling so near to their homes? Who will the Oestvikingae follow (and will anyone accept their blood-soaked ways)?
  • How will the Westmen react to the King Harald of Norway trying to claim their homes in the islands off Scotland for himself? Will Halfdan send them aid?
  • What will happen to the Mercians without Burhred? The Beorcsciringas have already found a temporary home in Wessex, but the Cilternsaete are now faced with the choice between joining Wessex, living in Mercia under a Viking puppet-king, or trying to gather allies to forge a revolt against Viking rule.
  • Alfred is now the last free Englisc king. Maybe this is the time that he begins to think himself as the King of the Englisc, not just of Wessex? The people who live in Wessex, the Sumorsaete and the Beorcsciringas, may well become his diplomats as well as his warriors.

Some possible plots that spring to mind include:

  • Fights in the far north, between the Vikings who live there (e.g. the Westmen), Halfdan’s half of the Great Army, Harald’s Norwegians, the downtrodden Northumbrian Englisc, and the local Strathclyde Welsh and Picts (break out the woad!)
  • The Battle for Cambridge, as Guthrum’s host marches out of Mercia and into East Anglia. They could well be skirting past Cilternsaete lands to get there?
  • Alfred’s Sea Battle. Maybe a crashed Viking ship is driven ashore, and the survivors try to fight their way free and across Wessex? Unless anyone can find us a fleet of longships…
  • Other smaller local skirmishes: with Ivar dead the Great Army has broken apart, and whilst the bulk of the Vikings are in the two big hosts, maybe there are also smaller groups raiding across Britain? You could fit pretty much any plot into this broad heading!

Whilst 874 was fairly focussed on Mercia, so it made sense for all our characters to be at all of the battles, this year is more spread out. All of our units do have reasons why they might be travelling further afield from their home territories and get caught up in the fighting- they might be being diplomats, or traders, or raiders. But equally it is possible that for an event set in the north some of the Englisc or the Holmbyggjar might want to make one-off characters to represent the Picts, or Strathclyde Welsh, or even the Norwegians (Herewulf of the Cilternsaete may play Herjolf instead, perhaps?) And for an event set in the south some of the Westmen or Oestvikingae might want to be make one-off characters as East Anglian Englisc, or monks, or similar.
However, the whole point of the Continuous Calendar is to allow us to develop our characters, so people should definitely have a chance to play their own characters as well as playing other roles! Luckily, with story happening all over the British Isles, everyone should be able to find plot that is local and relevant to them…

Our first event of 875/2015 is The Hunt For Ivar’s Treasure, at which the leaderless Vikings are attempting to recover gold that Ivar hid after looting Medhampstead Abbey 5 years ago (and the Englisc are trying to stop them!)
Our second fighting event of 875/2015 was Shipwrecked! To quote the A-S Chronicle: “This summer King Alfred went out to sea with an armed fleet, and fought with seven ship-rovers, one of whom he took, and dispersed the others.”

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