The Ravens Return 878 A.D. (Earleywood, March 2018)

In spring of 878, the Westmen returned from Ireland bearing the terrible news that Ubbe Ragnarsson fell in late 877 in the skirmish at Loch Cuan between the fair heathens and the dark heathens. Albann, king of the dark heathens fell there also. The Westmen now sought to meet with Ubbe’s forces (meant to be raiding Devon by sea) and Guthrum’s forces (who’d been ravaging much of Wessex by land). They wanted to find also a raven banner previously owned by the son of Jarl Rognvald, lord of the Kingdom of the Isles and Finehair’s right hand man which they won in battle in 876, as they felt it would surely bring victory to the Vikings who bore it.

The Oestvikingae were present at the massacre of Ubbe’s raid, and the few survivors were scattered. Hauk fled with another raven banner, made by Ubbe in jealousy of his brother Halfdan having the Westmen and their raven banner on his side. This banner bore the strange curse that it would bring victory but the bearer would die – Halfdan was winning, when his banner-bearer (a tall but gangling youth, desperate to be known as a great warrior but lacking the ability) fell. Halfdan took up the banner himself, as no-one else would – and took his death wound.

The Holmbyggjar had been with the Viking leader Guthrum, harrassing Alfred. Guthrum, seeing the Northumbrian / Ragnarsson side of the Great Army without a leader, wanted to take the Raven Banner to set himself up as leader of all the Vikings.

The Englisc had with them Jarl Rognvald’s raven banner, which they wanted to deliver to a monastery, a trophy of ealdorman Odda’s victory and evidence of God’s grace and superiority over the heathen devils.

As the day fell out, the Holmbyggjar and Westmen took both banners between them, though there was much confusion as to which was cursed and after much mead of victory was drunk it was also not clear where the banners ended up!

As these events took place, Alfred was in hiding in the Somerset levels, and other Vikings were attempting to keep his Englisc supporters from finding him. Eventually the Englisc found their way to him, guided by locals, and driving off the Vikings who harried them. And at the banquet that night, a monk sent by Alfred brought some tasty cakes for all to share.

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