The Danelaw of Jorvik

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The Danelaw of Jorvik

Halfdan strikes a deal.

For ten years, our enemies have come time and time again to wreak havoc on our bountiful lands. Day after day, week after week, Jorvik has suffered losses at the hands of those wretched knaves. We have been defeated at every turn, and now my people have found themselves at the mercy of Alfred. We cannot stand the war any longer- and I am certain it is the same for the Saxon bastards.

And so, for the last time I confronted King Alfred; not to wage war, but to offer terms of peace.

King Halfdan, Chronicles of Jorvik, Book III
22nd August 870

The man panted as his horse galloped forward. The sword in his scabbard shook with the horse's every step, fresh blood still caking his boots.

King Alfred had sent his men yet again, to attack the lands and set fire to the crops and villages.

He gritted his teeth as he rode, cursing King Alfred and his men as he made his way towards Eoforwic. Gripping the reins of his horse, he cut through different trails in an attempt to evade sight from the men who attacked the nearby village of Helmbrucht, emerging into the forest's main trail as he drove his mount ever forward.

On the path, the man saw a gathering of men; some were mounted on horses while others stood nearby a wagon full of bodies and gathered treasures.

"Damn it." The man muttered to himself.

Jerking his horse off to the side, the man swiftly altered the direction he was going, moving off-trail in order to avoid as much conflict as possible. He feared that any encounters with the king's riders would result in his death.

Despite this, the riders had already noticed the man as he changed directions. The riders standing nearby the wagon pulled back their bows, shooting a flurry of arrows at the man.

A rider shouted. "Catch that man!"

The others followed suit, mounting their horses in pursuit. One of the riders held a bow, pulling it back whilst another rode the horse. The arrow nearly found its mark, grazing the man's cheek. He flinched slightly from the pain, and ducked his head to avoid any further arrows.

The man pursed his lips. Tapping the belly of the horse, he gripped the reins harder as he fled from his pursuers. He drove his horse ever forward, forcing it to gallop faster and faster as he rode, but the riders refused to give up. They fired arrows yet again, this time stabbing his exposed thigh and underarm. Blood flowed down from the wounds, and the pain grew with the increasing speed.

The man changed directions yet again. He could see the city of Eoforwic slowly coming to sight. An array of guard posts were visible, and the large stone walls began to tower over him

His horse crashed into the ground.

The man flew off his horse, rolling and splattering blood on the ground. The dirt covered his face, some entering his eye and mouth. The man hastily got off the ground, spitting.

The riders pulled back their bows, shooting another wave of arrows towards the man. His already bloodied arm was pierced again, and his back was riddled with arrowheads. Blood spilled onto the ground, yet the man pushed ever forward. His legs trembled in pain as he ran towards the gate of the city.

Eventually, his legs gave out. The man fell to the ground, leaving a trail of blood on the path. His body was perforated with many arrowheads, and even then, the riders pulled back their bows once more. They intended to kill him, and make sure of it.

But their arrows never hit the mark. The riders fell one by one, swiftly and professionally. The man looked up, and noticed that a small gathering of soldiers stood in front of him. The guards stationed at their posts shot arrows towards the riders, saving the man from his imminent death. One of the soldiers picked up the man, and escorted him to provide aid.

The man coughed out blood. "They… Raided Helmbrucht… Again."

"Damned Saxons. They never cease to wage war." The soldier carrying the man replied, gritting his teeth as he mentioned the Saxons.

"They plan to ride towards Relmshire… King Alfred's last attempt at conquest."

"We shall report this to the King. It is of importance that our lands suffer no more."

The man smiled. "Thank you."

Dawn was arriving. The orange rays shone through the kingdom halls onto the stone floor. Within, a man walked down the corridors, making his way towards the throne room. His noble clothes swayed with the wind, as a warm breeze flew past him down the hall.

The man looked around the hall, observing his surroundings. The various paintings plastered alongside the halls in the castle contrasted quite nicely with the bland, cold stone. Alongside this, the windows arched in a steep manner, resembling that of a cathedral window, albeit without the stained glass. Guards were stationed around the halls, and knightly armor placed near the paintings.

The man's steps echoed down the halls as he approached the throne room. The guards eyed him for a moment, before opening the large wooden door revealing the ornate room which King Halfdan resided in.

King Halfdan looked at the man entering the room, eyeing him for a moment before greeting him in a friendly manner. "Hm? Wilfred, it has been a while. What brings you here?"

Wilfred bowed. "Apologies for intruding at this time of dawn, sire."

King Halfdan frowned and sat upright on his throne. "Wilfred, there is no need to keep the formalities. We are companions, are we not?"

Wilfred chuckled. "It is as you wish."

King Halfdan grinned whilst picking up a cup filled with wine, taking a sip before responding. "Good, that's much better. Now, what brings you here?"

"King Alfred has attacked our territory at once," Wilfred's face became stern and his tone became cold. "Much of Helmbrucht has been razed, and we've sighted more making for Relmshire."

"That damned-" King Halfdan gripped his cup of wine, breaking it in half and spilling its contents over the floor. He took a deep breath. "Apologies, what do you propose we do about this? The raids are devastating our cropland, killing our people and our farmers. We lose more men by the day to that bastard of a king."

Wilfred pulled on his white gloves while thinking of solutions for the incoming raid. He looked out the window from the throne room, the orange rays shining on his face.

"Lord, I think we should offer a treaty." Wilfred faced King Halfdan, the rays blinding the side of his face and the shadows covered the rest of his body.

"A treaty?… We would be conceding to the hands of King Alfred."

"But my lord, the war has turned against us, and we are now seeing its toll on our people."

King Halfdan was struck deep in thought. "It is an option, but how are you certain that Alfred will agree to the treaty?"

"I am not certain, that is why we are offering a treaty." Wilfred grinned, "But rumors have it, Lord, that it is not Alfred who has given the order to raid our people."

King Halfdan eyed Wilfred, leaning forwards and placing his interlocked fingers under his chin, his suspicions raised.

"How do you know this?"

"My men had captured a gathering of his soldiers before fleeing towards Relmshire. They stated that their orders did not come from King Alfred himself, but rather, one of his eorls, Adel."

King Halfdan sat in thought for a moment, before replying. "But why propose a treaty when we know that his eorl is raiding our lands?"

Wilfred smiled. "A bargaining chip, my lord."

King Halfdan's eyes widened, the thought of using one of King Alfred's nobles to their advantage never occurred to him.

"King Alfred certainly would not allow one of his eorls to act on their own accord. Should we deliberately leak the information, there is a high chance he would agree with the treaty." Wilfred continued, "King Alfred values his men, he would not suffer losses as a result of an eorl's rash decisions."

King Halfdan laughed. The idea was quite cunning, something that he wouldn't be able to come up with alone. He was thankful that Wilfred wasn't on the enemy side.

"My lord, not only will we have a greater chance at an agreement for the treaty, we will also manage to bring down his eorl alongside the development of this new truce." Wilfred pulled on his white gloves, "King Alfred will bring down Adel, and most likely use him as an example for any persecutors of this truce."

King Halfdan stood up from his throne and walked down the steps, approaching Wilfred.

King Halfdan patted his shoulders. "Very good, very good! This is a great idea Wilfred. Tell the soldiers to gather a carriage, we are to confront Alfred once more. Should this go well, I will prepare a feast!"

"Yes." Wilfred bowed.

"Your help is greatly appreciated." King Halfdan smiled.

"It is my pleasure."

Wilfred bowed once more towards King Halfdan, before turning around and leaving the ornate throne room. His footsteps echoed throughout the room and down the halls, as he planned to set off for King Alfred's domain.

King Halfdan and his carriage rode towards the gates of Birmingham. The carriage was slow, as it was moving up the somewhat steep cliff towards the gates. They were accompanied with scattered guard posts atop the walls, making his motte-and-bailey castle look impermeable.

The carriage shook during the ride, before stopping abruptly near the gate. Guardsmen stationed around the entrance approached the carriage, inspecting King Halfdan and his men with suspicious eyes before realizing that it was the king himself.

The guardsmen knelt before King Halfdan, as the leader of the group spoke up.

"Apologies, Your Majesty, King Halfdan. We did not realize that the king himself would visit His Majesty, King Alfred." He continued, "May I inquire about your business? His Majesty is quite busy at the moment, and will not accept any meetings unless notified beforehand."

"My underling should have sent a letter a few days prior to the meeting," King Halfdan glared at the kneeling guardsmen, "Are we not allowed entry into the castle?"

"O-One moment, Your Majesty. My men are ensuring that the meeting with His Majesty was indeed planned." The leader looked at up King Halfdan, before diverting his gaze towards one of his soldiers.

While the knights were talking amongst themselves, King Halfdan observed his surroundings. The greenery around them was a sight to the eyes, as he could see the sun shining just over the hill of the motte. He had agreed with King Alfred that they would meet in Birmingham, the capital of Mercia.

A knight approached the group, kneeling towards King Halfdan before letting the guardsmen know about the scheduled meeting.

"My apologies for withholding the meeting. His Majesty has requested that we escort you to the throne room."

"That is fine. I will be bringing my subordinate, Wilfred, to the meeting. If that is alright with your King."

"It is completely fine."

The leader escorted King Halfdan and Wilfred towards a nearby stable, requesting that they place their carriage before entering the domain of King Alfred. The group passed by a nearby garden before entering the castle itself. The guardsmen stationed around knelt as King Halfdan walked the halls. The sun lit up the halls, entering through the arched windows.

Knightly armor were placed directly under paintings, which depicted kings of the old age before the reign of King Alfred. The atmosphere was fairly welcoming, considering the two kings were at war. Not a single touch of cold could be felt throughout the castle.

The guards near the throne room informed King Alfred of King Halfdan's visit. King Alfred, slouched in his seat, signaled that the door to the throne room be opened. The wooden doors opened, revealing a few other nobles located within it. There, he could see a few gathering of eorls and high-reeves alongside the king. Taking a sip of wine, he welcomed his visitors.

"Come in, His Majesty, King Halfdan. What brings you here?"

King Halfdan and his companion Wilfred knelt, showing respect before answering the question. "Greetings, Your Majesty, King Alfred. We have come to propose a discuss an idea for the land."

King Alfred furrowed his brows, slightly suspicious of King Halfdan's ulterior motive—if he had any.

"An idea? What are you planning?"

"Planning? That is quite rude of you to assume, King Alfred." King Halfdan continued, his face stern yet seemingly devoid of hatred, "Our men have fought amongst themselves over and over, and it is starting to take effect."

"A treaty… What merit does this idea have for me?" King Alfred eyed Halfdan, looking for any signs of hesitation.

"Respectfully, King Alfred, do you value your men?"

King Alfred scoffed. "Of course. What point are you trying to make?"

"Then why do you keep sending your men to raid our villages?" King Halfdan pressed him further, his voice slightly increasing in volume.

King Alfred frowned. "Sending men to raid villages? When have I done such a thing?"

"Your man have razed my villages time and time again, or are you implying that such an order did not come directly from you?" King Halfdan glowered, "I have heard from your men that your eorl, Adel has acted of his own accord and attempted to bring down my towns."

King Alfred sat upright, he glared at the gathering of eorls near him before facing his gaze towards King Halfdan and responding.

"How are you sure of this?"

King Halfdan signaled Wilfred to take out a letter they recovered from one of Alfred's soldiers. "This is a letter, the contents of which depict the plan to raid Relmshire two days after this meeting."

He approached King Alfred, respectfully handing the letter to him. King Alfred opened the letter and read its contents. His eyes widened, crumpling the paper and glaring at his eorl, Adel once more.

King Alfred bowed. "I see. I apologize for the foolishness of my underling."

"Though it is unfortunate I have suffered many losses, the treaty I have proposed will hopefully cease conflict for the time being."

"A treaty, hm? It does not sound bad, what else is there apart from this?" King Alfred questioned.

"You refrain from sending your men into my territory. Additionally, we request that free trade be held towards our kingdoms. Give and take, our kingdoms both prosper."

King Alfred sat back on the throne, thinking for a few moments. He took another sip of wine, then answered.

"…Why should I trade with your kingdom?"

"I believe the war is starting to take effect on your lands. You are running out of metals."

King Alfred shook at the statement. He thought the information was known only to himself, and a few other subordinates of his.

"I can easily conquest another town for metals." King Alfred shot back.

"With the number of men you have? Perhaps, but eventually, you will lose your resources and weapons, allowing other kingdoms to take a hold of your own."

King Alfred sat in thought, circulating potential consequences as a result of accepting the proposal. Yet, he seemingly could not find any faults.

King Alfred hesitantly responded. "…I agree with the proposal. We will cease to send men into your territory, and allow free trade."

"Then it is agreed upon that the Danelaw be established." King Halfdan smiled, reaching out his hand towards King Alfred.

King Alfred shook the hand. "Once again, I apologize for the foolishness of my underling. I will ensure that he is properly punished."

"If you're truly sorry, give me three barrels of wine. Then I shall forgive you."

King Alfred paused. "We will reimburse you with wine. A gathering of my men will send you wine by carriage."

King Halfdan laughed while turning his back on King Alfred. He walked towards the exit of the throne room while raising his hand as if to wave lazily.

"Take care. May your lands prosper."

King Halfdan left the throne room, exiting the castle shortly after. While this was happening, King Alfred had imposed punishment on his eorl, Adel.

"Send this man to the dungeon! We will make an example of him later." King Alfred ordered.

"Yes, my lord."

The eorl, Adel, was taken by the nearby soldiers in the throne room, as they dragged him away to the depths of the dungeon under the castle. King Alfred took another sip of wine, and looked out the window in his throne room.

"A treaty… Perhaps our lands will prosper once more." King Alfred muttered to himself.

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