My name is Thorgam Tin-Pot the Blacksmith. I was born in Norsefiord in the year 855. My father was Peter Peace-Pot the Peaceful. I speak to you from Valhalla -Odin’s Corpse Hall-. I am not sure how I came to be here because it is the place where Viking Warriors rest... I do remember some of the events that happened before my demise; though not all. I am speaking through a medium lady; well she looks large to me; I joke; good joke eh? My friend Jack Pot the Lucky says that I am as sharp as my broad sword; I am a Blacksmith; we are thought of as Magicians because we can make hard metal turn into a liquid; I made my own sword myself when I became a warrior through circumstances beyond my control.
My father was the Chieftain of our clan. Until my father’s death in 870 our clan were only interested in trading our wares. I should have inherited my father’s place as leader, but my cousin -Des Pot the Tyrannical- took over; against most my people’s wishes.
The ninth century was an exciting time for us Norsemen. Our trading areas grew and I sold my pots and other ironmongery on Markets across the Whale road, as well as making chainmail, helmets and weapons for our raiding parties. Because I was proud of my skills as a Blacksmith I would rather trade than pillage from other people. That all changed when we were summoned to the great hall by Des Pots Brothers and Henchmen; they were also cousins of mine - you cannot choose your relatives; only your friends - they were, Hot Pot the Hothead, Stock Pot the Stocky, and the twins Crack Pot the Mad, and Toss Pot the Thick.
The meeting in the Great Hall was a heated affair and Hot Pot the Hothead and his brothers were stirring up the embers and fanning the flames of discontent. As I approached the hall it sounded like a hornet’s nest, there was so much buzzing as the Townsfolk mumbled their discontent. I walked through the door and stood on the threshold surveying the scene. Sex-Pot the Bastard (a half cousin; his mother is still in the land called Mercia on the island of the Angles.) saw me first and attracted the wench in front of him by giving her a poke. The wench turned to slap him and realised that it was only his finger that he had used. She whispered into the next person’s ear to tell them of my presence, as word spread the room fell as silent as a deaf man’s ears as they realised that their preferred leader had entered the hall.
Although I was only Fifteen years old I was already six foot four tall and as strong as all blacksmiths; through hammering metal since I was able to lift a hammer. however, I was not yet mature enough to lead a clan and the 30-year-old Des-Pot the Tyrannical knew that.
When the crowd parted to let me through, Hot-Pot, fingered the hilt of his sword butt, however, Des-Pot laid his gauntleted hand on his shoulder,
‘No’, he whispered, ‘Ah, the young blacksmith!’ He bellowed and beckoned me to him,
‘Come forward Cousin, I am just telling our people my plans for a profitable future under my leadership.’
‘Your leadership?’ I asked.
Hot-Pot and his brothers formed a shield wall in front of their elder brother. Des-Pot pushed them aside and strode through the wall; all six foot seven of him; he stood in front of me with his massive girth in my chest.
‘Yes, MY LEADERSHIP! And if you or anyone else in this hall wishes to challenge that, do so now; if you dare!’
Toss-Pot began to crow and strut around like a chicken. He came too close to me and stood on his left leg clawing at the air with his right leg like a chicken. In a sudden outburst of rage at his insult I kicked his left leg from under him. Hot-Pot whacked me on my arm with the flat of his broadsword and would have stuck the point in me had Des-Pot not prevented him from doing so.
‘No, my brother, you cannot kill our own flesh and blood.’ He turned to me, ‘You see cousin; you need me, for that is the second time I have saved your life, surely now you can swear your allegiance to me?’
‘Father warned me about you,’ I said, and immediately regretted it. Stock-Pot the Stocky thumped me in the pit of my stomach, although I am muscular through my work Stock-Pot is powerful. I could not breathe or speak for three minutes because he knocked the wind out of me. Whilst I was gasping for breath Des-Pot said,
‘I know you like to trade regularly with Saxon scum across the sea and you even drink with the Pious Priests. However, we need you to make our weapons and armour like your father Peace-Pot did, but you will not make money from it, you will go with us and take whatever you can pillage from the Saxons, instead of making cooking pots you will make helmets, instead of ploughs you will make weapons and you will make chain mail so that we will look fearsome with me in the front with golden helmet bedecked with an eagle attacking its prey...'
‘Oh, very swish!’ Fuss-Pot exclaimed sycophantically.
Des-Pot smirked proudly and carried on talking,
‘Now then, it depends on how many people follow me as to whether you will be busy or not. If, - If you decide to follow me my people I promise you that you will return richer than your wildest dreams. We will take what we want…’
‘Does that include women?’ Sex-Pot asked.
‘Yeah, women, slaves, children, GOLD!' He grinned, and repeated the word, 'Gold! His eyes glinted as he looked around at the villagers expecting them to show more interest, the preferred reaction was not forthcoming, heads were bowed and shoulders were hunched forwards, as no one wanted to look back into his eyes, feet shifted drawing lines in the dirt floor. 'GOLD! from the pious one’s monasteries; they even cover their book covers with goooooold!' he sighed as if in ecstasy as he emphasised the word gold even more to attract more interest. 'You Blacksmith can melt it down and make adornments for our shields, swords, boots armlets, brooches and whatever I can think of, when the enemy see us wading ashore they will be dazzled with our appearance, they will think we are gods.'
‘I hear that they have beautiful reams of cloth for the Christian Priests robes, I would just love some of that for my clothing business,’ said Fuss-Pot.
‘That’s two more followers, what about the rest of you? There's gold over there waiting for you,’ Des-Pot knew that he was now attracting the interest of the greedy amongst the Pot Clan, and, from the animated conversation that resulted he knew that they would soon convince those who were not clever enough to make their own way in life without working hard growing crops in the baron ground around their rocky mountainous land.
Stink-Pot the Pig Herder volunteered and even my cousin and best friend Jack-Pot decided to try his luck. I was the only Pot who didn't swear my allegiance to the Tyrant. When every able-bodied man in the Hall joined, I was on my own.
‘You don’t think Des-Pot will let you keep all that gold... do you? He’ll let you do all the fighting and take everything from you,’ I said; I immediately regretted my words again.
I saw the hilt of Des-Pots sword aiming for my forehead, lights flashed in my eyes and I lost consciousness.
When I came round my head ached and I was looking up at a hazy sky that swayed from side to side as though it were on an axis. Squawking gulls circled around noisily and I realised I was lying on my back in the bottom of a boat. I fingered my forehead gingerly and felt a bump as big as a goose egg with a slit down the middle, which the sea spray aggravated by literally rubbing –or pouring- salt in the wound. I rubbed the wound with the back of my hand. Jack-Pots face appeared over me. ‘Are you OK Thorgam?’ he asked. I was too confused to answer.
I glanced over the bulwarks and saw 2 more vessels following; one of them was a longboat like the one I was on and the other was a broad beamed trading vessel, -these were the only vessels we had in our village- They were manned by other villagers whilst the one I was on was manned by my relatives and a few villagers; to make the numbers up. We were gliding along majestically down the Fiord with the wind in the sails. However, there was a bubbling sound emitting from the stern of our vessel; like one of your inboard motors but they hadn’t been invented yet. I lifted my head gingerly to see what was causing the noise, something was thrashing at the stern like one of your propeller screws; but they hadn’t been invented yet either. Des-Pots deep voice boomed out, ‘do you think that we have rid him of his stink men?’ There was a chorus from the laughing crew of,
They had thrown Stink-Pot over the side and they were keel hauling him to clean him up.
We left the Fiord with the other two ships in tow and Stink-Pot literally in tow, and sailed across the North Sea. When we approached the East coast of Mercia, Des-Pot asked for the dragon’s head to be fitted on the forward bow to show that we were not coming in peace; a ploy to strike terror in the hearts of the natives. No one knew where the Dragons head was stored, they started blaming one another for leaving it on the key side. The other long ship crew had already fitted theirs on, and an argument broke out on our vessel, I crawled close against the bulwarks under the rowing benches to keep away from the feet as they began to fight one another.
Hot-Pot started the argument, ‘What Thick Bastard left the Dragons head on the jetty?’
‘Don’t blame me,’ Toss-Pot the Thick retorted.
‘I wasn’t blaming you ye Cock!’
‘Don’t you call my twin a Cock; you fucking - err – You - Chicken!’ Crack-Pot said.
Hot-Pot thumped Crack-Pot between the eyes, sending him sprawling over the rowing benches.
‘No need for that!’
Fuss-Pot yelled as Hot-Pot kicked Toss-Pot between the legs. Hot-Pot then thumped Fuss-Pot as he stumbled towards him in the rocky boat; with his arms outstretched he attempted to hold the aggressive Hot-Pot off.
Meanwhile, Des-Pot had ordered Sex-pot, Jack-Pot and Stock-Pot to haul the irate Stink-Pot back on board the boat. To say that Stink-Pot was in a stinking mood would not be exact as he had endured a long soak to remove the stench; but, he was annoyed. He grabbed hold of the first body within grabbing range as though he was pulling one of his amorous Bores off a sow and threw him over the side of the boat. The body he grabbed was that of Fuss-Pot who was waiting to dry him off with a sheepskin. Des-Pot liked Fuss-Pot as the latter often fussed around him in his sycophantic way. Therefore, Des-Pot ordered his brothers to attack Stink-Pot. Everyone else had had enough of the Tyrant and his men by now so a pitched battle ensued.
Jack Pot and I took the opportunity to jump ship. As we left the boat Fuss-Pot was clambering back on board. The boat had drifted into shallow waters off the East Coast of Mercia. As we waded ashore we were met by a group of well-armed men who had been watching the battle on board our boat with confusion; confused because Norsemen in Viking long boats normally swarmed ashore and attacked the locals; plus, they didn’t have a dragon fixed on the bow; a sure sign that they were coming in peace, but why were they fighting among themselves? Not only that the two-following craft had turned away and left them to fight each other.
I recognised one of the armed men by his elaborately decorated helmet; he was dressed in chain-mail and he was the Norse Warlord Arne Baldr. 'Greetings my Lord,' I said; I could not think of anything else to say. I fell to one knee, and Jack-Pot glanced at me for a moment with a look of puzzlement, then, when he realised that we were in the presence of a Lord he did likewise; in his haste to grovel the handle of his broadsword shot up under his armpit and caused him to shout 'Ouch!'
'Who are you?' His Lordship asked in his guttural voice, 'And what do you want here.'
'I am Thorgam Tinpot the Blacksmith son of Peter Peace-Pot the peaceful, and this is my cousin Jack-Pot the Lucky,' Then I added; With the knowledge that Lord Baldr had once been tricked by a jealous relative and sold into slavery on a trading vessel, ’We escaped from that ship out there, Des-Pot the Tyrannical took everyone in our village -including his own relatives- as slaves to row his ship;
His Lordship looked over our shoulders at the battle on board our ship and asked,
'Are the other slaves fighting their masters?'
'Y-yes,' I muttered.
'Then, why have you two deserted your comrades like women?' he asked.
'We came ashore for help Sire.'
'Tryggr the Trusty!' His Lordship yelled.
A tall man -about my height strode forward, 'My lord?' He said.
'What do you think Tryggr? Should we make a sacrifice out of this pair? If they won't fight their enemies they are no use to us.'
'Well the Black Smith may be a wizard plus he's a big lad and if the other one is as lucky as his name suggests they could be handy in a fight; how about if we send them back to that scuffle on the ship, see how they get on; if they are killed – well we won't have lost anyone of use to us.'
'We only have one sword between us,' I said in as pitiful a voice as I could muster up.
His Lordship wasn't a sympathetic man though, 'That's your problem,' he said as he Grabbed my shoulders, turned me around and prodded me in the backside with the point of his own highly polished and decorated sword; I took the hint, -not the hilt this time; I am joking again- and made my way towards the beached boat. Jack-Pot followed, as His Lordships people pressed forwards threateningly.
We wondered towards the starboard side of the boat and off the track that our feet had made; as when we left the boat from the port side we had noticed that the ground was more squelchy.
'I wonder if it gets boggier along that way,' I said to Jack-Pot, 'if it is, we may be able to goad them this way and hope that they get stuck in the mire.'
I glanced back to see if His Lordship was watching. Not only was he watching with his armed men around him, but the folk from his village had ventured out of their hiding places and were watching from among the sand dunes.
'There's no chance of us going back there the whole village has turned out to watch the fun Jack.'
'It may be fun for them, but how the hell are we going to fight everyone on the boat with one sword?' Anyway, most of them are friends and relatives.'
'Well we can't run for it; the boat has grounded now that the tides out.'
'We can't goad them through the boggy ground Thorgam, they are too busy fighting one another to notice us; what if we sneak around to the stern of the boat where Des-Pot is standing; look he's standing on the stern bellowing orders to his brothers,
'Don't kill em lads, we need em for rowing the boat,' Des-Pot yelled.
We crept around to the Port side of the boat unseen. Jack-Pot was as tall as me so his shoulders were level with the gunwales, Des-Pot had half turned towards the Starboard side to wave his sword threateningly at Crack-Pot who wanted to kill everyone on the boat; other than close relatives.
'No, you crazy bastard, don't kill them I said...' Before Des-Pot could finish his sentence Jack-Pot slashed half through his left leg with his broadsword.
His head went back, he threw his own sword in the air and bellowed like a Bull. Blood oozed out from the gash and through the slit in his trouser leg, spraying the deck around him. Everyone on the boat stopped tussling with one another, in shock, they stood like statues, agog. The situation had changed dramatically; no longer was it a bad-tempered fist fight - not to mention the odd boot or head butt - Jack-Pot had brought some real Viking ferocity to the occasion. I took the opportunity to retrieve Des-Pots sword from the sand where it had stuck and quivered point down. We clambered aboard, and in doing so I stood on Des-Pots hand.
'Sorry,' I said; forgetting for a moment that I did not need to use my manners; -the manners that had been taught to me by my father Peace-Pot the Peaceful-; well, not when speaking to the oaf who had taken over my right to be a leader. I gouged my heel into his hand and steadied myself to repel Hot-Pots enraged assault across the deck, I parried his sword away from my head with Des-Pots sword and watched him sail over the side of the boat as he tripped in his mad rush and crashed down head first onto the sand below; he almost sliced his ears off with his helmet as it impacted firmly down on his skull.
No one else moved, they were rooted to the spot; all eyes were on the blood.
'Drop your weapons!' I yelled to Stock-Pot, Crack-Pot and Toss-Pot. To my surprise; and delight, they did as I ordered.
'Tie em up men,' I said to the rest of the crew, 'your rightful leader has taken charge now and Jack-Pot is my champion.'
Jack-Pot raised his eyebrows in surprise at my words and said,
Jack-Pot tapped my shoulder and pointed out to sea. The other longboat and the trader had returned and anchored up on the edge of the deeper water.
'Why have they come back?' I asked Jack-Pot.
Jack-Pot wiped his blooded sword clean on a coiled rope, 'your guess is as good as mine,' he said, 'Perhaps they realised that they needed us.'
Des-Pots bellowing was unnerving everyone, so I ordered the men to wrap him up in the sail to muffle the sound and soak up his blood.
Three men from our village jumped out of the longboat with the dragon on the bow and waded onto the sand to make their way towards us. When Lord Baldr saw the dragons head on the bow he assumed that they were unfriendly. When we saw him galloping across the sand on horseback with twenty other armed men we decided to leave Des-Pot and his henchmen to whatever fate His Lordship had in store for them. We legged it as fast as we could towards the safety of the two other boats that were afloat; our fellow villagers who were coming towards us turned tail and did likewise.
The oars were already thrashing at the water as we scrambled aboard. The irate Lord bawled out, 'You dare to approach my shore with threatening intent Tin-Pot the Blacksmith; son of Peter Peace-Pot; We will slaughter all of you and piss in your funeral pots!'
We rowed the ship rapidly away from the beach and on a course away from Mercia until we thought that we would be well out of reach of Lord Baldr and his men. Once we were South of Mercia we threw the anchors out and lashed both vessels together at stern and bow, we only had 15 rowing benches on our long boat; unlike the larger 30 bench -or more-ships that the Earls and Kings used when the King sent the symbolic arrow around to summon the men to war. Therefore, our long boat was somewhat crowded so we transferred the smaller members of crew to the roomy broad beamed trading vessel.
The trading vessel was packed with weaponry – mostly made by myself in my foundry- I chose a sword that I had crafted for a Sea Warrior Lord who often came to our village for arms, chain-male, helmets or anything else that I could fashion in my foundry to kit his warriors out.
Once we were kitted out we had a meeting. Some of the men wanted to go back home whilst the majority had been fired up by Des-Pots promises of riches; I decided to go with the majority rather than be thought of as a coward and have the new nickname of Thorgam the Sissy for the rest of my life.
Whilst we were talking a blanket of thick fog shrouded around our ships so we threw the anchor overboard and stayed where we were for fear of drifting off into a vast Ocean with no lands in sight; then run out of food; we would have starved before we could hunt or pillage for rations.
The Captain of the trading vessel was five foot ten tall and as broad as he was tall with a massive neck, barrel chest and arms as thick as a normal man’s legs; he was called Bjorn (for the benefit of you; Medium lady, and anyone else who doesn't know, his name means Bear in our tongue and Bjorn was like a big bear.) He was around 53-year-old so being of such a grand age -for our times- he was old fashioned in his ways. He would hardly raise his sail as he didn't think real sailors should depend on the wind to get him where he wanted to be. His Grandfather and father had always done well by rowing their craft before sails were invented; with strong men in their crew, who could fight if anyone turned on them or Vikings tried robbing them for their wares; (again medium Lady, I must explain that Vikings were fighting warriors who often turned to piracy if they spotted a trading vessel full of booty.)
He looked around with distaste at the smaller members of our crew from the longboat and brushed Fuss-Pot to one side with a back hander as the latter tried fussing around his new boss. Bjorn still wore one of those horned helmets that were old fashioned these days. And grumble? He grumbled about everything; And it didn't take long for us to see that he had a violent temper when he threw one whit over the side of the vessel for making a mooing sound at the sight of the old horned helmet; the man would have drowned had the crew of the longboat not hauled him aboard their ship.
'Keep out of my crew’s way you lot,' he ranted, 'It's as bad as ferrying a load of women and children around; what the hell are they going to do if we get into a fight Thorgam?' he asked.
I truly didn't know, but I didn't want to let them know how pessimistic I felt.
'Well, if they don't fight they will die,' I said, and Bjorn could have been reading my thoughts.
'Well if they can't fight we'll all die; we'll be outnumbered; I say we throw them all overboard now and make room for any loot we find.'
Someone said. Everyone went quiet, we couldn't see anything through the fog but we could hear oars splashing on the water through the eerie silence. We stood in silence for a time that seemed like the time a candle turns into a melted heap of wax. The splashing sound faded into the distance.
Where are we Bjorn?' I asked to take his attention away from the panic-stricken unwanted members of our expedition. Bjorn was still interested in an answer to his suggestion of jettisoning his cast-off's, then listen to me trying to put him off that subject. The captain of the longboat, Arne the Eagle; who -as it happened- had a large hooked nose like an eagle’s beak, spoke; as a true longboat Viking, he believed the more men the better to put fear into any foe; as long as the enemy had fewer men without too many seasoned warriors among them; Arne believed that his God Odin would look after him; and anyway, he was thinking of camping on a deserted beach and training the stronger and fitter men in combat. He called to me,
'When the sky cleared, I looked at the sun-board and it looks like we are heading south towards East Anglia 'Sire, he said.
I was taken aback for a moment when he addressed me as Sire. However, I had volunteered myself as their leader in a warrior crew, so as they had accepted me I was now officially their Warlord.
'Are we close to the coast?' I asked.
'You talking to me? Or that young whelp? I've seen more sea service in my time than he will ever see before he's in Odin’s Corpse Hall; he's a seaboard raider not a seaman; the boys nothing but a Viking; doesn't care where he lands as long as there's loot there. I have to find places where I've been before and I can tell you exactly where we are. I saw a monastery that I've seen before; and I've traded there before.'
'Well where are we then?' I asked. 'East Anglia,' he said, upset that he couldn't contradict the younger Captain.
'That's what he said,' I answered frustrated. 'No, he didn't, he said we are heading south towards East Anglia; I'm saying we are already off the coast of East Anglia; I've been here before,' Bjorn answered pedantically.
Arne the Eagle looked at him with hate in his slit eyes; his thoughts were obviously homicidal.
'OK,' I said, wishing to move the subject along again, 'as soon as this fog lifts we'll camp up on the nearest beach and hunt and fish for some food as Des-Pot was so keen to get over here to pillage the first settlement we came across he didn't think of loading up with much food.'
'We don't have to hunt Sire; there will be enough food from that monastery that Bjorn mentioned,' Snorre the Unruly said.
'Ha!' Bjorn scoffed, 'youngsters; you think that you can walk into that place and do as you like? You'll find yourselves on the end of a Saxon sword and hung up in cages at the walls with crows pecking your eyes out.'
'Exactly,' I said, 'that is why I didn't want to come here in the first place, most us are traders with no experience of fighting. I have decided to separate you into two groups of half fighting men and half none fighting men. One group will be under Bjorn and the other under Arne. We will train in hand to hand fighting; warriors against traders and I will be in a group of traders as I have to learn to fight myself.'
Bjorn looked delighted and Arne relaxed his expression of hatred for the Bear.
I may not have been a fighter yet; but I was learning the art of diplomacy; which you may agree Medium Lady, that is a good attribute for a leader.
The fog lifted mid-afternoon and the sun sparkled on the calm water; it was April with a bit of a sharpness in the air. We unlashed the ropes fore and aft, lifted the anchors and headed for what looked to us like a deserted beach.
I wondered why Bjorn and Arne stood back like the gentlemen that they were not. I thought that I saw Arne give Bjorn a knowing wink and a sly smile, but I wanted them to get on with one another so much that I didn't realise that they were up to something. We found that out when we jumped over the sides of the boats first; whilst the experienced crewmen waved us forward.
I went first and my relatives and friends followed. Our chain male didn't help in our predicament as we splashed down into the thick sloppy mudflats. We sank down to our thighs.
'See you ashore men!' Bjorn yelled, 'It looks too muddy there so we'll take the boats down that channel; it is filling with water so the tide is on the turn...I would hurry if I were you before the water surrounds you.'
Well, Medium Lady, we were in a mess; literally up to our necks in it as we floundered around in the thick black clay of the mudflats. Bjorn and Arne took their boats down a channel about 3 miles south of us. I was hoping they would run aground and have to wade through the mud themselves; or wait for the tide. However, the tide was going in rapidly and we had to move quickly before the channel overflowed and we would have to discard our shields and try to swim for the beach in full battle chain mail and helmets.
If Bjorn and Arne had not previously thought of us as suitable fighting men, then they had annoyed us so much that we were certainly capable of beating anyone now; because there wasn't anyone near enough to argue with we argued amongst ourselves. Some blamed Des-Pot for our predicament, others blamed Bjorn and Arne and some even blamed me for not being assertive enough and insisting that we returned to our own village. Stink-Pot couldn't see what all the fuss was about.
'I told them to save their energy for fighting the enemy; if there was an enemy who wanted to fight for this quagmire.
We did manage to scramble ashore as the sea lapped around our knees. As far as we knew the beach was deserted, but we couldn't see those eyes that were watching us. It was Fuss-Pot who first noticed a movement in the grass at the top of the sand dunes.
'Thorgam,' he said pointing, 'there's a movement up there; I saw movement and someone’s face paring through the grass.'
No one believed him; we thought that it was only Fuss-Pot fussing again.
Then a brace of pheasant flew up squawking and flapping their wings loudly as though they had been disturbed.
Calm down men,' I said, 'it's probably a fox.' That was wishful thinking Medium Lady!
We had our shields in front of us, forming a shield wall just in case we came under attack. An arrow zinged towards us and stuck in Fuss-Pots shield.
'Argh!' Fuss-Pot yelled. 100 armed peasants jumped up from their hiding places in the sand dunes, when they saw us blackened demons wading out of the mud without a ship in sight they crossed themselves, yelled 'ARGH!' Very loud; louder than Fuss-Pot; because there were more of them. We thought that it was a war-cry and braced ourselves in a shield wall, ready for the onslaught to come; our knuckles turned white on the straps of our shields. I closed my eyes and prayed to the gods; any gods whom I thought would save us. When I opened my eyes again there were only footprints where they had turned and scuttled off back to their village; they had all disappeared as if the gods had answered my prayers. Because they couldn't see a ship they thought that we were devils from the bottom of the sea; and they ran as though the Grimm Reaper were after them.
We walked through a gap in the sand dunes swords at the ready, but the only sign of our potential opponents was the afore mentioned footprints and a discarded longbow; probably dropped by its owner who didn't want to be associated with the weapon that fired an arrow at the devils from the deep.
We didn't have to do any pillaging around the village because the few inhabitants who had anything to save had stayed on to try appeasing us with offerings of the few objects that they hadn't buried in the hope that we would leave them in peace. The leaders offered their followers daughters and young wives -to the delight of Sex-Pot; who disappeared into a hovel with three teenage girls who liked his blond hair and handsome features, whilst everyone else inspected the trinkets and clothes with the expert eyes of traders. They didn't want everything on offer but they knew where they could find customers to buy them further down the coast in Wessex. Three Monks appeared from a large building carrying a very large wooden crucifix on a post and swinging smelly cans of smoke that I found out later was incense. They threw holy water at us and crossed themselves incessantly, chanting gibberish at us and clasping their hands together with their eyes looking up to heaven.
'Forsake your Pagan gods and return to Cythraul and your watery grave that you have risen from. Leave us Christians in peace,' The leading monk said to me. I knew now that he was from the kingdom of Cymru where the most pious of the priests come from Cythraul was their dark Grimm Reaper who the English call the Devil. Jack-Pot waved his sword at him and threatened to send him to his own grave if he didn't stop sprinkling water in his face.
'Where did you get that water from?' I asked
'From the Holy Well,' the leading monk answered.
'Where is it? we need to cleanse ourselves,' I said.
The Monks were excited, they looked astounded.
'You wish to cleanse your souls?' The leading Monk -who was called Morgan- said.
'Yes, our souls, and all our foul bodies.'
'You admit it; your souls and bodies are foul until you are blessed in our Lords Holy water?'
'Yeah, we need cleansing,' I answered irritably.
The Monks fell to their knees in holy prayer. 'Glory be to our Lord above we humbly thank you for delivering these poor demented souls to us -your servants- to cleanse their heathen bodies,' Morgan said to the heavens in a loud tuneful voice like those of his countrymen who love to sing hymns so much that they have melody in their voices.
We didn't have to bathe ourselves the Monks happily threw the water over us like servant slaves and sang their hymns. However, they had to give up on Stink-Pot as he resisted vehemently; but they were happy that they had managed to throw one pale full of water over him and make the mark of a cross in the watered-down grime on his forehead; he had that mark on his forehead until the day that it rained heavily and we threw him out of our hut because he stank the place out.
We were now welcome to stay in the village as we had been baptised; although we still thought of ourselves a pagan. I made myself busy making metal fixtures and fittings for the shipwrights among us who were building a large trading vessel for the day we would go to Wessex and trade the goods that had been given to us by the frightened villagers who were still very wary of us. Stink-Pot wanted us to make animal pounds so that he could take some pigs with us but he was refused permission in a vote. However, Medium lady, our happiness was to be short lived as we had to defend the village as well as ourselves against Viking Raiders. I will tell you more when you get in touch again; I am tired.
'Thorgam! My name is Thorgam! Eh? No not Thornton, you know? Thorgam Tin-Pot... That's correct Medium Lady... Yes, I am here! I am Not anybody here I am Thorgam Tin-Pot the Blacksmith; son of Peter Peace-Pot the Peaceful here; that is why I am in Odin's Corpse Hall with all the other mighty warriors; I am not anybody here; I am a warlord! So, stop asking “Is Anybody there?”
I was telling you about my adventures. Are you ready? Right, well we were enjoying our time in Mercia until the day when one of the villagers galloped into the village on a sweat oozing horse. We didn't have saddles nor stirrups for horses in those days, so it was hard to hang on at the best of times; 'Vikings!' he yelled, 'Vikings!' He tried to hang on to the horse’s mane, but, the back and flanks of the horse were so slippery due to the sweat that he slipped off the horses back and broke his neck.
None of the other villagers bothered to help him; some didn't even notice that he had fallen off his horse they heard the word “Viking”, picked up their most valuable possessions and legged it off to the woods with spades over their shoulders.
As the man had come from the North East we guessed that the Vikings would be coming from that direction.
Morgan the Monk and his two fellow Monks – Brothers Owen and Taffy – said prayers over him and sang a dirge whilst they carried him into their small thatched church.
They came back out carrying shields, with both longsword s and short-sword’s stuck in their belt scabbards; plus, battle axes in their belts. They wore chain male over their habits and a smock vest with red dragons emblazoned on the front.
Brother Morgan was obviously practised in the art of fighting by the way he slashed his sword at a branch that was as thick as a man's wrist on a nearby elm tree. The branch was severed fully, whilst it was falling Brother Morgan slashed it in two with a deft flick of his wrist before it hit the ground.
We all gasped in amazement. To see three devout Christian Monks dressed in chain mail was surprise enough, but, to see that they were all experienced in the art of fighting was a surprise.
'You are shocked Demon?' he asked me in English; we had become used to him speaking to his fellow brothers in the strange language of Cymru. The only attention they gave us was a side glance with a sneer as if they were calling us rude names in the knowledge that we couldn't understand their language.
'Yes, we all are; why didn't you attack us when we came ashore?' I asked.
'We thought that you were demons that had risen from the sea, and that we couldn't kill you. When you were willing to have your souls cleansed and wanted to be baptised we decided to give you a chance. Before we took Holy orders, we fought for Cymru. Now we fight the heathens from over the sea who pillage, murder and rob from our monasteries. I hope that these Vikings are not friends of yours Demon?'
'No, the only Vikings we know around here are the ill-born Bog Rats who tricked us and left us to wade ashore or drown in the tide, and they sailed South not North,' I said; I didn't mention Des-Pot, but I wondered if it was him. However, there was no time to discuss all my story. We had to make ourselves ready for the expected onslaught from the expected Vikings.
Brother Morgan stared Northwards down the coast and crossed himself. I turned to look where he was looking. About 50 warriors were heading towards us, led by Lord Arne Baldr; I recognised him by his helmet and thought to myself, “At least my helmet is as good as his but I can't say as much about my fighting.” When they were about a quarter of a mile away they formed a line. Some of the men who were closest to His Lordship stepped to one side to let someone through from the back. An old horse drawn chariot like those that were left by the old people who invaded Anglia years ago came through the gap and the driver was given a white flag of truce by another warrior and sent forward to give us a chance to have a truce.
When he came close enough for us to see his features we all recognised him. It was Des-Pot the Tyrant. When he recognised us his look of fear and apprehension changed to a scowl of hate; especially towards me and Jack-Pot.
'I've been asked to offer you a truce,' he said; to Brother Morgan; rather than speak to me, 'Now I have seen the swill dregs that you are with I'll tell Lord Baldr that you have refused to come to any agreement and you are willing to fight... Unless you agree to give those two Swine turds over to me as hostages; then I will tell his Lordship that you wish to live in peace under his protection. They are deserting rat shit who swore their allegiance to me.' He pointed his gauntleted finger to me and Jack as he spoke the latter sentence.
'You are a lying... Your words are vomit; I am the rightful leader of Norsehaven as my birth right.' I answered.
'No matter pig face; go back to your master and tell him, I will not make any truce with you Heathen Swine's Spawn,' Brother Morgan said, and Stink-Pot winced as all the insults seemed to be aimed at his animal friends, 'Your Lord Baldr murdered my country men and Holy Brothers; peace loving people, women and children and took others as slaves; Don't you think that he sent you forward to speak to us as you are considered expendable? You will die today cripple; If I am to be a martyr then so be it, I will go to my Lord with a clean soul and meet my Brothers in heaven; but I will send more of you Heathens to Cythraul before I go to my Lord in Heaven. Tell that heathen murderer that we will fight to yours and our own deaths.'
Had mine and Jacks freedom not depended on it I would not have agreed with his holiness. We were well out numbered. Our relatives and friends did disagree though. Fuss-Pot watched Des-Pot turn his chariot around, his face was ashen, 'Err Lord Des-Pot, I'm not in agreement with Brother Morgan; I would like a truce; I hope you will tell his Lordship Baldr.' Des-Pot yelled back, 'you chose your friends you stay there with them and meet your doom!' Stink-Pot turned to Brother Morgan, 'What did you say that for? It's better for them two to be taken hostage than all of us getting killed... Look there's more of them lining up we are dead men; Mark my words, I don't care how good a fighter you are. It's one thing chopping limbs off trees but them limbs over there are wielding hatchets and swords... Be gods, I'm off for a shit before I crap myself-' 'Well no one would tell the difference,' Jack said. Stink-Pot scrambled behind the nearest hut and dropped his trousers, the stink permeated around the building and wafted under our noses on the breeze at our backs. We couldn't help but move forward towards the enemy who thought that we were preparing to make the first charge.
They banged their swords on their shields and yelled insults at us whilst laughing hilariously at their own jokes; and they laughed at the twins Crack-Pot the Mad and Toss-Pot the Thick who were strutting up and down in front of their ranks doing chicken imitations, whilst Hot-Pot strode forwards waving a large spear at us and yelling something that we couldn't hear over the racket from swords and axes banging on shields and laughter from about seventy mouths.
I fingered the shape of my Thor’s Hammer around my neck hidden beneath my clothing so that the Monks didn't know that I preferred it to the cross that I had on show.
Brother Morgan looked at me sideways, 'Now is your chance to show that you are really a warlord Thorgam Tin-Pot son of Peace-Pot.', he said, 'Hold that sword correctly it is well weighted and if you made it yourself you should know how to use it.' I had practised with every sword I made to get it right. Viking Warriors and Pirates who visited our village had often shown me how they used their swords when fighting to put over how they needed them to be made. However, I had never used a sword in anger, now I had to do it or die quickly, for I knew that without a miracle from the gods I would most likely die this day.
Medium Lady, Are you still there? Well I will be back if you promise not to ask for an anybody there. Ask for Thorgam Tin-Pot the Blacksmith.
Hello Medium Lady! Yes, I am here.
Well we stood still not daring to move forward any further. I spoke to my father in the hope that he would hear me. 'Dear father,' I said, Brother Morgan thought that I was talking to his father in heaven,
'It looks like we will see one-another again sooner than either of us thought.' I said to my own father.
Brothers Morgan, Owen and Taffy followed my example; thinking that I was praying to the same father as they were.
They crossed their chests with their index fingers as our enemy moved towards us with flags fluttering in the strong breeze that came from inland; I thought to myself, “It is a mild breezy day to die.”
'At least the Lord above will be with us all; that is unusual with a Christian Pagan Army,' Brother Morgan said.
'We will need any available God Brother, so I hope Odin is looking favourably upon us too!' Jack yelled above the noise of sword on shield that was getting louder as the real army came nearer.
'Kill as many of them as you can men; don't die easily,' I said.
It was all this talk of dyeing that must have caused Fuss-Pot to decide that he was not interested in what we had to say. He made his own decision to run off in the opposite direction. Stink-Pot re-joined us once he had emptied his bowels and Sex-Pot the bastard fought like a, err... well, a bastard; Because he was from raiding stock; his mother knew that well, because she was the rape victim of one of those raids; hence the birth of Sex-Pot the second who was named after his father who stole him from his mother, and took him back to Norsehaven to be brought up by Mrs Sex-Pot the first; who nicknamed him 'The Bastard'.
As the enemy got closer we could make out their faces, Hot-Pot was out at the front flailing a battle axe around his hothead, followed by the mad twins - Crack-Pot and Toss-Pot – who were next in line doing their chicken imitations. There was no doubt about it, Lord Arne Baldr had obviously agreed to their request to go up front as they were expendable. As Des-Pot had lost a leg to Jack-Pots sword swipe he would have been in the way; Therefore, Lord Baldr would have been happy to have lost him when he came to us with a flag of truce as he was as expendable as his idiot brothers. However, His Lordship didn't have a use for him now so he allowed him to wait behind the lines until it was all over. Des-Pot looked forward to that, as he had it all planned; he would be able to load all his Brothers spoils into his chariot.
I noticed that Brother Morgan repeatedly looked to his left; - inland - towards the woods where the women, children and men of the village were hiding. I wondered whether he was wishing that he had followed them. The enemy were really close now and those cousins of mine had slowed their pace a little as they didn't want to be too far in front.
They didn't have to worry about that so much, as three arrows zinged towards them from the direction of the woods. Hot-Pots war cry changed into a cry of pain as an arrow went through the hand that held his battle axe and the axe fell from his limp hand onto his helmet where it lodged blade first and therefore cutting into his head slightly; had he not been wearing the helmet he would most certainly have been mortally wounded. The twins clucking chicken noises now sounded more like one of Stink-Pots squealing swine as they rolled around on the floor with arrows in their knees. The villagers hadn't deserted us they had gone to hide their valuables and pick up their bows; as was their planned action should they ever be attacked by mortals; rather than Immortals as they thought we were when we appeared out of the marsh without a ship. His Lordships men had to halt their advance as they hid under their shields when a hailstorm of arrows showered down on them.
As soon as they were cowed under their shields Brother Morgan yelled, 'CHARGE! SPARE NOT ONE OF THE PAGAN SCUMBAGS!'
We were still outnumbered but we had them scurrying around like headless chickens. As we advanced the arrows stopped coming over and a war-cry struck up from the woods as the villagers ran out to assist in the slaughter of their enemy.
The adrenalin rushed around my body as I hacked into the face of the first warrior I met up with. He realised that the arrows were no longer thudding into his shield only to find me slashing down on him as he looked up from beneath his shield shelter; I was shocked when his face turned into a mass of blood from one swipe. I hesitated for a moment but the next one came at me wildly swinging a battle axe at my head, I instinctively ducked down and the axe went over my head whilst its owner spun with the momentum from his swinging arm not stopping at my head. Whilst he had his back to me I struck at his legs with my sword, as he went down screaming I drove my sword into his spine between the waist of his breeches and his chain-male vest. I was now defending myself against all comers; so, I was not so shocked; as it was a case of them or me. As I have said before Medium Lady, I was a big lad, and strong from my labours as a Blacksmith so I was knocking men off me like skittles and enjoying pitting my strength and youthful energy against the murdering swine. I had no sympathy medium Lady, they weren't going to kill me.
Most of our enemy were surprised; as I was that we had bowmen and so many other warriors in our ranks; I realised why Brothers Morgan Owen and Taffy had been more confident than us. They had been testing our bravery and we had passed the test; well, most of us had; some followed Fuss-Pot; but then you often have cowards in any group and this type of incident sorts them out quickly. Anyway, we certainly had the benefit of surprise.
We had not been looking towards the sea so we didn't notice four ships; Three long-ships and a trading vessel. The first we knew of their presence was when the occupants of the vessels spilled out and ran up the beach yelling their war-cry. Two of the long ship crews were not known to me, However I recognised the massive person that was Bjorn as he and Arne and their crews fought around me. They had returned with the two long-ships who's oars we had heard splashing in the fog shrouded water whilst we were tied at anchor. They belonged to a crew of fellow Norsemen who had settled in the next village down the coast, they teamed up with Bjorn and Arne as pirates in search of booty and realised that there would be rich pickings from the dead of the losing side. They recognised His Lordships colours and the eagle emblem embellished on their chests as they had been attacked in the past by Lord Baldr's men; so, they had an argument or two to settle with them. The latter realised that they were outnumbered and had nowhere to go except back the way they had come. They did the wise thing and retreated.
Medium Lady; (or Sorcerer Lady in my language as you talk to the dead) I was now a fighting warlord of the highest order, and a rich one at that. However, I had enemies now; something I would never have if I'd followed in my father’s footsteps. I did not enter Odin’s Hall during that battle but I died with my sword in my hand many years later.
We found Crack-Pot and his twin Toss-Pot quivering beneath a pile of dead warriors hoping that they would be missed. Hot-Pot was amongst the dead, his decapitated head was lying beside his body with the battle-axe still embedded in his helmet. Des-Pot managed to stay behind the lines, turn his horse drawn chariot, and retreat with Lord Baldr's scurrying army.
Crack-Pot and Toss-Pot were shackled together and placed in a cage by the peasants who threw bread to them to get them to strut in their cage like chickens and make the children laugh. The more they clucked chirped and strutted the more food they earned; though they had to scrape it up from the muddy ground inside their cage. The audience were delighted when they darted in different directions and pulled one another to the ground as their chains tightened when the food flew in in all directions.
Fuss-Pot was sent to a monastery as a slave where he enjoyed fawning around the monks; although they treated him terribly.
I met up with Des-Pot years later, but he was no tyrant. Just a miserable one legged beggar. I don't know where he is now He certainly isn't in Valhalla, where us warriors meet in the great hall.