Good day to you all. I am Aelfina, Daughter of Sprow. Owner of several hides of land to the North of Norwic and steward of central Norwic. Of course this stewardship is something that my father should be doing but he is too busy praying these days to pay any attention to the intricacies of day to day life, so it falls to me. I think the death of my mother upon my birth caused him more grief than he care to mention.
Holding such an important position in the city has brought me into contact with a great many men, one of which is Aethelstan. Having lost my husband Aethwold in battle, I have found great solace in his brother Aethelstan and it was he who bestowed a further 3 hides of land outside the Burh to me to provide me with a better income, as Sprowestuna seems to be full of the more smelly trades these days and I don’t wish to muddy my hems with its stench.
This income has allowed me to not have to consider remarrying, leaving me able to entertain Aethelstan more ‘thoroughly’ when he visits, although when he is away I like to ensure my mortal soul is well taken care of and so I heavily subsidise the church to secure my place in heaven and take care of the needs of Prior Godwyn. We have much ‘business’ to ‘discuss’, when I can get past that brute of a guard that he has now employed. Dunce-tan I think he is called.
I have many people in my household, some I like and trust more than others. Eadgyth is a true friend and confidant and has been like a mother to me. Her own daughter was born at a similar time and due to the passing of my mother, she became my wet nurse.
Alfred works in the kitchen with her. He is a man of small stature but huge propensity for thievery. I turn a blind eye though, as I know Eadgyth would not be without him. She says there is nothing more between them than a shared love of cooking… but I’ve seen the way she eyes up his spoons.
I have a ward, Osric. Some name him the unready, I name him the untidy. I am forever tripping over some discarded piece of weaponry that he has been tending to and lost interest in. The boy’s interest in his weapons is alarming!!
Withburg visits regularly. I am sure she thinks I may have a worrying relationship with mead, but in all honesty, I always hold a glass of mead to my nose when around her due to the lingering whiff of stale urine that is about her person. I think her husband tans hides…or so she tells me. She is lovely though, so I do not wish to offend her, and she does make a fabulous job of fixing my garments.
Bjorn is my huscarl and he is responsible for training my fyrd and hearth troop. He is a Dane but I feel I can trust him, despite the fact that he feels the need to take a weekly bath unlike the more normal six monthly bath that my Saxon males take. Such a waste of soapwort!
Torstein, a man with a Norse background, has high hopes of becoming a poet in my household, but so far I see evidence of his ability to write great sagas but no poems. We shall see. Someone needs to write down the trials that I have to deal with each day, living with this lot. It really is like trying to herd wayward goats! They think I am blind to all they do… but I see (or hear) everything. Maybe not with my own eyes or ears, but with many people trying to gain favour with me, comes many wagging tongues!
And more can be added when the stories unfold from others…..
My Christian name is Godwyn. I am a native of the Clyde strath and my place in Hell is assured. I have carried out many Godless atrocities in the pursuit of coin and glory before I repented and took my vows. I now only hope that by the Grace of God I can save the souls of others from my fate.
Through God’s will (and pledging a significant portion of my wealth to the Church) I have become the Prior of St Benet’s of Holmecowe, a Benedictine house in the marshes near Norwic. Some men rule, some men fight and some men pray. I have fought and now I pray.
The Lady Aelfina is a great benefactor of the church and my monastery in particular. Due to this I find myself spending extended periods of time in Norwic with the Lady providing spiritual council and attending to business.
I find that many of the Lady’s household require the patience of a Saint. Some are God-fearing, good people like the Lady Aelfina herself, her ward Osric and my guardian Dunstan, who greatly assists with persuading the farmers of the Church’s land to part with their tithes when the Word of God is not enough.
Others in the Lady’s service, well, they are simple and supersticious country people. Some still cling to the old ways like a child clings to a favourite toy. Others outwardly embrace the word of our Lord but I’m certain that their words are hollow. This is true especially of those with Danish blood and their untrustworthy eyes. God will judge them and I will pray for their mortal souls.
By providing my brothers in Beodricsworth with a freshly-written letter handed to me personally from the Bishop of North Elmham, I am in temporary possession of some of the hallowed remains of St Edmund the martyr; Christian king of East Anglia. There will be much feasting in his name and many pilgrims will travel to pray at his shrine. If required, we will carry these holy relics before us in battle and I am certain that the Saint will smite the enemies of god and grant those who fall in his name entry into the Kindom of Heaven.
Waes Hael, I am called Eadgyth and I am now an old woman. I have seen many winters, and like the stars in the heavens, too many to count, but my old bones know when the next winter is coming – they creak like an old door and I need to take up my staff to help me when I go to dig up vegetables for the Lady Aelfina’s table. But it was not always so. I will tell you my own story, and take you back to a time when I was young and pretty.
I was given the name Eadgyth when I was born, because it was my mother’s name and her mother before her. They say I was born in the midst of a fierce snow-storm, a sure sign that if I survived, I would be able to weather any storm that may beset me in later life.
My father’s name was Edwin and he worked on his piece of land, growing the food that was needed for our table. We were simple country folk, good Christians of course, living in a small settlement which was later called Sprowestuna, just a stones throw from the town of Norwic.
As a child I helped my mother in the house, lighting the fire, grinding grain, gathering herbs for the stew, feeding the hens, fetching water and endlessly, endlessly spinning yarn. It was a time of peace, a rare thing indeed, if the scary stories told to us by the travelling traders were to be believed.
Time passed and I reached fourteen and became of age to be married. A boy came to visit us from nearby Norwic, his name was Hardric, and I thought him very handsome.
Everyone could see he would become a fine warrior one day. He came in search of a wife and he chose me. Oh happy day… at least for a while!!
He took me to live in Norwic. How different it was from my village! So many people, so much noise, so many sights to see and such smells as I have never smelt before – the sort of smell that gets up your nose and stays there. I saw coinage for the first time, and wondrous things being bought and sold in the market.
Hardric turned out to be a brutish kind of a man and beat me when he came home drunk from the tavern. He had a friend with the name of Sprow who felt pity for me and showed a kindness towards me as I had never known before. I became with child soon after we were wed and Hardric came to my bed less and less. I gave birth to a daughter and I called her Domneva. My husband stayed just long enough to see her, and then left, never to return. Some say he went to show his prowess on the field of battle, others say he went to the bed of another woman.
Sprow came to consul me and gave me some coin to buy food. His wife was also heavy with child, so I wished them well. The next time he visited me was with sad news. The baby, Aelfina, had lived, but his wife had died.
I loaded up my cart with my few possessions and took me and little Domneva to live in his household. I became Aelfina’s wet nurse and I was to become the nearest thing that the little girl had for a mother, for Sprow never married again. When she no longer needed a nurse, I was given the task of running the kitchen. I have watched Aelfina grow into a beautiful and powerful woman, headstrong, but fair to those living in the household and with those she has dealings with.
My Domneva grew into a fair headed woman and Sprow was able to find her a suitable wealthy husband with the name of Werwulf, who took her to live far away. I have seen many folk come and go over the long years in Sprow’s household. In truth, we no longer see Sprow for he has gone away, and for that, I am sad. Aelfina has stepped his into his shoes, and she make sure that I am well looked after. She has taught me the letters of my name, and I have embroidered them on my pillow.
And now the time has come to tell you my big secret… I have a son!!
When I was younger, there were several fine looking men living in the household, just as there are today. I came to love one of them, and for a time we secretly found comfort in each others arms. I gave birth to a boy and called him Dunstan. We could not be married for in the eyes of God I am still wed, so he went away and his name must remain a secret. I have vowed that I will take his name with me to my grave.
Dunstan is now a fine strapping young man, and he has come back to Norwic to provide guard duties for Prior Godwyn. I know he is teased about his father (or should I say lack of a father), how the gossips would love to know his name, especially that Withburg who hangs around the kitchen all day, tittle-tattling to anyone who who will listen.
They like to poke fun at me, the young men of the household. They think I am stupid as well as old. They steal food from my kitchen, they hide things away from me, and laugh at my displeasure and such language they use in front of me!! I would like to take my staff to them and teach them a lesson or two in good manners. Maybe I will one day.
I have many crosses to bear and none more so than that Alfred who lives in my kitchen. I have seen him grow from snotty-nosed urchin, hanging around under my feet and wanting scraps of food, into a man filled with such cunning and devilry, hanging around the fire, waiting for the chance to cause mischief. If he was not such a good keeper of the fire, I would send him packing.
Prior Godwyn seems to be an honest man. Maybe before I die, I will confess my sins to him. Then my soul will find its way to heaven… maybe.
Hael! My name is Etheldreda, and I am fortunate to be Lady’s maid to Aelfina and a member of her household, for she is a great Lady.
I am a truely pious Christian, I say my prayers daily and attend mass. My name was given to me by my mother, who was also a devout Christian and who was particularly devoted to St Etheldreda, the Abbess of Ely, on the Isle of Ely across the dark and mysterious marshes. Her husband, my father, was an Eel catcher on the marshes and so my twin brother Fiscbrut has also become an Eel catcher. He keeps us Christians very happy with all the fish for all the Saints days and fasting days.
It is very fortunate that I am a member of our Lady’s household as my husband Raulf is absent for much of the time with his sheep, for which he has great affection. But the sheep provide us women with great quantities of very high quality fleece which we need to supply all the cloth and garments befitting the fine folk of the household. I myself am skilled in the craft of weaving and all the processes involved. This is of course dependent on all the women of the household, and when necessary the men, to spin at every moment of the day. Between us we supply the finest of cloth and braid. My apprentice is Sigrid who I am passing on my skills of weaving, she assists me greatly and is a favourite of mine within the household, a sweet and gentle girl.
I unfortunately was not blessed with a girlchild but only a son, Ælla, and soon after he was born I took a vow of celibacy, such was my devotion to my faith. But my son does bring me some joy in my life, he is a useful member of the household, helping in the kitchen. His greatest skill is with his sling, as he is still training he is mostly just scaring the birds from the crops, and the beasts from the sheep or other animals. He occasionally brings a bird or two to the table but hopes one day to join the hunters and secure bigger game, maybe hares, foxes or even young deer.
Aelfina’s household is a happy place to be. She is fair in her judgement and quick to reprimand anyone who should not pull their weight or keep to her rules, but we are rewarded with a life that is rich and therefore never hungry, or cold with a fire always in the hall and many hearths where you will receive good company and a jug of mead. I am grateful for my life here and hope always to be so.
I am Bjorn, the Lady Aelfina’s Huscarl.
I train the Ladies fyrd and Hearth Troop as well as leading them in battle.
My responsibility is to protect the Lady Aelfina above all else. I spend the rest of my time training and repairing equipment.
My friend Dunstan helps with this, when he is not assisting the Prior, as we have often fought side by side and can rely on one another.
Recently I have been tasked with overseeing the ward Osric’s training which has been a great challenge, with him constantly sneaking off to acquire new weapons.
Was Hael, my name is Fiscbrut. I live in Norwic, by the river Wensum, near the willow, close to the ford.
I make my living by fishing, wild fowling and trading. The river and surrounding marshes are bountiful and God is good and I give thanks.
I sell my fish and foul in the market which is becoming busy with the sheep and wool merchants. The wool trade is making this a wealthy place to be.
The Lady Aelfina is partial to a nice bit of eel, so I keep the good Lady’s kitchen stocked. Fish is becoming more popular on the Church fast days which forbids eating meat. This is strictly enforced by the stern Prior Godwyn. Rumour has it that he had the Lady’s ward, Osiric, beaten by his henchman, Dunstan, because the unruly youth had snuck a sausage or two away on a fast day.
There are many rumours in Lady Aelfina’s longhall and I get the gossip from my Sister Etheldreda, she is the Lady’s maid and runs the household.
Hanging around the longhall too many times has brought me to the attention of the Dane Bjorn who is the Lady’s Huscarl, he trains the local Fyrd and Hearth warriors. I now have to train with the warriors and take my place on the shieldwall if needed.
Was hael. My name is Osric, I am Lady Aelfina’s ward. My family died when I was too young to remember, but the good Lady took me in and cares for me. In return, I am training to be a Huscarl, to serve her as best I can, as a warrior and politician despit being a bit unready for either, which has earned me my name, Osric the Unready.
Growing up in the household, I have made good friends with the kitchen slave and his son, as they used to help me steal extra helpings of bread and cheese. Because of his kindness when I was younger, I sometimes turn my back when Alfred and his brother want to do a dodgy deal.
I am constantly getting in trouble with the Lady Aelfina for spending her money on more weapons and armour than I can use at once! I have also been known to get in trouble at the local tavern for getting too drunk, and causing a commotion with my gambling, and fighting.
While I often get things wrong, and cause strife for the Lady Aelfina, I always try to do my best to be a good ward and warrior.
Even my wife, Withburg, keeps her distance.
It can be a little lonely being a tanner, but that suits me fine. I’ve never trusted most people, particularly that kitchen slave, Alfred and his kin. All of them would rob you and then stab you in the back.
And that swineherd, Alaric, accused me of stealing his pig… A LIE! An outright lie! As God as my witness, I would do no such thing and yet he continues to insult me.
At least he isnt a Dane… I don’t know what Lady Aelfina is thinking, having Bjorn here… however, he has never been unkind to me, but he is a Dane, and Danes cannot be trusted. I’ve seen to many on the other side of a shieldwall, to rest easy in their company.
No matter, folk need leather and pelts and I earn good coin from my labours. Supplying folk with leather goods, such as belts and pouches has earned me some wealth although, as I get older, my eyesight is starting to fail me.
Now, if you would excuse me, I must meet with Fiscbrut, he is trading some eels and fish, for a cut of my pork and sausages…..
I am Withburg, my name’s a bit like Saint Withburga of Dereham, where my parents came from. I have a lot more than that in common with her than just a name, let me tell you!
I married Grimbol out of love of course, a man with prospects at the time, but the fool followed his passion for leather and tanning… wife of a tanner, that’s not the life I dreamed of! His foul-smelling trade means that we have to live on the outskirts of our village along with that fisherman, Fiscbrut. What with the smell of my husband’s barrel of urine and Fiscbrut’s stinking eels and fish, I spend a lot of my time away helping in Lady Aelfina’s kitchen, that is when I am not repairing someone tunic or making a garment.
I love helping to prepare the food: I get to hear all sorts of tales of the folk in our village, not that Im a gossip mind, but the things I hear…
That old kitchen slave, Alfred, makes my blood boil at times, constantly talking and when he thinks you’re not looking he steals an egg or an apple. He needs a good beating! I’m always saying to Prior Godwyn that he is to soft on him, but the man is a halfwit I’m sure. He never listens… not that I like to interfere, mind.
How Alfred gets away with his thieving, I will never know. Poor Osiric, the lad may not be intelligent, but he didn’t deserve what happened to him.
I heard from Eadgyth, how Alfred and his kin, had got Osric drunk and then when he was senseless, relieved him of his coin. The foolish boy thinks that he is friends with the slave, he will never learn.
Mind you, my husband isn’t much better, he stole Alaric’s pig, who as I hear, was rather fond of the beast, if you get my meaning.
Brother Godwyn still turns a blind eye, I tell him, it’s not enough for them to repent for their sins, a good beating is whats needed. I have to say, my husband did butcher the beast very nicely, best sausage I’ve ever had.
Hail good Christians , I am Dunstan. I serve the good Prior Godwin as a shield of god. I use my mighty long-axe to protect the prior and to deliver the lord’s enemies into his righteous judgement.
I was born to my mother Eadgyth, who was wet-nurse to the noble Lady Aelfina. As a fatherless young man with no trade I went out to seek my fortune away from Norwic. My father-age is unknown, although rumours circulate around the Lady’s court, another reason to leave. Who has time for all the intrigues and workings of the court?
I found myself in the good Prior Godwin’s service, having told him that I come from the household of Sprow the Pious. When the lady Aelfina’s father Sprow passed on the responsibility of the household, she required spiritual aid, the type only a high level clergymen could give, So me and Prior Godwin set out from the burial place of St Edmund and travelled back to Norwic. It is here that I now currently reside, having been reunited with my mother Eadgyth.
From time to time, I travel north, accompanying Brother Mark of Lindesfarne to the lands from which the pagan Danes and Norsemen hail. We spread the holy word of God and cast light and forgiveness upon the heathens.
It is on one of such voyages that I met Bjørn the Dane. In the trading port of Jorvik, we made a mead-infused bet. We would have a fight: if he won he got my coinage, if I won he would be baptised as a Christian in the name of The Lord. The fight ended in a draw, he got the silver and was also baptised. This is how Bjørn and I came to be such firm friends. He travelled back to Norvic with me, having heard of its rich wool trade. The Lady Aelfina was impressed by his capable fighting skills and took him into her hearth-troop.
We serve the Lady together by training the Fyrd and attempting to train young Osric the Unready, when he isn’t busy drinking, lying about or buying weapons he doesn’t know how to use.
Despite my travels North and abroad, I like living in Norwic, for it is a rich and prosperous place indeed.
I am Alfred. I was born on a farm near Sprowestuna, to Chad and Arlette, and I have an older brother, Cedric. At the age of 5, I was sold to Eolderman Edmund. The harvest that year had been bleak and my family could not feed us all. Father was always short on payment of taxes.
I had my daily chores, as did all in the Eolderman’s household.
fetching water, feeding horses, pigs and chickens as well as helping to prepare food. After some years, I had worked to become a free man. Though still indentured to the Eolderman, I have a better life, grateful to be fed and clothed.
Now that I’m in my elder years, I work for Lady Aelfina, the Eolderman’s daughter. I tend the fire pit and busy myself with cooking the food prepared by head cook Eadgyth ,who I have known since her arrival as wet nurse to Lady Aelfina.
I know everyone in the houshold from child to adult.
I see and hear all, which Lady Aelfina sometimes finds useful. For this she allows some of my pilfering of the houshold foodstocks that I trade for information or coin to go unchecked. It also helps that Eadgyth informs the lady that I’m to useful in the kitchen to have dispatched.
I am called Gunnar Oloafson. My father said that I was born on a long ship, a Dane one of course. They say that my father had been told by the goddess Ran in a dream to travel to the northern edge of the world to kill a great serpent. In return he was promised that great sagas would be sung in his honour for ever in the great halls of the old kings of Norway. It isn’t true but it’s a good story for the tavern, and the Saxons love it, not having heroes of their own. I like taverns a lot, who wouldn’t? Drink, dice and customers, not always a good combination! Anyway, I got in a bit of trouble with Erik the Toothless, the head of my village a while back and had to… err… leave
quick, he didn’t take to well to me sleeping with his wife you see. I’ve spent most of my time at sea since then, less trouble and more money.
I like to travel. There are too many of these soft, and I must say un-Dane Christian types about nowadays. What’s wrong with a bit of pillaging? Come on, that’s where the profit is… Oh and it is fun! I’ve got a good crew. I lose some and I gain some, they smell of fish and wet wool, but I’d trust them in a fight… not with the money though, the bunch of rogues! My father had traded with Norwic when it was ruled by Danes. It was wealthy then, but richer now. He did most of his trading at Ribe, but that’s gone now, more the pity, as it’s riches were the stuff of legend. Hedeby is where I go. I can get you anything you want: silk from Mikligard, furs from Gargariki, walrus ivory from the White Sea, fine glass from the Rhine and spices from the East. It’s a good place to sell slaves too! I get my swords further north at Birka, they’re a rough lot, but very fine smiths, it’s worth losing a couple of crew for.
Don’t get me wrong I like Norwic – it’s rich you understand. It’s good for selling axes and swords and the odd slave… and I’ve had some very odd slaves, and fancy stuff from Odin knows where. Lady Alefina is one of my best customers: she’s partial to a bit of eastern bling. It’s hard to come by, but she does like the good stuff, especially the silk and Rhine glass. I don’t know why, every time I use it, it breaks. Lady Alefina makes me a lot of money: if she doesn’t want it, she knows a Thane that does. She can count on Trollbane, my sword, if she ever needs it, as Saxons go, she’s not bad. My greatest wish is to die in battle and to drink mead in the great hall of the fallen heroes and to fight in the last battle at Ragnarok. I don’t much care if I fall fighting for a Saxon Lady or a Danish King.
I follow the Gods, not this Christian rubbish – forgive your enemies, where’s the fun in that? I do have a cross though, you never know when it might come in handy. Not that the previous owner got much help from it, if you get my gist. It opens doors you see – if I’m trading with Christians then I just slip it on and mumble some of their rubbish and when I’m trading with proper Danes it’s out with Mjolnir. Take the monks at St. Benets, a strange bunch but my best customers for spices: they use them for their potions and healing, and I thought these Christians didn’t believe in magic! Anyway, it gets me all sorts of stuff does the cross; gold, silver and gossip. Those Saxons do get loose lips when they’ve been to the tavern… did I mention that I like taverns? Some will pay well for the tales I hear. It doesn’t matter who’s ruling, Christians or the Danes, so long as they buy what I’m selling.
My name is Sigurd Tärnfalk, although sometimes it suits me to use the name Ulfric, as some are suspicious of my Danish background. I was born in the land of the Danes but my father’s land was near the coast and became flooded and no longer suitable for farming, so we travelled over the sea to the lands of the Eastern Angles to try for a better life.
We were badly treated and forced to work long hours for little reward and my father beat me often so I ran away and found work with a Danish trader. I worked in his storeroom but also travelled with him on many great journeys including all the way to the great city of Miklagard.
I have seen many strange lands and practices and have learnt much of the ways of different peoples, served many masters and fought for some of these when needs required. During my wanderings I have learned many skills, sewing sails, carving wood, making bows and arrows, crafting leather items as well as helping with cooking and other duties around the camp.
When I arrived back in Norvic a while ago the Lady Aelfina, seemingly charmed by my humble travelling tent, offered me a small place in her community in exchange for my work and the pledge of my sword. I train with the Huscarl Bjorn and his mighty warriors and, despite my age, they treat me with great respect and have taught me many new battle skills. They are a fine bunch and I am proud to fight alongside them. That Alfred seems a fine good-humoured fellow but others warn me not to trust him as he is as likely to stab you in the back in battle as defend you.
I was born an Odin’s Man but I have met and lived with many who follow the Christian God. I hold both a Thor’s hammer and a cross and am happy to wear whatever my masters and those around seem to hold in regard. I have much to learn about settled village life, but it pleases me greatly that I am a Fri Hals and that I am respected within the village and greeted warmly. I think that perhaps my wandering days are over and this is where I shall live out my life.