The Northern Way


9 Octha - Page 2

Arthur agreed, keeping all their gold and silver, and taking hostages. Then the Angles set sail, and made their way round the coast. But soon they repented of their shameful ultimatum, and landed in the southwest, where they took control of the land, and laid siege to the city of Bath.

Hearing of this, Arthur immediately executed the hostages, and marched against them. He spoke to his followers.

'Since these heathen and infamous Saxons have seen fit to break faith with me, I shall avenge the blood of my people this day. To arms, men, and let us fall upon them. With the aid of Christ we shall obtain the victory!'

Now he led his men to attack the Angles, who rushed out to meet them, making a noble defence throughout the day, but towards sunset they retreated onto the peak of Mount Badon, where they camped. The next morning, Arthur and his army laid siege to the mountain, but lost many men in the ascent, since the Angles had the advantage of the higher ground.

But after a hard struggle, the Britons gained the summit, and came into close battle with the Angles, who received them warmly, making a vigorous defence. So they spent much of the day, until Arthur, angered by the little advantage he had gained, drew his sword Caliburn, and rushed with great fury into the thickest of the Angles' ranks, and it is said that he slew nine hundred and forty men by his own hand. Seeing this, his men made great slaughter on all sides, and many thousands fell before them. Finally, Octha and the few survivors fled the hill, and made their weary way back to Kent.

After this defeat, Octha reigned peacefully in his kingdom, and peace remained in Britain until the battle of Camlann many years later when Arthur was slain by his nephew Mordred. But many of Octha's Saxon followers left Britain in the meantime, under Heathogeat his brother, and sailed to Hadeln on the German coast, where Theodric, king of the Franks, was at war with the Thuringian leader Eoremenfrith.

The Thuringians were rulers of the land they had come to, and the Saxons had to fight them for a long time before they could gain possession of them. But the Saxons had a legal right, at least to their landing-place and the vicinity. While still in their ships in the harbour, out of which the Thuringians could not drive them, they decided to negotiate about the matter, and the Thuringians told the Saxons that if they would refrain from plunder and rapine, they could remain to buy what they needed and sell all they could. A Saxon youth, richly adorned with gold, went ashore.

Here a Thuringian met him, and asked;

'Why do you wear so much gold around your scrawny neck?'

'I am dying from hunger,' the Saxon replied, 'and wish to find one who will buy my gold.'

'How much do you ask?' asked the Thuringian.

'What will you bid?' the youth answered. The Thuringian regarded the nearby dunes.

'I will give you as much sand as you can carry in your clothes.'

The Saxon accepted the offer, and the Thuringian filled his tunic with sand, in return for which the Saxon gave him his gold and returned to the ships.

Hearing of this bargain, the Thuringians laughed with contempt, and the other Saxons found it foolish, but the youth said;

'Come with me, brave Saxons, and I will show you how my foolishness will be to your advantage.'

He took the sand he had bought so dearly, and scattered it as widely as he could across the ground, covering so large an area that it gave the Saxons sufficient room for a fort.

The Thuringians sent messengers complaining at this, but the Saxons replied that they had taken no more territory than they had purchased with their gold. So the Saxons gained a foothold.

Meanwhile, the war between the Thuringians and the Franks continued. Huga, king of the Franks, had died leaving no heir except his daughter Amalburh, who was wedded to Eormenfrith, king of the Thuringians. The Franks had made Huga's illegitimate son Theodric king, and he had promised peace and friendship. But Amalburh persuaded the king's thane Yring to advise war.

'Theodric is by birth my bondsman,' Eormenfrith had said unwillingly to the messenger. 'I will not yield my claim.'

'I would rather give you my head,' replied the messenger, 'than hear such words, since they will be washed out by the blood of so many Franks and Thuringians.'

Theodric and Eormenfrith met, and the battle went on for three days. Eormenfrith was defeated, but Theodric had to retreat, due to great losses. But then Thyle of the Rondings advised Theodric to offer the newly arrived Saxons lands in return for aid in the war. Heathogeat and his men joined Theodric, and together they routed the Thuringians. So the Saxons gained lands.

Eormenfrith sent Yring to Theodric to beg for mercy, but Theodric persuaded him to turn traitor, luring his master into the presence of the Frankish king, and murdering him as Eoremenfrith bowed. Then Yring asked for the reward Theodric had promised him.

'Begone, foul traitor,' said Theodric, 'and be content that I leave you with your life!'

Then Yring drew his sword again and slew Theodric, then cut his way out of the hall and departed. In memory of this feat, the Milky Way is named Yring's Way.


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