A fools bloody errand
The homestead lay nestled into the side of the hill opposite, a vague outline in the early morning light. Everything was wet. Wet and grey, and had been for the past two months. Winter was not long off, its teeth in the cutting wind..
He would have to return home soon, before the ground froze, and had yet to make a telling mark in that war. A few lone warriors, stragglers, settlers. All gone to mud at his word, but it was not enough. The fortified longhouse on the rise below held families, warriors, a chance to make that mark.
Gamond rode hard down muddy roads, heading northwest through a forest. The bark of dogs and equally guttural howls of saxons on his heels. The attack had gone badly, impatience getting the better of him. He should have waited, watched. Instead he had rushed in blind with hate, found a hatch in the wall and tried to climb in. A torch had been stuck into his chest from within, the flames burning all the way up his neck and chin. Howling, he had lost his courage and run. Now the men were after him, he could no longer outpace them. He spied a rise, inaccessible from two sides. He would make his stand there.
Snow powdered the ground, cold stinging hands and face even through thick wool. He could barely sit in his saddle. His entire body hurt. Left arm numb, right side a cold and throbbing reminder of the axe that had nearly taken his life two weeks past. His neck was still the worst, an enduring agony. It was like it was still burning.
They had been overconfident, five men and two dogs. They had come at him up the slope, crowded themselves on bad ground. The dogs had been the real danger, and one had buried its teeth in his arm as he took the forepaws of the other with his first stroke. He had flung the beast over the side of the cliff, and invited the first man to come within reach the same route by way of his shield. It had become chaotic. Like most men, they misjudged his reach. Two died before they learnt. The last two rushed him together, catching sword on shield, opening his side wide to the axe stroke. Mail turned it just enough. Rage had taken him then. When he came to, they were all dead. The man he had cast over the side hacked to pieces.
That winter the village mourned, losing the last living kin to remember Neillyn, the very oldest of the extended Anarawd line. Another link to a better past lost, the living memory of the heart of the Anarawd fading.
Harran, Bodwyns son, missed no opportunity blaming the absent lord of Ludwell for the winters hardship, for deaths among kin and smallfolk, and rumors of his half brother lapsing again into madness.
For his part, Gamond would never speak of that winter, his failure an embarrassment best left to obscurity.