The Gathering

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Chapter 4

Viking Seine Campaigns 841-911 AD

For seventy years, the Vikings raided Northern France in search of wealth, land, and above all, power. To the Christian Franks, the Vikings were the embodiments of godless heathens who enjoy carnage and destruction. However, despite the countless raids, the Vikings were nowhere close to their objective: the Paris sacking.

The city was rumored to house numerous amounts of wealth and, for many years, seemed untouchable. In the year 885, Vikings Rollo, Sigfred, and Sinric left their base in the French city of Louvain with seven hundred ships. Their goal was to invade the city and rob it of its wealth finally. The raiders sailed for months along the English Channel until they reached the French port city Caen, another Viking base.

Once there, the raiders resupplied and went out to recruit new soldiers. While the men prepare the plans for invasion, Magni, and Modi, Rollo’s sons, head into the fortified camp, looking for someone. Magni was the oldest of the two and the most experienced. Modi had gone on a few raids, but was still fairly new.

“Who is it we are looking for?” asked Modi.

“An old friend of fathers. Last I heard, she moved here, and I know the best place to look.” The two brothers walked towards the center of camp, in the direction of the Great Hall. Once getting closer to the building, they see Viking raiders being thrown out of the entrance and onto the street. Magni chuckled at the sight.

“She’s here, alright.”

Entering the Great Hall, the pair found themselves amid a brawl. Groups of men were attacking with swords at whoever it was in the center. Modi tried to make out who it was, but his vision was blocked. Suddenly a Viking is lifted in the air and thrown halfway across the center of the hall, knocking into a few others. It was here that the two brothers saw their father’s friend.

Fighting the other Vikings was a six-foot, well-built shield maiden with short brown hair and amber eyes. In both her hands were Berda clubs, polished wood wrapped with iron plates, and solid iron pommels. In the back of the hall, many were betting on how many she can beat before losing.

Modi went to get his sword, but his brother stopped him. “Just watch.” The pair were surprised by the fight. In all their years, they had never seen such a skilled warrior amongst them. As they continue to watch, Magni sees one of the men pulling a knife off one of the tables and runs at the Viking in the middle. Grabbing a spear off the floor, he throws it, missing the Viking in the middle, and pins the other to the ground. The crowd turned their attention to the entrance and, realizing who it was, stopped fighting. The shieldmaiden, who was fighting, turns her head and looks at the two brothers.

“You almost killed me.”

“You’re welcome, Tyra.” The person Magni saved was Tyra Dragon Eyes, a mighty warrior and one of the most respected Vikings of her generation. She was given the name Dragon Eyes on account of her unusual eye color. She was a hardened veteran of many past raids and had some battle scars across her arms and legs. Despite this, she was still regarded as the most attractive and beautiful shieldmaiden of her days. Pulling a chair, she poured herself a cup of mead and motions the others to sit. Tyra takes a drink from her cup and looks at the two.

“Magdi and Modi, what brings you two to Caen?” Tyra said, taking another sip.

“You can drop the formality,” Magni said with a smirk. Before his brother was born, he had the honor of fighting beside the legendary warrior years ago.

“Still starting fights, I see.”

Tyra chuckled. “How else am I to stay busy?” She puts her clubs on the tables and cracks her knuckles. After doing so, she glances at Modi.

“Last time I saw you, you were still clinging to your mothers dress?” The young Viking shot a playful glare at Tyra. “I'm no longer a boy anymore Tyra. I'm a full fledge Viking now.” Tyra raises her right eye and sits up straight.

“If you both are here, then that means you were sent by your father, Rollo, which can mean only one thing: Paris.”

“We have several dozen ships at our command, hundreds of men and women ready to fight and sack Paris and…”

“You want me to join you, I imagine,” Tyra said, finishing Magni’s sentence. He nodded his head. Tyra pinches the bridge on her nose and inhales a deep breath. As she lets it out, looks up at the roof of the hall and thinks to herself, here we go again.

“I have been here in this base for 20 years and gone on numerous raids along the Seine River. Do you know what I have earned during those years? No wealth. No land. No family.” She paused for a moment.

“All I have are scars, broken bones, and weariness.” She drinks the rest of her mead and throws it off the table.

“I don’t care how many ships you have, invading Paris is foolish. There is a high certainty of death and a small chance of success.”

Magni could see the weariness on the aging Viking. Tyra went on the first raids into Paris when she was 18; now, she is 38 with no family.

“I understand if you don’t want to come, but…”

“When do we leave?” Tyra interjected. The twins sat there, confused.

“But I thought…The things you said…”

“I say a lot when I drink, especially when I drink that mead. But I’ll be there.”

As the shield maiden gets up, she grabs her clubs, slips them into their sleeves, and proceeds to exit the hall.

“She is a bizarre individual,” Modi comments.

“That she is brother,” Magni adds. “That she is.”

܀

The next day Tyra was with the twins on one of the ships bound for Paris. All around her, she saw hundreds of Vikings, all armed. This many men, she thought, could easily take Paris and its riches. The main ship in front of the fleet sees Paris and orders the armada to bank along the Seine River. All the ships dock along the river, and the Vikings make preparations.

One everyone is on land, the Vikings get into formation and launch a frontal attack on the city Rouen which lies directly in front of Paris. Tyra wears her chain mail and leather armor and leads a group of warriors. When both forces enter the city, they are confronted with massive resistance from the civilians and Frankish soldiers stationed to defend Paris. Soon the two collide, and the fighting is fierce as both try to get the advantage. The battle soon makes its way to the first tower defending the great city of Paris, and once in range, the defenders hurl stones and arrows at the barbaric heathens. For three days, they fought until the Franks managed to push the invaders back from the tower. Both have lost many and gained nothing.

Furious and exhausted, Rollo orders the army to make camp in Rouen to realize they do not possess enough men to surround the entire city. While the defenders in Paris, only a few miles away, celebrate their first victory, Tyra goes into the city looking for a place to drink. As she walks through the French city, she hears the sound of chatter coming up the road. She then finds a stockpile being raided by Vikings.

Tyra approaches the stockpile and walks over the trampled door to get in. Inside, the smells of fresh wine already barreled fill the air. Inspecting the room, she discovers one last barrel hiding behind broken furniture. Lifting it off the ground, she places it on a table and pours herself a cup.

Taking a sip, she is shocked by how sweet the flavor is; even honey mead is not this sweet. However, seeing as there was nothing else left to drink, she quickly gulps it down, trying not to think of its sweet taste. Wiping her mouth with her arm, she returns to the heart of the camp, where many were discussing how to enter Paris.

After tonight, Tyra soon realized that this raid was going to be her last.

܀

Early the next day, Rollo and the others decide to assault the fortified city. Three hundred Vikings join this offensive, including Tyra. The naval force takes several hundred ships and advances towards the walled city. Tyra was in the first ship when she heard a slight sound, all too familiar, the sound of arrow fire.

“Shields up,” she shouts and raises her wooden shield to cover her. The arrows were relentless and did not stop, even when they landed. Tyra and a few manage to get off the ship and on land and get to the walls. Upon getting closer to it, Tyra realized that the defenders had planned for this. The walls were twenty feet high and three times the average thickness and encompassed the whole city leaving the only way in by ladders. She orders men to get some ladders from the ships.

As men quickly rush to the boats, some are killed by arrows from the ramparts. Luckily some manage to come back with a few ladders. Setting them against the walls, a few stayed behind to hold the ladder steady while others did the dangerous climb. Tyra is behind one Viking up the ladder until the haft of a Frankish spear pushes him off.

He falls back down to his death. Tyra is unfazed and continues climbing up. Reaching the top, she meets the same spearman. He jabs at her with the end of the spear, but she catches it and throws him off the castle walls. She gets herself up and pulls out her wooden clubs, ready to fight.

One soldier approaches her from behind while another comes from the front. Both attack her at once. She blocks their attacks and grabs one by his chain mail and tosses him off the walls. She then turns her attention to the soldier behind her, who is now shaking in fear. She chuckles at his nervousness and taunts him to attack her. He slashes at her face, but Tyra blocks with both clubs.

Then she delivers a swift kick to the groin, making him hunch over. Then she swings down hard on his head with her clubs, making him fall to the ground. She finishes him off with a heavy stomp on his helmet, cracking his head open. Moving onwards, she looks back and sees other Vikings getting on top of the walls. For a brief moment, she believes that they might win, that they might conquer Paris.

Unfortunately, that moment is shattered as more Frankish troops race up the stone stairs to reclaim the walls. This time it was heavy infantry, and Tyra knew that these soldiers did not die so quickly. Looking around, she sees a heavy stone near her. Setting her clubs aside, she picks up the massive stone and hurls it at the soldiers. While it managed to knock a few downs, it did not stop their advance. Realizing she had to leave, Tyra races back to the ladder, only there were no ladders.

The Viking, having been forced off the castle walls and onto their ships in retreat, left Tyra alone. Panicking, she runs in the direction of a high stone tower only a few feet from her. Kicking the door down, she races up the stairs until she is at the very top, nowhere left to go. Running to the edge, she stops herself and sees that she is much higher than expected.

Hearing the soldiers behind her closing in, she knew she had to jump, but she couldn’t. She decided that if today is the day she dies, she will meet it with open arms. Turning to face her attackers, she soon realizes she does not have her clubs with her; they are back down by the walls. Now she is going to die, but she will be taking a few Franks along with her.

Soon the soldiers make it to the top; swords are drawn and spears ready. They then begin to corner Tyra like a wild beast in the forest. They push her closer and closer to the edge of the tower. As one Frankish soldier thrusts his spear, she dodges and grabs it by the wooden haft. Pulling him closer to her, she head butts him and shoves him back at the others and takes his spear.

Suddenly three attack her at once, and while she manages to block their attacks, one soldier manages to stab her in the side with another spear. Yelling in pain, she grabs the spear in her side and quickly pulls it out. Breaking the head off, she slits the two soldiers’ necks and stabs the third in the face. More and more attack her, and while managing to injure her a little more, she keeps killing more of them.

Finally, Tyra was at the end of her strength. Her armor was battered and broken and was losing blood fast. But she continues to stare down her attackers. Then one soldier armed with a hefty iron club charges at her. He swings down on her right shoulder and shatters it. She is roaring in agony, tries to counter, but fails and gets another blow straight to the head.

Dazed and confused, she tumbles backward and falls fifty feet back down into the river, to a watery grave. As he lands in the river, she feels her strength leave her and suddenly feels at peace. As she looks up through the water, she sees a bright blue light slowly engulf her. The sensation is warm and comforting. Tyra smiles and slowly closes her eyes.

“Valhalla,” she whispers, “take me home.”

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