Without a word we galloped down the last half mile until we reached the long wall which separated the village from the moors. We scrambled off of our horses and peered over.
A hundred or more Norman soldiers raced amongst the huts, throwing torches into the thatch and hacking down the families escaping from the flames. A dozen of Thorfinnr’s men stood at bay outside the hall, throwing back every attempt to break through.
Finally, a score of horsemen charged down upon them, spearing and hacking until every man lay bleeding on the ground. Norman soldiers rushed the hall and in seconds raced out carrying whatever they could loot from it and dragging six or seven women with them.
‘Estrid,’ cried Godwin. He leapt for the wall but I clung onto him.
Siward Barn dragged him down and held him tight. ‘You’d be dead in seconds,’ he said.
I turned from them and continued to watch the horror. Two soldiers threw Estrid on the ground and held her down while a third raped her. Two of Thorfinnr’s servants battled to reach her but were hacked to pieces. The second of Estrid’s attackers leapt upon her while the third undid his breeches.
I heard a shrill scream and saw her sister Freya being dragged out. Her tunic was ripped open and she was spread-eagled upon the ground by four men. But just as one lowered himself onto her she kicked up, slid from her captors and raced towards us. She flew like a hind, dodging and weaving, eluding the many hands that sought to grab her. She was so fast that the Normans gave up chasing and sought for easier prey.
I risked revealing myself, climbing onto the wall and calling her. She leapt onto the wall, I caught her and hauled her up, and she fell beside me sobbing and panting.
I ducked down and peered once more through a gap in the wall. Every home in the village was now in flames and half the people dead or wounded. A dozen Normans with huge hounds drove the fifty people still standing into the middle of the common and ordered them to sit. They were bound together at their ankles.
On the edge of the group was Dotta who looked defiant. I told Siward Barn that she seemed unharmed. In the village itself other soldiers worked through the animal pens slaughtering pigs, cows and hens. The horses were led out from the stables and taken away.
Half a dozen horsemen strolled along the wall towards me so I ducked down and gestured the others to remain still. They halted within earshot.
‘What is this village called?’ asked a harsh French voice.
‘Lonton, Count Alan,’ came a thin, well-educated voice. ‘Like the others in the valley it’s lord is Thorfinnr.’
‘Not any more. It belongs to me now.’
‘Very good, my lord,’ came the thin voice. I heard the scratch of a pen on parchment.
‘But you promised Lonton to me,’ came a familiar voice.
It was Bodin. I shook my head in disbelief.
‘You shall hold it under me,’ answered Alan with a sneering voice as if he was having to repeat a lesson for an idiot pupil. ‘The land will be mine and you will be my tenant.’
‘Lord,’ Bodin asked, ‘if the land is to be shared by you and me then why are you despoiling it?’
‘To teach the scum round here a lesson. And we are not going to be sharing the land. This land is now mine. If you do as I say you will hold the village as my tenant.’
‘But what lesson will this teach?’ persisted Bodin.
‘That it is futile to resist the might of King William. These swine have new masters now. The King has tired of these constant rebellions and wants an end to them. And he wants every Englishman to know that those who harbour that misbegotten whelp Edgar will face a similar punishment.’
There was a silence. Then I heard Bodin gasp.
‘Lord Alan, that girl there.’
‘What of her?’
‘She is Thorfinnr’s daughter. It is unseemly for her to be violated.’
‘You think so,’ sneered Count Alan. ‘She is nothing more than a peasant girl now. Though I can see she’s rather a comely one.’ He laughed. ‘I do believe that you desire her, friend Bodin.’
‘I do lord.’
‘Well you shall have to keep on lusting. She’s mine now. If I have to seek pleasure with peasants I might as well have pretty ones.
‘Hugh, get those men off the blonde girl and send her to my camp. I don’t want her touched any more.’
‘And what about Edgar?’ asked Bodin. ‘He is only a couple of miles away.’
There was a long silence. ‘He is on high ground, you say?’
‘Yes, my lord.’
‘Then he will see us coming. Can you guide us there in the dark?’
‘I think so.’
‘Then we will go back to camp and keep out of sight until dark.’
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