Now that I have worked out a rough draft of Aldred’s involvement in the battle of Brunanburh and some of the geography, I am encountering timeline difficulties.
In my draft narrative, I created a close sequence of events for Aldred encountering first one side and then the other within a matter of days, but I now realize that is too compressed. Anlaf’s forces probably arrived on the coast in mid-September, harried a bit disrupting the harvest, and then met up with the Scots and Strathclyde kings coming south at some coordinated place, followed by the actual battle with Athelstan in early October. So I need to stretch out Aldred’s encounter with the northern forces before taking him around to the other side with Athelstan and then to the battle. This actually gives Aldred more time to read Boethius and interact with Northumbrian earl Oswulf, whom I am placing in a very ambivalent position.
Several points made in Michael Livingston’s Casebook introduction seem worth pursuing (pp. 14-19), even though I am going with the minority view that the battle took place north of the Ribble and not in the Wirral.
- That Anlaf’s representative came over earlier to strategize with Constantine and Owain, and that the main forces landed later at a planned location on the west coast.
- That the route southward of Constantine and Owain was along the Carlisle to Manchester Roman road through Lancashire (where I am placing the action).
- That this strategic location in Lancashire offered access to York, Anlaf’s ultimate goal, via the Aire Gap through the Pennines, protected by Skipton.
- That Athelstan was caught off guard by the invasion and took a while to respond for several reasons: harvest-time, the location in the west rather than York, and uncertainty of the enemies’ movements.
Taking these as parameters, I have the following notions:
- Anlaf with his main forces arrives at the Lune (Glasson) as observed by Aldred at Heysham, mid to late September.
- Aldred is picked up at Heysham by his Strathyclyde cousin who was sent as an advance scout to meet Anlaf’s group and solidify arrangements to meet up with Constantine and Owain’s troops near Galgate.
- Because the northern forces are delayed in coming south to meet them, Anlaf’s troops begin harrying the Cumbrian and Lancashire countryside for supplies–or, as Livingston argues, are they harrying across the English “border” to the south of the Ribble, prompting Athelstan’s response?
- Currently, I have Aldred brought to the combined Scots and Strathyclyde camp with Anlaf already there at Galgate, where he encounters Earl Oswulf, but the timing is now off. I could have Aldred’s cousin take him to Anlaf first for an encounter with the viking forces, then north to somewhere like Carlisle to meet Constantine and Owain as they start moving south, lengthening Aldred’s stay with them into a week rather than a day, during which time Aldred’s reading of Boethius to Oswulf could have some impact on the earl.
- The northern forces and Anlaf’s band do meet up in Lancashire (Galgate or Garstang) and set out to meet Athelstan’s forces coming north, meeting for the battle somewhere north of the Ribble, early October. Here, as I have it now, Aldred escapes from the northern band as they march south (he goes eastward into fells along Wyre river), but gets picked up by some of Athelstan’s scouts and is questioned, meets my bad guy Seaxhelm, and eventually finds himself on the edge of the battle among the healers and clergy.
Is this making any sense?