These are End Times...

All around you is the smell of warfare. Acrid smoke from the campfires, piss and refuse from the latrines, sweat from the men.

And fear. You smell that too.

These men have reason to be afraid. You have spent the last few months fighting King Harold's enemies, only to march double-time to confront his most dangerous yet; William of Normandy. His army is camped below, twelve thousand men strong, in comparison to your eight thousand. There is reason to be afraid. Are you afraid? No, you affirm decisively in your mind. You are not afraid. You are Lord Aethelwulf, The Lord In The North, King Harold's most trusted advisor, and the veteran of a hundred battles. Why should you be afraid of an army of ragtag Normans who come to die on your sword?

Shaking such doubts from your mind, you stride purposefully through the bustle of the camp, intent on checking on the forward defenses. A pair of giggling urchins weave nimbly around you and a staggering drunk lurches out in front of you, notices your sparkling chainmail armor and backs away, apologizing profusely. Striding onward towards the edge of the English camp you pass the watchful gaze of the sentries unchallenged and stand at the upper slope of the hill.

You are not alone. Another man sits on the hill, wreathed in the shadow of the setting sun. Drawing closer you recognize him as Acwellen, a minor lord, but stalwart fighter. His face is stone, his jaw grimly set and his eyes staring out at the horizon. Looking over his shoulder you see the black smoke smearing the red evening sky. In the distance the town of Hastings burns. In the blurry uncertainty of the setting sun, you cannot tell if the glisten at his eyes is tears or just the sparkle of dying sunlight. Acwellen's son, you remember, was put in command of Hasting's garrison.

Above the treeline you can just make out the crackle of flames. Hastings burns.