Every year my husband leads his men in battle. We need cattle, tribute, and slaves so we can reward our warriors. My husband’s enemies need the same thing. Raids and counter-raids are an endless cycle, justified because our enemies follow Woden. Penda of Mercia to the south enjoys Woden’s special favor, not always winning, but never truly losing. Cadwallon of Gwynedd is another matter. He professes to be Christian, but behaves with a ruthlessness beyond Penda’s reprisals.
Now Penda and Cadwallon fight together, their alliance upheld by Cadwallon’s marriage to Helen of Mercia. I warned my husband. I told him he was pushing too hard and taking too much. I told him they would join forces, but he laughed. “What does a woman know of battle?” he asked.
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