Bassus sobs. Who could believe a thane would shed tears? “The enemy,” he continues, “they rained blow after blow on our king until he was defenseless, and then pierced his body with their swords. There was nothing we could do.”
The queen’s face is ashen. “You saw my husband defenseless and left him to die alone?” she asks incredulously.
Bassus hangs his head in sorrow.
Paulinus approaches Queen Ethelberga to comfort her. “The king is with God, Your Majesty. He and all our fallen have eternal life.”
“No, bishop,” the queen says without emotion. “He is dead. Is there more to say, Bassus?”
“I will never forget the sight, Your Majesty. When King Edwin fell, our army broke and ran away, slipping in the blood and mud on the battlefield. Woden’s ravens swooped down to feast on the fallen, flying away with carrion in their beaks. Sprawled in the muck wondering if I was dead or alive, I watched Penda cut off the king’s head and pound it into a stake as a sacrifice to Woden.”
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