If you are going to have a female character who has a genuine role in the story then she is going to need an antagonist. I did not see Mildryth picking up a spear and going to Fulford to stab Vikings with it, that is Coenred’s job. Indeed, Mildryth has contracted a bargain with him for his protection from the likes of the Norse invaders. As a man of honour he is obliged to grant her request and seek nothing in return, but there were other genuine threats to women like Midryth and they came in the form of people like Wulfhere.
Originally, Wulfhere’s first appearance was before Mildryth’s window in York, but I felt that it did not suggest the real threat that he presented to her wellbeing, so I wrote the piece that you can download in PDF format below. Life in Anglo-Saxon England was dangerous whether people lived in the city or in the country. Most of them did live on the land, farming being the most popular employment of the entire population. For some this meant living in isolated areas. This is where Wulfhere finds himself, looking down from the hills onto a homestead some distance from York.
In his heart Wulfhere is a man who longs for a life of ease, but he knows that he needs money to achieve his ambition and he has not yet succeeded in acquiring it. At this point in life he is a butescarl, a mercenary soldier, employed by a rich theign. Also at heart he is a coward, so he is accompanied by two thugs who do the nasty work for him.
The attack on the homestead portrays Wulfhere as he really is; the total antithesis of Coenred. What Wulfhere lacks in physical prowess, however, he makes up for with cunning. He is an intelligent man. He lets his brutes do the fighting and only steps in when the most formidable of his adversaries have already been dispatched. Wulfhere is also a mean and cruel person. He takes delight in the suffering of others.
I am not comfortable with writing in detail attacks by men upon women. I think that when the scene closes it is quite obvious what the fate of the women left in the homestead is going to be. I did not feel the need to elaborate it any further. The reader, I think, can be left in no doubt as to the character of Wulfhere and the danger that he is going to pose to Mildryth when they meet later in the book.
Below is a PDF file of the chapter under discussion. Please, click on the link and enjoy.