Christmas Surprise

It was during the English Civil War that they came once again to the British Isles. While England had gone from pagan to Catholic to Protestant faiths over the previous thousand years, they did not. They first arrived off a small coastal village in Wales. They came as they always had, at dawn. While Cromwell's New Model Army had temporarily repressed the ceremony of Christmas, the invaders had not noticed the the irony of the date of their arrival: December 25.

On dawn on Christmas morning, the villagers noticed were sails coming for them over the horizon. The invaders came in British-styled ships, but they saw no naval ensigns or jacks that were familiar to them. Several thought it was a foreign invasion fleet, come from the Continent to exploit the chaos of war. However, many of them had fearsome dragon-headed symbols.

As the ships drew closer to the shore, they unleashed broadsides at the village. Special incendiary shells set fire to their homes. Many began to huddle in the village's church on Christmas morning. As the ships drew closer, villagers ran to escape from the invaders. The town watch and militia tried to assemble, but most of the men were off fighting the war. Only a handful of people were left to defend the village. Half of them had tried to flee, and the others tried barricading themselves inside the church.

Launches from the ships headed for the burning village, each full of hirsute men in strange armor holding copies of English muskets, large shields, and a variety of melee weapons. They formed a shield wall and advanced up the hill towards the church. Behind them, a looting party grabbed anything of value they could. Women, children, and property were placed back into the launches for departure.

The raiding party eventually reached the church, and threw torches inside. The building burned, and the pyre began to smoke the defenders and villagers out. As they came out, they were either shot or taken as slaves. Many prayed for help from God. None came. The ones praying only received a death from fire, bullets, or trapping themselves in the burning building. As the raiders withdrew, they left only death and ruins behind them.

It would be weeks before the few survivors could receive any sort of help. A relief force arrived several days later, and there was little trace a village had ever been there. Only ruins, ashes, and bodies remained. The identity of the invaders was unknown, but the army had to concern itself with the civil war first and foremost.

Several months later, the raiders arrived at their home port, and offloaded their slaves and plunder. The forgotten Norse colony had escaped conversion to Christianity, and had eliminated any colonies that were placed down by the Christians. Now, having mastered modern gunsmithing and ship-building techniques from the slaves they had taken, they were ready to put the fear of the Norsemen back into the world that had forgotten about them. The Vikings unintentionally made their return to Europe on Christmas, and soon, other parts of Europe would receive the same surprise on other days of the year.