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Writers of Anglo-Saxon literature: Patricia Bracewell on Edmund Ironside

Thank you, Paula, for inviting me to your blog site and giving me an opportunity to offer a brief sketch of the career of one of the heroic figures of late Anglo-Saxon England.
Edmund Ironside, Warrior King.
In preparing to write my novels about Emma of Normandy I immersed myself in everything I could learn about the 11th century Anglo-Saxon royals, including Emma’s stepchildren, the elder sons and daughters of Æthelred the Unready. Not surprisingly, the royal child who received the most documentation was Edmund Ironside who, after his father’s death, ruled England for 222 turbulent days.
A contemporary account of that period appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC), written by a clinically depressed monk who lamented the events in the reigns of both Edmund and Æthelred but offered the historian and the novelist few details. We know the WHAT, but we rarely know the WHY or the HOW. As a result, historians have to speculate, and novelists like me turn those speculations into story.
Edmund was born in about 989, the third of six sons from his father’s first marriage. He and his siblings were raised by their somewhat notorious grandmother, dowager queen Ælfthryth, at her estate about 10 miles from Winchester. They grew up in an England that was repeatedly assaulted by the Danish king Swein Forkbeard and his allies. By 1013 three of Edmund’s brothers had died in their teens or early twenties—illness? Misadventure? Battle wounds? We don’t know. They simply disappear from the records. That left Edmund, his eldest brother Athelstan (presumed heir to the throne), and younger brother Edwig.
In July 1013 a massive fleet led by Swein and his son Cnut landed in northern Mercia, intent on conquest. By year’s end Æthelred, Queen Emma and their young children had been forced to flee to Normandy. Did the sons from Æthelred’s first marriage accompany them across the Channel? The ASC doesn’t say, but it’s likely that they remained in England and may have led forays against the Danish garrisons that were now scattered across the kingdom.
Swein, though, was able to call himself king of England for only two months before he died suddenly in February 1014—an unwise move that brought Æthelred roaring back from exile in April. Cnut, who believed (mistakenly) that he’d inherited England when dad breathed his last, was sent pelting back to Denmark with the remnants of Swein’s fleet.
Two months later Edmund’s brother Athelstan was dead at age 28, unwed and without issue. Again, we don’t know how he died. Edmund was at his bedside and was executor of his will, suggesting that they were close, and the will itself provides a glimpse into their lives. Athelstan had servants, retainers, and numerous associates among the English elite. He owned armor, weapons, horses, movable wealth, and 16 estates in 9 different shires. Presumably Edmund had similar possessions. Athelstan left Edmund properties and weapons that included an heirloom sword of the 8th century Mercian King Offa. Historian N.J. Higham interprets this bequest as Athelstan passing “the mantle of succession” to Edmund, urging him to lead the English against the Danes.
Edmund surely got the message, but he wasn’t king yet. He was forced into action, though, when Æthelred made another of the questionable decisions that characterize his reign. In August of 1015 he ordered his son-in-law Eadric Streona, the ealdorman of Mercia, to murder two powerful northern Mercian nobles—associates of Athelstan and Edmund. The king confiscated their possessions and imprisoned one of the widows. Edmund, in a move that could not have pleased papa, seized the widow, married her, and took her north to claim her dead husband’s properties and the fealty of his men. This was not romance, but politics. (The bride’s sentiments are unrecorded, of course, but she gave him 2 sons.) The marriage gave Edmund control of a wide swath of northern Mercia, an area that two years before had harbored Swein and Cnut. It’s possible that what Æthelred probably interpreted as Edmund’s rebellious power grab was actually an aggressive response to rumors of a new Danish threat; because while Edmund was fetching his bride and claiming lands in the northeast, Cnut of Denmark landed in the southwest and began plundering.
Cnut, like Edmund, was now about 27 years old and his father had been, albeit briefly, king of England. Cnut wanted the throne. Æthelred was near 50, ill, and unable to respond to this Danish upstart. But Edmund gathered an army from his new lands and marched south to confront Cnut. He was thwarted by his treacherous brother-in-law Eadric Streona who had also raised an army and “meant to betray Edmund”. (ASC) We don’t know what Eadric intended exactly. Did the two men meet and quarrel? Did Eadric hope to curry favor with Cnut by ridding him of this fierce claimant to the throne? The novelist wonders, too, where Eadric’s wife, Edmund’s sister, was when this was going on. Were her sympathies with her husband or her brother? We know only that Edmund and his army sheered away from Eadric’s force. Eadric submitted to Cnut (which may have been his plan all along), and took with him many of the magnates in the southwestern shires of England (ie. an army). So now, Cnut had English allies riding with him.
Cnut and company ravaged northward throughout the winter of 1015, a tactic that fed and rewarded their men, terrorized the English and discouraged any resistance. Edmund twice gathered an army but his war leaders were reluctant to fight. They might not have known who to trust— Eadric, who was a powerful ealdorman of Mercia and had apparently accepted Cnut’s claim to the throne; or Edmund who was the king’s son but who had rebelled against his father, and where was the king anyway? They wanted Æthelred in their midst to be certain that they were fighting on the right (winning) side. Meantime, Æthelred dithered, and although he finally led a force from London to join Edmund, a rumor of treachery (real or imagined) sent him haring back to the city, and again Edmund’s army dispersed.
Ever resourceful, Edmund turned for aid to another brother-in-law, Uhtred, Ealdorman of Northumbria up in York; but instead of attacking the Danes who were terrorizing Eastern Mercia, they ravaged Eadric’s lands in Western Mercia, a move that puzzled even the monk writing the ASC. Perhaps Edmund hoped to deprive Eadric and Cnut of food and forage; perhaps he hoped to draw Eadric away from Cnut and so reduce Cnut’s numbers. Later chroniclers suggest he was punishing those who refused to take up arms against the Danes. Meanwhile Cnut and Eadric stormed into Uhtred’s Northumbria, and Uhtred was forced to return home to defend his people. Edmund, his army again depleted, headed for London, perhaps drawn there by news of the king.
It was now well into March of 1016. While Edmund rode south, Uhtred attempted to submit to Cnut but was murdered by one of Cnut’s allies. With Uhtred dead and Northumbria now securely under Scandinavian control, Cnut returned to his ships on the Dorset coast. Possibly hoping to trap both Edmund and Æthelred in London by laying siege to the city, Cnut sailed for the Thames estuary. Before Cnut made it to London, though, Æthelred died on 23 April, and Edmund was proclaimed king.
Edmund’s coronation must have been a hurried affair, and his first move as king was to get out of London before Cnut’s fleet arrived. He led his retainers deep into Wessex where he cajoled or coerced the West Saxons to give him their support. Cnut was laying siege to London, and Edmund needed an army to relieve the city.
Throughout 1016 Edmund Ironside’s movements and those of Cnut over hundreds of miles, each man probably leading 2000-3000 men, looked like this:
PHOTO #1 OF MAP

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From The Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages.

This map, though, only hints at the logistical difficulties that Edmund overcame in raising, arming, supplying, and transporting, on horse and on foot, at least five different armies in his effort to defeat Cnut, who had the advantage of a fleet and probably had horses as well. Edmund must have been a skilled commander and strategist, and a man forceful enough to bend men to his will. Twice Cnut laid siege to London, and twice Edmund’s armies drove him off. Battles fought at Penselwood, Sherston, and Brentford in the southwest led to casualties on both sides, but no definitive victory for either.
In September, 1016, Edmund chased the Danes across Kent to Sheppey, an easily defended island that had often been a haven for viking armies. Edmund halted his troops fifteen miles west of the island, at Aylesford, where good old Eadric Streona sought him out and offered his allegiance. Remember, Eadric had murdered (among others) the first husband of Edmund’s wife; had conspired in some way against Edmund himself; had been Æthelred’s favorite, but had betrayed the king by submitting to Cnut; and had convinced the lords of Wessex to betray the king as well. Now he was offering to switch sides a third time by throwing his support behind Edmund. Historian Simon Keynes uses the word “unscrupulous” to describe Eadric Streona; the ASC calls him “treacherous”; Jamie Jeffers of The British History Podcast calls him “a traitorous little shit”.
Edmund, though, accepted his allegiance.
“No measure could be more ill-advised.” (ASC)
Edmund!! Why??? We can only guess. Eadric was powerful, wealthy, and had a large English army with him. Edmund couldn’t kill him without huge repercussions. There were likely complex familial, political and moral complications in their relationship that we can only imagine. And if Eadric, scoundrel that he was, was fighting at Edmund’s side, at least he wasn’t fighting on Cnut’s side. Numbers in this conflict were crucial.
Cnut’s fleet left Sheppey, and Edmund may have believed that they were making for Danish-controlled York before the winter gales set in. Perhaps Eadric convinced him of that. But Cnut did not sail to York. He sailed to Essex where he beached his ships and plundered toward Cambridge. Historian Timothy Bolton suggests that Cnut wanted to draw Edmund into a final battle. He describes Cnut as cunning, and Edmund as a straightforward warrior; and Cnut’s cunning worked.
Edmund gathered another army and on 18 October 1016 he attacked Cnut at Assandun (Ashdon) in Essex. It was a long, fierce battle. The Encomium Emmae Reginae, written 3 decades later, claimed that the Danes raged rather than fought, and that they were determined to conquer or perish to a man. But at the height of the battle, that treacherous little shit Eadric Streona, fighting on the English side, turned tail and fled with all his men, “and so betrayed his natural lord and all the people of England.” (ASC)

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Streona with his countrymen leaves the battle

The Danes held the slaughter field at Assandun, but Edmund still lived. He rode west with the remnants of his army, and seems to have wanted to fight on. But too many of his warlords had been killed, including two ealdormen and another brother-in-law. His councilors urged him to meet with Cnut and make peace. Eadric Streona, with a foot in both camps, (still!!!) played intermediary, and at a meeting on the isle of Alney in Gloucestershire on a date that went unrecorded, England was divided between them. Cnut could call himself king of Northumbria and Mercia, including the trading powerhouses of York and London; Edmund remained king of the West Saxon heartland, Wessex.

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The 2 young princes meet at Alney and decide on the division of England

The two men made pledges of friendship and, according to the ASC, of brotherhood. That pledge of brotherhood, I think, is important because as Edmund’s brother, Cnut could lay claim to Wessex if Edmund should die. And 43 days later, on 30 November, 1016, Edmund died.
We don’t know what caused his death. Later chroniclers blamed Eadric Streona and there were lurid tales of an iron hook in the king’s hinder parts. A far more likely cause: a wound taken at Assandun. Of course, it could be argued that if Edmund had any inkling that his death was imminent he would never have made an agreement with Cnut at Alney that disinherited his remaining brother and his sons; but in the 11th century even a slight wound, easily dismissed, might fester and lead to death. Or, Edmund’s loss at Assandun may have made his position too weak militarily to oppose anything that Cnut demanded.
Edmund was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. As is usually the case, we have no idea what happened to his wife, Aldyth. She may have accompanied her infant sons to Hungary where one of them grew up, married and had children. Edmund’s grand-daughter would wed the king of Scotland, and her daughter would wed William the Conqueror’s son, Henry I. Edmund’s Anglo-Saxon blood line continues today in the English royal family.
None of this tells us what Edmund was like as a person, although it’s safe to say that he was bold and courageous. He hounded Cnut all over England, and faced him in hand to hand combat. But we don’t know what he felt toward his father, his wife, his sons, or even his stepmother, Emma. That emotional territory is the province of the novelist. In my first two novels I imagined Edmund as a quiet youth, but watchful; suspicious of his father’s Norman bride—something I believe was quite likely. In my third novel, not yet published, I have given him a viewpoint and a voice, and I have pitted him against an enemy far more dangerous than his stepmother. He is a vigorous man of forceful character who steadfastly defends England against Danish conquest. He is a heroic figure in the image of his forbears Alfred the Great and King Athelstan. I based that on how the ASC portrays him: a warrior king who raised and led five armies, but who lost half a kingdom through treachery, and before he could win it back, lost his life.

Sources:
Bolton, Timothy, Cnut the Great. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017

Campbell, Alistair, Ed., Encomium Emmae Reginae, Cambridge University Press, 1998

Higham, N. J., The Death of Anglo-Saxon England, Sutton Publishing, Gloucestershire, 1997

Rodwell, Warwick J., “The Battle of Assandun and its Memorial Church: A Reappraisal”, The Battle of Maldon: Fiction and Fact, Cooper, Janet, ed., London, 1993

Savage, Anne, Trans., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, CLB, Wayne, New Jersey,1997

Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents, London, 1979

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Patricia Bracewell’s first two books, Shadow on the Crown (2013) and The Price of Blood (2015) are available in paperback, e-book and audio book formats. Her novels have been published in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, Italy, Germany, Russia and Brazil. In the fall of 2014 she was honored to serve as Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library, Wales, and she continues to travel extensively for research. She holds a Masters Degree in English Literature, lives in Oakland, California, and has been in love with England and its history since childhood. She is currently completing the third novel in her series about the 11th century queen of England, Emma of Normandy.

Paula Says

Thank you so much, Pat, for coming on my blog to talk about one of my greatest heroes of the 11th century. Like many others who have had their lives cut short before they could reach their full potential, Edmund never had the chance to fight to regain England back from Danish rule, and I definitely think he would have given Cnut a run for his money. He was, unfortunately, the only leader at the time who seemed to have the wherewithal to stand up and take the English forces to the fight. He was indeed a great hero. Your extensive research really shows here and I am grateful that you have shared so much of it here!

One question I have is that I notice you don’t mention Godwin, later Earl Godwin under Cnut. I have always thought that Godwin was a member of Edmund and Aethelstan’s retainers, due to being returned his father’s land in Aethelstan’s will, I just wondered what your thoughts are regarding him?

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The Battle of Dunsinane: MacBeth Vs Malcolm Canmore

The Road to Hastings and other Stories

Malcolm

July 27th – Malcolm, the exiled son of King Duncan I, marshalled thousands of English and Danish warriors in Birnam Wood, in Perthshire, where he had come, supported by his kinsman Siward, Earl of Northumbria to defeat the king of Alba. Nearby, a few miles from them, MacBeth was camped on Dunsinane Hill, expecting to meet Malcolm in battle. This was meant to be the decisive fight that would see Malcolm take back the crown from the man who was said to have killed his father, Duncan, in battle. But although Malcolm’s troops slaughtered 3000 of MacBeth’s men, MacBeth was not done, and it was not for another 4 years before Malcolm would wear the crown of Alba, becoming Malcolm III, King of Alba.

Duncan 1 Duncan I

Following the death of his father, Duncan I, in 1040 at the hands of MacBeth, Malcolm fled to his kinsman, Siward, Earl of Northumbria…

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Writers of Anglo-Saxon Literature: Cliff May

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Interview with Cliff May

Please welcome Cliff May to Writers of Anglo-Saxon Literature spot. As you can see by the premise of this blog, I’m very interested in the period once called the Dark Ages, but now called the early Middle Ages. Cliff is an author I’ve known for sometime and we have a shared interest in the post Romano period and the later Anglo-Saxon era. 

Cliff, I’ve had your books on my TBR list for what seems like an eternity, but getting closer! To help me decide which one to read, I thought I’d ask you some questions about your books as I know you have written quite a number. Firstly, tell me how long you’ve been writing, and a bit about the series you have published.

Hello Paula, thanks for inviting me here! I began writing full-time at the end of 2012, so I
am now in my seventh year as a full-time writer.
At the beginning I was unsure whether to write historical fiction or fantasy, but I read an
article which advised aspiring authors to begin with a subject they already knew a fair bit about to cut down on the research needed, stop procrastinating, and actually get some words down. I am a long term fan of the Beowulf poem and it combined elements of history and the fantastic, so this seemed a good place to start. My original idea was to tell Beowulf’s story from childhood through to glorious death in old age fighting the dragon, but once I reached the Grendel episode I found that I wanted to spread my writing wings; so I ended it with the death of Grendel’s mother and it became the trilogy known as Sword of Woden.

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A scene from the Beowulf and Grendl film starring Gerard Butler

Next I moved back a thousand years in time for my Conqueror of Rome duo, drifting south geographically to tell the story of the migration of a Gallic tribe from what is now
Northern France. Known as the Senones, they crossed the Alps to settle in Northern Italy
around the year 390BC. Naturally the peoples already living there were a bit put out
having eighty-thousand hairy barbarians turn up out of the blue, and in the fighting which followed both the Etruscans and Romans were comprehensively defeated. They sacked and occupied Rome itself for the good part of a year; it was a pivotal moment in the growth of the then small city state, in many ways the shock which led to the creation of the Roman Empire.

 

I really enjoyed my research and writing about the ancient Celts but I missed the Anglo-Saxons which have always been my first love, so it was back to the sixth Century for my
following trilogy, King’s Bane. The main character, Eofer, had earned the sobriquet by
killing the Swedish king Ongentheow in battle. An Angle, he had featured as a minor
character in the Beowulf books, so this gave me the opportunity to continue the timeline
from my Sword of Woden series and shift the focus of the tale from Scandinavia to the
migration of the Angles from Jutland to what is now East Anglia in England where I live.
The final book, The Scathing, sees Eofer and his war band helping to found the kingdom of Mercia in the Trent Valley.

Conqueroro of Rome

One of the advantages of being a truly independent author is the fact that you can write
about any subject which appeals to you, so I jumped forward four centuries for my current Erik Haraldsson series. Better known to history as Erik Bloodaxe, he was the favourite son of Harald Fairhair, the first warlord to unite the scattered provinces of Norway into one centralised kingdom. At the end of the first book, Bloodaxe, a hostile political act by the English king Athelstan undermines Erik’s position at home forcing him to give up the kingdom and go Viking. I am writing the final book of the trilogy now which will see him become the last king of an independent Northumbria.

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Well, that gives me quite a bit to go on I reckon! Definitely a man after my own heart, especially where the Anglo-Saxons are concerned. So, where did you get the inspiration for your books? Do you have an author who has influenced you in your writing?

My ideas all come from my love of history in general and the Anglo-Saxon period in
particular. We are surrounded by history in this country. Within a short walk or bike ride as a child I could visit a Battle of Britain spitfire airdrome, a Palaeolithic watering hole where the bones of mammoth, lions and hippopotamuses were discovered and one of the very earliest Saxon settlements at Mucking. I believe that people in the past were the same we are today with all our strengths and weaknesses, only technology has changed, so for anyone with imagination it is easy to repopulate the landscape with those who have gone before us, be they pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, children watching Luftwaffe air fleets filling the skies or Viking raiders on the nearby River Thames. As for author influences I read very little fiction; I have too many stories in my own head and I am always afraid that I will unwittingly plagiarise.

Who are the main characters in your books and tell me and my readers a bit about them?

Beowulf, I am sure, needs little introduction. A Dark Age monster killer, I wanted to delve beneath the superhero image and discover what made him tick, the influences and
experiences in his childhood and youth which made him the man in the poem. That
Beowulf can appear to be a bit of a braggart to modern ears, a bit one dimensional, so I
introduced compassion; he rescues a young girl from sexual abuse and finds her a home in a loving family, supporting her financially until she reaches adulthood. I also added a
psychological condition due to a head wound gained in battle to make him appear less
invincible. This worsened as the tale developed until… Well you will have to read the
series to find out who cures the hero, but the title Sword of Woden may offer a clue!

The Conqueror of Rome duo really contains three main characters: a female druid, a boy
destined to be a great British warrior and a young Gaul at foster who will become
chieftain of his clan. The boys become part of the warlord Brennus’s Gallic migration to
Italy, while the druid is driven by vivid dreams to discover the destiny the gods have in
mind for her. It is a story of journeying – physically, mentally and emotionally as the trio
grow from childhood to adulthood and go out to make their names in a violent world.

Eofer Wonreding is the hero of the King’s Bane trilogy, the man made famous by killing the king of Swedes in the Beowulf tale. He is highly regarded by his king and people, the go-to warrior if a difficult job needs doing and doing well. However his undoubted abilities cause problems for our man. The king and leading men of the Angles wish to elevate him from thegn to ealdorman. Following the death of King Hygelac of Geats in battle against the Franks and Frisians (which you can read about in my short novel Dayraven, which loosely links the Sword of Woden and King’s Bane series’) Eofer’s wife is now the sister of the new king of Geatland and no longer content to be the wife of a lowly thegn. Eofer resists both entreaties for as long as he can as he clings to the freedom to raid and generally come and go as he pleases without the added responsibility which would come with the advancement. Eofer is the last of the Angles to leave Jutland for the new home across the North Sea, but as Jutes, Danes and finally the Britons of Powys fall beneath his sword and the Angles become established in their new home the situation smoulders until a final tragedy strikes.

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Unlike my other main characters, Erik Haraldsson is the son of a king and born to rule.
Unfortunately his father, Harald Fairhair, appears to have sired at least twenty sons, most of whom felt they too deserved to be high king on Harald’s death. A brother war followed which Erik won, only for a dimly remembered half-brother who had been fostered with King Athelstan to return with English help. But Erik is nothing if not a fighter, and along with those who remain loyal to him and his royal Danish wife Gunnhild he wins new kingdoms to rule in, first the Orkneys and Hebrides, and then the kingdom of York and Northumbria itself.

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Tell us who is your favourite main character and your favourite supporting character and why you enjoy them so much?

It always surprises people when I say that Catumanda, the female druid in the Conqueror of Rome series is without doubt my favourite main character. She actually started out as a he, but when I did my first rewrites it just became more and more obvious as I read the story that the character was crying out to be changed to female. She is a very strong young woman, and deadly if you get on the wrong side of her; confident, cheery and outgoing, I am a little besotted with her to tell the truth!

My favourite supporting character is Thrush Hemming, Eofer king’s bane’s senior hearth
warrior. Steadfast could be his middle name, so much so that he earns himself a war band of his own by the end of the series. There is a period in book two, Gods of War, where Hemming has to take command of the hearth troop in desperate circumstances and he doesn’t bat an eyelid. Loyal and capable, he is the perfect second in command.

When starting a new book, how do you structure it? Do you set an outline for yourself, or do you write freely and let the story come? Or do you use any other method?

Once I have researched the subject I have a pretty good general outline of the whole story from start to finish in my mind, down to the closing scene and even the last line. I roughly sketch out the story arc for each volume so that they work both as stand-alone tales and as part of a series, and after that the details tend to take care of themselves. I use a series of sketch books for each volume in which I jot down lineages, the names of ships and other details which need to remain constant throughout the books and then just start writing. I liken it to a long motorway journey; you know the start point and destination, and you have a pretty good idea of what will happen en-route, but the smaller details are unknowable until they occur.

I like that comparison! Is there anything of you in your writing, your experiences, characteristics etc? 

 

 

I think that there must be for all writers. I do believe that my own work draws on my life
experiences, and that some of the tougher times have been the most valuable. I have
crewed the replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour, renovated a medieval hall and
suffered the joys of childcare; it all goes in there. Writing full time can be a tough gig
when you are the only source of income for the family, but there is no place to hide and I
am sure that the determination to fight against the odds is reflected in quite a few of my
characters. Historical fiction, like history itself, tends to be written through the eyes of
the upper echelons of society (it is more interesting than a life tilling soil after all) but I
like to think that I manage to give the common folk if not an equal voice, at least visibility in my tales.

Do you have a favourite author at the moment?

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Harry Sidebottom, writer of books set in ancient Rome http://www.harrysidebottom.co.uk/the-books/

As I said above, and I know this goes against perceived wisdom, I read very little fiction.One author I do follow is Harry Sidebottom. One of his main characters, Ballista, is an Angle fighting in the service of Rome so I can get my Anglo-Saxon fix without worrying about inadvertently duplicating his ideas. It also helps that he is a terrific writer ofcourse!

What books are you reading?

Just one at the moment, The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby. He is a retired travel writer
and journalist who as a young man in 1938 crewed a tall ship to Australia and back – the
grain race of the title. I am a bit of a people watcher so enjoy reading first-hand accounts
of travel and action. Being a travel writer his descriptions of mountainous seas and broody skies are breathtaking and useful for my own work.

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What are you working on currently and what are your future writing plans?

I am a third of the way into the final book of the Erik Haraldsson trilogy which will be
available this autumn. At the same time I am writing a series of short stories which will
present alternative outcomes for the various invasions of 1066 to be published this
summer. Early next year I have a book to write which will tidy up a few loose threads left hanging at the end of the king’s bane trio, in a similar way that the short novel Dayraven straddles the earlier series’.

I have it in mind to tell the story of the Angles from the time of their involvement in the Beowulf poem, through the migration to Britain and culminating with the death of their first Bretwalda, the high king Raedwald of Sutton Hoo fame. There is still a fair way to go, so the new main character for the following Anglian trilogy will come to the fore there. To give myself a little variety I may well expand on the Erik Haraldsson books by writing a string of Scandinavian/Viking trilogies at the same time.

Is there anything else we should know about you or your books – let us know of any
significant appearances or events. 

As I said above, I am a single parent and have been for five years now. My youngest was still in primary school at that time so I had to get my head down and make this writing lark work. That of course meant that giving book talks and attending book fairs etc were out of the question without bringing the whole tribe along with me so I learned to get by without such things. The upside was that I could concentrate my efforts on producing new material; every book written brought in new readers, and I gradually built up what can only be described as a worldwide fanbase. Very few people successfully combine the skills of authorship and marketing and I know that I am not one of them, so I concentrate on what I do best which is writing new stories. The majority of my books have been Amazon bestsellers, so thankfully most readers appear to enjoy them.

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Bio

Cliff May is a writer of historical fiction, working primarily in the early Middle Ages. He has always had a love of history which led to an early career in conservation work. Using the knowledge and expertise gained Cliff moved with his family through a succession of dilapidated houses which he single-handedly renovated. These ranged from a Victorian townhouse to a Fourteenth Century hall, and he added childcare to his knowledge of medieval oak frame repair, wattle and daub and lime plastering. Cliff crewed the replica of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavour, sleeping in a hammock and sweating in the sails and travelled the world, visiting such historic sites as the Little Big Horn, Leif Eriksson’s Icelandic birthplace and the bullet-scarred walls of Berlin’s Reichstag.
Now he writes, only a stone’s throw from the Anglian ship burial site at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia, England.

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Follow Cliff on Twitter

Well, that was fabulous talking to you Cliff, you sure have had some exciting adventures and this is obviously reflected in your writing. I was particularly intrigued by your admission that you have been to the site of the Little Big Horn, I can’t imagine how moving that must have been. I would definitely find that very emotional and also the Endeavour, which growing up in Australia as a kid I had learned so much about. The awful conditions that must have been faced by those transportees must have been horrific. The medieval hall experience must have also been very poignant, being able to touch the walls intimately and walk on the same floorboards that have been walked on over hundreds of years is just amazing. Thank you for guesting on my blog Cliff, it has been a great honour and here at 1066: The Road to Hastings we wish you the very best.

 

Historical Writers Forum: Interview my Character Blog Hop

Paula Lofting Interviews Casmir, Prince of Agrius

Casmir and Irisa 1
Casmir just couldn’t resist trying out my phone to take a selfie!

Before we start, the Casmir’s creator would like to invite you to take part in a competition to win copies of her books. Two lucky winners will be winning ebook copies of Books 1 & 2 in the Crown of Destiny series: The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter, and all you have to do is leave a comment in the comments section on the blog, or on our Facebook blog page if you prefer!

The Draw will be announced on our  blog page on Saturday the 6th July.

Well, my Lord Casmir, please do sit down I hope you have had a pleasant journey here and the roads were not too full of brigands?

Casmir: Agrius is quite safe for travel, I assure you.

Then please, come into my parlour and take some refreshment with me. I have wine, tea, and water for your pleasure, plus cake of course.
[Casmir nods then selects from refreshment for himself. He refuses my offer to pour his wine but takes up the flagon and pours for himself. I take the opportunity to observe this king without his notice. His bearing is regal of course, as would be expected. But he is also casual. His attire is exquisite without being ostentatious, proving the rumours that he is not one to flaunt his wealth or title. I quickly divert my attention elsewhere as Casmir turns, offering me a genuine smile as we progress through to the parlour.]

So, your Highness, I’m honoured that you agreed to speak with me today. First, let me establish if there are any subjects that you refuse to talk about?

There are Crown affairs which I cannot discuss, certainly. But please, proceed.

Ok so here we go. Your Highness, I understand that your family are the rulers of Agrius. Tell us a little bit more about the kingdom, what language you speak and a bit about the history and how your family came to be rulers.

Casmir: The Agrian people share an ancient history with the kingdoms to the west, across the Eastmor Ocean: Pania, Elbra, and more distantly, Mercoria. We share a common language, though like every culture with a common language, the ages have refined and changed the language to suit the people. For instance, my wife’s mother was from Pania, and in Pania, they address a female royal as Yar Hátin. “Faro í fridði, Yar Hátin” means “Go in peace, Your Highness.” That tile followed her to Agrius, and though Agrians would not use it specifically, our people now address her in that way. We make our home in the city of Prille, the place from which the kings of Agrius have ruled since the days the city was merely a distant military outpost. Situated atop cliffs in the natural port waters of the Tohm Sound, it guards access to our island from the south. Over the centuries, my ancestors settled our island home, dividing it into ‘honors’ ruled by barons loyal to the Crown. Agrians have known peace since the days of my three times great-grandfather, Ancin. At least until my father came to Agrius.

Thank you, sire. It would be wonderful if you had a map to show us. Oh you have, how delightful!

Agrius

Anyway, what I wanted to ask you was this: In your story, you present yourself as having two personalities. One is very open, approachable, kind and thoughtful. The other is very statelike, guarded and closed. Why is this I wonder? Can you be honest and open up here?

Casmir: Have you ever been forced down a path of destiny that you would not have chosen had you been given a choice? Those who read The King’s Daughter have seen glimpses of my childhood. I experienced manipulation in my youth, and for this and because of my mother’s guidance, I learned early to guard my heart and my thoughts. My path has never been an easy one.

That’s very interesting. No, I don’t think I have ever been forced into that position where I would not go myself, but I can imagine its been quite a hard road to take. 

You make an appearance in both novels, but we see far more of you in Irissa’s story than Kassia’s where I think you make a brief appearance. How did your author come to create you? Are you based on a real person/persons or has she created you completely from her imagination? I’d so love to know how you were created.

Casmir: My author didn’t necessarily plan to write a second book after The Scribe’s Daughter. The idea came to her when she had that novel half written. My initial scene in that first book was a minor tool to move the plot forward more than anything else at the time, but once she developed the idea for the second book, my role became very key to the ending of the first novel and therefore the second book. My author found inspiration in one of Sharon Kay Penman’s characters, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth from her nove,l Here Be Dragons. Llywelyn the Great, as he was called, was a man of deep conviction, a man of still but deep waters, but Penman wrote him with a bit of swagger and charm. As my author created me, she made a very intentional decision to steer clear of making me a perfect man. She wanted me to have flaws. I was raised a royal, and as such grew up with a certain understanding of the world which some might call entitlement. Others might call it arrogance. Yes, I am definitely arrogant at times, but compared to other royals I am quite humble. Similar to the English King Henry II, I tend to avoid grandeur of dress. She also wanted me to be a man forced into the spotlight as a royal but who, had he been raised a peasant, would have been happy with the anonymity of a quiet life. Those two opposites created a fantastic way for her to give my life tension as she developed the ideas for the second book. In that book, I really came into my own, having the ability to take the perception of me created in the first book and turn it on its head. This was her plan all along, I believe.

Your author sounds like a very clever person. Briefly tell us about the novels you are featured in.

Casmir: Briefly? [Casmir raises an eyebrow as he sips his wine, watching me over the cup. Finally, he lowers it and offers me a wry smile. I am nonplussed for a moment, for he is very charming and enigmatic indeed.] 

My Council knows better than to put too many restraints on me, but I will try to abide by your wishes. The Scribe’s Daughter tells the story of two sisters who had grown up in poverty, living in fear of something that their parents had successfully kept a secret. When the sisters’ father disappears, presumed dead, they must manage life as orphans in poverty. One day, a man shows up at their market stall offering the younger sister, Kassia, a bag of coin to fix some of his jewellery. She didn’t possess the skill necessary, but she also wasn’t dumb enough to turn down the money. This set Kassia off on a journey that would take her into prison, through deep swamps, and into sparkling palaces, all the while chasing answers to the mysteries of their family’s past. What she learns changes her entire understanding of the world, except by finding the answers, she loses much of who she once was. The King’s Daughter tells the story of the second sister, Irisa. While Kassia is away, Irisa is approached by the same man who had hired her sister in the first book, telling her that her life is in danger and that she must come with him. Very early on in her journey, Irisa discovers the same mysteries as Kassia, but Irisa uncovers a very surprising and very different truth from Kassia. Nothing is as simple as readers came to understand in the first book. When it comes to my character in these books, readers are left with one impression of me after the first book and come to see me in a very different light in the second book. I think this amused my author greatly.

I can vouch for that, my lord, having read said story. So, I want to ask you about the Lady Irisa, what did you really think of her when you first laid eyes on her?

Casmir: She looked a great deal like the goddess, Adonia. [ He smiles, and I note that Casmir’s eyes have a faraway look in them.]

Just who is that, this Adonia person?

[Casmir’s smile clearly displays the type of charm his author gave him and that he referenced earlier.] 

Casmir: Adonia comes from an ancient religion originating in Mercoria, I believe. Adonia is the goddess of love and desire, and she still has followers in the Imperial City of Corium in Mercoria. There are few, if any, followers of that practice in Agrius even if everyone knows who she is.

Speaking of Corium and Mercoria, i see that they are not on your map, your highness, are they not part of Agrius?

They are not. Mercoria is west of Elbra and Pania, two kingdoms across the Eastmor Ocean from my island kingdom of Agrius. I believe I have an old map somewhere that shows the location. I will ask a scribe to deliver a copy to you.

Pania

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting, your first impression of Irisa was that she was very beautiful. You must have thought her very beautiful to have believed her to be Adonia. But what did you think of her personality? Did it take you long to take to her? Were you happy to wed her? I know that it was what Veris’ wanted for you. Did you feel obligated, or were you eager to meet her and marry her?

Casmir: You have seen my wife, yes? I am confident most men have the reaction I have had, and that was the reason her parents insisted she always wear a kerchief to hide her beauty. But have you met her? Talked with her?   Mercoria

 

 

 

 

When I first met Irisa, it was in quite unusual circumstances. She had only just arrived in Prille, at the palace. She had not refreshed herself, was still travel weary, and had just escaped her apartments over a hedge to explore the palace. I came upon her enduring the attentions of my oldest friend, Wolf – or more formally, Wigstan of Bauladu, if you prefer. And believe me when I say his sobriquet is well deserved. She was definitely a fish out of water, as they say. She did not look or act the part of a typical lady of court, and certainly nothing like the ladies paraded before me over the years. I was instantly intrigued.

It was when I rode with her through the streets of Prille, to give her a tour of her new city, that she fully entranced me. Beneath the unassuming personality sheltered a sharp mind paired with a compassionate heart.

It was a difficult time for me after that, having always learned to hide my thoughts and feelings from others and to guard my heart. You are aware that most noble marriages are arranged and not necessarily for love? Irisa was unique, and I was terrified of losing her. Until we married, there was always a risk. But once we were wed, I felt I was finally able to allow myself to be happy. My cousin Ildor had very political reasons for choosing her for me. It was not unexpected. But he had no idea what would come of our union. I suppose we didn’t either.

Stephanie's world

Yes, i suspect he was rather peeved that your union worked out so well. [ Casmir nods and i see a glint in his eye. ] I remember when you and Irisa took that ride through Prille. I wondered then if you had engineered that ride purposely to see how she behaved, thought and felt.

Casmir: No, I am not that scheming. It was merely a courtesy on my part at the time.

I meant no offense, Sire. 

Casmir: None taken

Good job too, I don’t want myself thrown into a pit to rot somewhere now do I? 

On the subject of women, how do they figure at the court of Agrius?

Casmir: [sips at his wine and a smile lifts the corners of his mouth at some private amusement] You have to understand that women in Agrius are generally not relied upon for political leadership. While there is nothing specifically forbidding it, it just has not been the practice of our people. With that in mind, neither my mother nor my older sisters were expected to have much say at court.

My next question might be a little awkward, however I’ll ask it anyway: I understand that you never really wanted to be king, but you are born to it. If you could do anything else, be anything else, who, or what would it be?

Casmir: There is another kingdom across the sea, where there is bred a type of horse that is far superior to any other breed of horse the world over. Kings and emperors are the only ones to own such magnificent animals because so few are foaled each year and the cost is well beyond what most can afford. I think I would like to own these animals and perhaps breed them.

 Ah I can see how that would be enticing , I love horses myself and have been known to ride a bit.

Next question, apart from Irisa, tell me about a character who is good, and a character who is bad.

Casmir: There is, I believe, a single person who fits both your descriptions. If you would be so kind as to bear with me while I explain, it will become clear why I say this. There is a distant cousin on my father’s side of the family who was instrumental in helping my father take the throne of Agrius from the Sajen family. While my relationship with my father was conflicted at best, and I was kept from my mother, Cousin Ildor was like a father to me. He provided a young prince with guidance and direction, he helped me through the confusing years as a teen boy, and he showed me genuine warmth and affection. I know it to be ironic now, but in many ways, I am the man I am today because of him. Yet there was a side to Cousin Ildor that I never knew or understood when I was young. It was only in recent years when his true nature was revealed to me. Cousin Ildor had many schemes in his years as my father’s chancellor. My father was not interested in ruling Agrius, and Cousin Ildor was happy to manage the parts my father did not or could not. And as the next king of Agrius, I was one of those parts he was happy to manage. While I believe he had genuine affection for me, he also had plans for me, and in this way, much of his guidance was manipulative. And what he did to my wife’s sister, Kassia, is unthinkable. So in this way, you see, Ildor Veris is an inescapable part of who I am today, both good and evil that forged who I am, both as a ruler and a man.

I wasn’t very taken with Ildor Veris actually, even before he revealed his true colours. How do you feel now, knowing that you were duped by him?

CasmirAnyone who read Kassia’s story should understand unequivocally that Ildor Veris was not a good man. What he did to her says all one needs to know about his character. But what you must understand is that as a very skilled deceiver, he was able to hide this part of himself from me. As a young boy, he needed my affection, and he was truly like a father to me. So no, I understand why readers would not feel sympathy for him, but for me he was a vital part of my life. When Irisa first met him, she had heard all the stories based on hearsay and others’ experiences of him so was initially afraid. Once she met him in person, her caution melted. He was not like the stories, and it took her time to see the real side of him. Since he was family to me, my poor Irisa had a very difficult time convincing me that the side to him she saw was the true one. I would not listen to her. However, with persistence, she was able to finally convince me. Once I learned the truth of him, the strength of my anger and hurt was too overpowering, and like other powerful emotions, I was never quite sure what to do with them. It was easier to lock my anger away, like other negative feelings, and not deal with it. My mother taught me well how to hide my true feelings, so it was easier never to speak of him. Irisa sensed this about me and really never brought him up again, knowing that to speak of him would likely anger me. My pride could not handle it

What is your greatest achievement so far?

Casmir: Eradicating slavery in Agrius. Time will tell however, what the long-term impact will be. Not everyone was pleased with this course of action, particularly the parts of Agrius who benefited the most from the trade.

There’s always those who have no empathy toward their fellow humans willing to make money out of people’s misery isn’t there?

As we wrap up this fascinating insight into your life, your highness I’d like to ask this penultimate question? What are your favourite scenes/scene in the book?

Casmir: There are many, but perhaps the one that is the most significant in my life was my very first meeting with Irisa. I admit I was taken with her from the start, though initially it was purely an amused form of curiosity and fascination. Yes, of course her beauty struck me immediately, but she was what some might call an ingénue – wholesome, innocent, not interested in the machinations of court and palace intrigue. Neither of us knew who the other was at the time. She was simply a disheveled young woman who was clearly not comfortable by either her surrounding or the company she found herself in. And I knew she had to have been completely out of her element when she had no understanding of what the impact of her family name would have on me or anyone else in the palace. I still smile to remember that day.

I sigh inwardly. Quite obviously this man is very in love with his Irisa, I don’t think that I will ever stand a chance. 😦

So last but not least, can you give us a glimpse of what is in store next for Casmir as you and your lovely Queen Irisa embark on your next part of the tale?

Casmir: It is or should be, known that kings face difficult decisions in their rule. Sometimes what is done for the betterment of the whole people can also anger another segment. Kings always have enemies. Those who thirst for power will always thirst for it. And when a king makes a decision that angers those with power, there are consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences, in this case, hit very close to home. As the story of the next book unfolds, I am tested as a king, a man, and a father. As I descend into the darkness of these struggles, I must wrestle with what kind of man I will become. Will I become the man my father was? Or even Cousin Ildor? Or will I forge my own path, becoming the man I want to be, the man Irisa believes me to be?

And here endeth the interview. Please read on for links to Stephanie’s sites and book links and an excerpt from The King’s Daughter. And if you would like to be entered into the competition to win an ebook, please leave a comment on the blog or on our Facebook blog Page. The Draw will be announced on our  blog page on Saturday the 6th July.

Author Bio

SChurchill head shot
Stephanie Churchill

Evoking the essence of historical fiction but without the history, Stephanie’s writing draws on her knowledge of history even while set in purely fictional places existing only in her imagination. Filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal, her writing relies on deeply drawn and complex characters, exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world. Her unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy ensures that her books are sure to please fans of historical fiction and epic fantasy literature alike.

Links:
Purchase The Scribes Daughter
Purchase The King’s Daughter
Pre-order The King’s Furies: mybook.to/TheKingsFuries
Stephanie’s website: https://www.stephaniechurchillauthor.com/

And now, the reader may enjoy Casmir’s chosen excerpt from The King’s Daughter

“Ah, my lord! They told me you were practicing at the pell.” It was Ildor Veris, and he strode purposefully toward us. “I bring you a wife, as promised.”
My heart dropped like a cold lump of stone. As Veris closed the distance between us I perceived that his gaze was fixed, not on the balding limpet clinging to my hand as I’d originally thought, but rather on someone beyond us, in the middle distance. I followed his look and noticed for the first time another man in the shadows, leaning casually against a column, his arms folded as he took in the scene.
Now that he had been addressed, he straightened and stepped into the dappled sunlight where I could take in more of his measure. His considerable height was matched by a slender build and topped with a full head of dark brown hair touched with bronze, putting me in mind of my father when I was a child. His jaw boasted the ghost of facial hair along his jaw and chin, as if he hadn’t tended to his grooming that morning. He wore a generous linen tunic, damp from obvious exertion, over silken hose encased by soft leather boots running up to mid-calf. A practice sword hung at his hip, evidencing his recent visit to the pell as Veris had suggested.
Veris stopped at my shoulder surprisingly untroubled by my presence when he likely expected me to be in my chambers and opened his mouth as if to speak again. But in that moment, he took first notice of the poet-postulant still holding my hand. Scowling, he offered, “Wigstan,” in greeting, a curt bob of his chin punctuating his displeasure. It was enough of a distraction for me to finally pull my hand free.
Wigstan returned the scowl, muttering, “I prefer Wolf.”
“Of course you do,” Veris returned dryly, his nose crinkling with distaste.
With a sniff of disdain, Veris turned his attention back to the newcomer who broke in with his own question. “Cousin Ildor, what is this about?” The man was obviously intrigued as his gaze switched between me and Veris, clearly surprised by the news. He hadn’t expected this. I resisted the urge to smooth my hair, recalling rumpled appearance and vine-tousled tresses. “I don’t recall mention of a wife, and so soon upon your return from Mercoria. You’ve only just arrived, have you not?”
“I sent word that I had a surprise, did I not?” Veris called out.
“Well, yes, but I thought maybe it was a new courser. A wife is something altogether different.”
Veris waved his hand impatiently. “This is the Lady Irisa.” He indicated me. “I will explain everything later. My man has returned from Haern, and I must be off,” adding a “Wigstan” and a nod as an afterthought.
“I prefer Wolf,” Wolf repeated irritably.
I did my best to hide a laugh. “Wolf?” I asked him, my brow arched in amusement.
He smiled impishly, indicating the woman behind him, and with a helpless shrug, laughed.
“He is named Wigstan after the god of virtue…” the newcomer offered as he closed the distance between us, “…when he should be named Cyrdric after the god of depravity!”
Both men laughed heartily at the private joke, slapping each other on the back.
My soon-to-be husband studied me closely, his smile sportive. He seemed to be enjoying my discomfort. “I suppose I should have pressed Cousin Ildor more intently to learn what brought about this change in my fortune, but I was too taken-aback. Would you care to enlighten me how this came about?”
“I am afraid that is a bit of a long story, sir,” I replied quietly, feeling at a disadvantage for many reasons.
“Lady Irisa…” he mulled, testing the sound of my name as he considered it. “You are not from here, are you? Mercoria, perhaps? The accent is telling.”
“Yes,” I answered, breaking my gaze from his, hoping he wouldn’t press me too closely for answers I couldn’t give.
He nodded, triumphant at his accurate guess. “I suppose Cousin Ildor retrieved you while in Corium.” He studied me up and down for a moment, as if assessing livestock for purchase. “Do you know when it is we are to be wed?”
His tone was engaging, light, and encouraging, though I couldn’t match his congenial mood considering the circumstances. “No, sir, I’m sorry. He told me nothing more.”
“Who is your father, Irisa, your family, if I might be so bold to ask?”
There was no sense lying, and no getting around the truth. “Sajen, sir. Bedic Sajen.” I dropped my gaze to the ground, cursing Veris under my breath for his lack of sensitivity and candor, either with me or with my partner in this surprise.
Both men startled at my response. “Bedic Sajen? Are you certain?” His eyes widened, and he looked as if he might need to sit down. I nodded. “I had no idea Bedic Sajen survived long enough to have a daughter!”
They looked at me as if I would supply the answers to the mystery, but when I said nothing, they eyed each other.
“Irisa,” my husband-to-be began carefully, his voice even and measured, “do you have any idea who I am?”
I raised my eyes to look at him, to see if he was teasing or if he was in earnest. He had asked kindly, though with a certain amount of disbelief. “I must confess that I do not,” I answered, adding a hesitant “my lord” just in case.
Wolf stared at me, his mouth agape. After regaining his composure, he rearranged his expression back into one of casual politeness. “Dear lady,” he coughed, “this is Prince Casmir.”

I would like to thank His Royal Highness, Casmir, King/Prince of Agrius for his openness and frank discussion about his life and wish he and his beautiful spouse, the Queen, a long and fruitful life!

Coming Next!

Saturday 6 July Nicky Moxey https://nickymoxey.com/ interviews General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, exceedingly determined soldier from Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the histfic saga – Celtic Fervour by Nancy Jardine

To catch up with the previous character interviews check out this Link

 

Interview My Character – Wulfhere, Thegn of Horstede

Wulfhere, Thegn of Horstede stops by Christine Hancock’s blog today as part of the Historical Writers Forum: Interview My Character #BlogHop. Check out his frank and honest story!

Byrhtnoth

Today I have a visitor on my blog. As part of the Historical Writer’s Forum Blog Hop, I am interviewing a character from the Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting, a series of historical novels set in the 11th century in the years leading up to the Battle of Hastings.

Wulfhere is a rather large Anglo Saxon warrior, so I have made sure Byrhtnoth is out of the way, in case he gets jealous and starts a fight.

Welcome Wulfhere, may I offer you some mead, or would you prefer ale?

Mead if I may, the strongest you have.

I make it myself and have had no complaints. Waes Hael!
Now, please introduce yourself – who you are, what you do?

Well, Christine, I am a king’s thegn, which means I am beholden to him for my 5 hides of land. The current king is Edward, son of the…

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