Coming 3rd April 2012 from: Mercia Books
The Northern Crown Series Book Two
Child of Loki
A divided land ... a divided family.
The Battle of Catraeth has been won and Cerdic's homeland is safe ... but for how long?
Soon Cerdic and his friends must go to war again - against the Scots and Picts north of Hadrian's wall. He goes to help his country’s allies - the Bernicians - under their great
But what is Aethelfrith's true design? How ambitious is he and how far will he go to fulfil
All Cerdic wants is to be left to live out his life in peace.
But Loki, it seems, has other ideas.
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Real life characters are given flesh by fictional ones you think you know personally, and ancient Kingdoms are given back to us.
This is an enthralling read that should be in every historical fiction reader’s library no matter your age. So stop reading this review and buy this book.
Read on for a sneak peek at Child of Loki
[Warning Spoilers if you've not read The Amber Treasure!]
Loidis was in flames. It was the price Elmet must pay for choosing the losing side. I, Cerdic, once heard Abbess Hild talk of forgiving one’s enemies: she said that a man should pray for those who curse you and bless those who mistreat you. These were Christ's words and we should heed them, she implored us. For, they were words of love and words of peace.
But this day was not a day for peace or love. This was a day for vengeance and blood.
But it was we who prevailed. We Deiran farmers and townsfolk from the Wolds and Moors and the lands along the River Humber held on against the odds until our brothers - the Angles of Bernicia - had marched from the North and fallen upon the enemy.
There, at the great Battle of Catraeth, we destroyed them. The tribes from Rheged, Strathclyde and Manau Goddodin had been crushed. So now we returned to our neighbour - to Elmet to make them pay for the hurt they had done us.
That at least was what Aelle - our king - had ordered. He wanted recompense from Elmet's King Ceredig, and punitive steps taken to ensure he could not easily attack us again. For my part I had seen enough blood and death at Catraeth to last a lifetime. I would have been content to stay at home with my family and Aidith, my woman. But Aelle was our King, and my father, Cynric, was Earl of the Southern Marches. Our family’s lands around the village of Cerdham lay
So we went - ten men and boys from the village - led by myself. Amongst them were my three friends: Eduard - tall and broad-shouldered, a fierce warrior, utterly loyal and a true friend; Cuthbert, my other boyhood companion - short and delicate, yet agile and as much a master with the bow as Eduard was with his axe; and Aedann, the dark-haired, green-eyed Welshman, who had once been my slave and was now a freedman sworn to my service. With us went the rugged old veteran Grettir - our teacher once upon a time and still full of the wisdom of a man who has seen many battles.
We left the village of Cerdham with its hovels and huts and left too the Villa - the decaying old Roman house that my grandfather had captured and made into our family’s home. Off we went with the rest of Aelle's army - six companies from the South of Deira - and invaded Elmet. We marched hard and fast, striking deep into the Welsh land and, before he knew we were coming, their King, Ceredig, was staring down at us in horror from the wooden palisade around his city
Aelle's orders had been strict and Earl Harald commanding us followed them to the letter. There was no offer of peace from Harald, no olive branch held out and no chance of reprieve. Not yet. Not until we had smashed our way through the city gates and burnt the houses that lined the main street.
I am an old man now and I have been in many battles and many fights, but despite all the sights I have seen, I will never get used to the screams and cries for mercy from the innocent. The gods blow their trumpets and the Valkyries ride forth to choose who is to be slain and lead them to Valhalla, and men cheer and do battle for the sake of glory or wealth or honour. Yet it is the children and the women who suffer while we men wallow in blood.
So it was that day. Vengeance might sound a fine thing to demand when you stand over the grave of your brother and smell the smoke of your own home burning. But see how you feel when it is someone else's brother, son or daughter who lies at your feet, their home burning whilst you stand nearby, holding the torches that kindled the flames.
Yet it had to be done, did it not? They must be made to regret their attack and be prevented from doing it again. It was us or them; and frankly, when you have seen hundreds die you can harden your heart to the cries of the innocent. Or at least you can try to....
A little later, Eduard, Cuthbert, Aedann and I stood with our men amongst the Wicstun Company in a square at the heart of the city. Smoke from the smouldering hovels and the stench of burning flesh wafted across to us, but I tried to ignore it. In front of us was a long hall: Ceredig's royal palace. Lined up between us and it were two hundred Elmetae warriors, shields held high and spear points sharp and glowing red in the firelight. They were the King's last defence and we and two other companies were forming up in a shield wall to attack them.
"This is it, lads. One last attack and the campaign is over," Harald shouted. "One last attack
"If you believe that you will believe anything," I heard Eduard mutter, but loud enough that
Harald blew one sonorous blast on his horn and we were off. Behind us my father and his huscarls followed and over our heads our company’s standard flapped in the gentle spring
A few arrows flew back and forth above us - but not many for apart from Cuthbert we had brought few archers along with us and the Welsh had only a handful themselves. Nevertheless, one arrow found its mark somewhere amongst the company for I heard a curse over to my right. Glancing that way I saw a man from Wicstun tumble out of the shield wall, blood streaming down his chest and an arrow shaft protruding from just above his collar bone. He slumped onto the ground and sat there, face screwed up in agony, each breath laboured and painful. Then he
We were thirty paces from the enemy, who now locked their shields together, each one overlapping the next. Then they brought their spears down so they pointed towards us and
Twenty paces away now and my gaze fell upon one Elmetae spearman directly in front of me.
Ten paces away and the spears of both armies interlaced each other like the fingers of a man bringing his hands together. Then the shields crashed together. The shock of the collision sent
Panting hard, I took advantage of the reprieve and reached down to my baldric, grasping the
I dragged Catraeth up above my shield just as the youth advanced again, screaming as he thrust his spear at me. I leant to one side, letting the spear point go past and then following up, hacked over the top of the shield and felt the edge cut through tendon and bone deep into the boy's arm. He let out a howl of agony and fell to the ground, shield and spear abandoned as his hands reached up to stem the flow of blood from the wound.
To his right the veteran roared in anger and then hurtled forward, his own wound forgotten, slamming his shield against Aedann's own, knocking my Welsh companion back through the rear ranks. Without pausing, the enemy stepped over to me and kicked hard against my shins. With
Above me the light was blocked by the huge figure of the grizzled veteran standing astride me, his face a mask of rage, his shoulder pouring blood that dripped down onto my upturned face. Yet there was something in his features that reminded me of the young man I had just cut down. It was then I realized that the youth must be his son. Thirsty for revenge and consumed by anger, the old man swung back his sword and prepared to finish me.
"One last attack and then we can all return home," those had been the words of Earl Harald just minutes before. They resounded in my head; hollow now. But then again, maybe he was right.
But if so I would not be returning home to live in peace.
No, instead I would be going home to be buried ...