Book One: BLOOD & DESTINY
By CHRIS BISHOP
‘I lived in a troubled time when the shores of this land were ravaged by fierce, blood-crazed raiders who feared nothing, not even death itself’
BACKGROUND TO THE STORY
It is 878 and Alfred, King of Wessex, stands alone against Guthrum’s Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath the raven banners.
With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney. Whilst few believe he can ever restore his kingdom, he remains determined – no matter the cost.
Among the small band of weary Saxon survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, is to have any chance of defeating the Vikings.
As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal, and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test…
‘Who are you who dares disturb my grave? Who is it that scrapes back the soil from my bones to leave me naked to the eyes of strangers? Surely only the lowest of God’s creatures would pick at a carcass so long dead that even the maggots and the worms go hungry!
You say you seek only the knowledge of who I was and how I came to rest in such a lonely grave as this. Well know then that I am Edward, third born son of Edwulf who was both Ealdorman and counsellor to kings. As to how I ended here is a story worth the telling but it’s not for the ears of those who would grub in the earth with their bare hands and sift the soil with their fingers!
Yet I see some profit here. You have clearly wandered so far from the righteous path of your forebears that your hearts are now as cold as stones and your souls withered like fruits in winter. Have you forgotten that your past is as much a part of you as is the blood which courses through your veins? Therefore I will speak of my time if you will listen; but you must first know that I had then but sixteen years of age and cannot tell of that which was beyond my wit or understanding. My dear brother Edwin could tell you more for he had older eyes than mine and a wiser head, but his memory now is not near as sharp as the sword which he once wielded.
Know then that he and I lived at a troubled time when the shores of this land were ravaged by fierce, blood-crazed raiders who feared nothing, not even death itself. Having secured a small victory against these heathen hordes, our King, Lord Alfred, retreated to Chippenham to rest his weary army for the winter knowing that, come spring, war would begin in earnest. It was whilst Edwin and I were wont to join him there that we came upon the news which, had we but learned of it in time, might well have changed the course of all our lives – and yours.
Thus it was on the tenth day after Christmas in the year of our Lord 878 that we….
But there, I go too quick. To loose a knot you must needs find an end and so it is with my tangled tale that I must find a thread which may be pulled and then, with patience, all may be unravelled…
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