King Edward the Confessor's realm is under threat
from within and without, from Norway in the east and Normandy to the south.
This story is about an Anglo Saxon family
caught up in the tumultuous events of the eleventh century England which were to change the face of
the country for ever.
The RAVEN the LION and the
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Early morning, April, 1032
- Weolud, Mercia, Englaland -
The River Welland, Lincolnshire, England
An ominous high curved prow gradually emerged out of the swirling mist, revealing a ship bristling with metal helmeted warriors; a recurring spectre of horror along the east coast of Englaland.
“Vikings! Viking raiders!” shouted a shepherd, standing on the bank of the Weolud, his voice cut short by an arrow striking him in the mouth; another thudding into his chest.
“Wake up! Edwin! Wake up! We're on fire! Where is Eadrick? The village is under attack! Vikings!”
“What?” said Edwin rubbing his bleary eyes in the half-light; now hearing the warning church bell.
Suddenly the bell stopped ringing.
“Wake up! Get yourself dressed and find your brother. Move!” His father rushed out of the room.
Edwin dressed rapidly as smoke began to fill the room. Dropping a piece of rag into a bowl of water, he put the stinking wet cloth over his nose and mouth and began a frantic search, shouting for his baby brother.
“EADRICK! EADRICK! EADRICK!”
From the other side of the house he could hear his father also shouting his brother's name. Most of all he could hear his mother's frenzied screams. Screaming for her baby.
Through the ever-increasing heat and smoke the search was becoming impossible. Still he had to carry on and find Eadrick. The ceiling behind him collapsed in flames. Now the whole house began to vibrate and suddenly roof timbers to his left appeared to explode in a ball of fire, falling to the floor in a shower of sparks.
His exposed skin beginning to singe, half blinded by the smoke and fumes Edwin burst out of the main door of the house only to be seized and thrown to the ground.
“Grab ham!” shouted a foreign voice.
Edwin's arms and legs were tied with ropes.
“Han er den siste,” shouted another.
Not able see or to wipe his streaming smoke-smarting eyes, he felt every pebble and rock as he was dragged along the road to where others were imprisoned screaming.
He heard his name and felt a cloth dabbing his eyes.
“Father! Where is Eadrick?” whispered Edwin, now able to see.
“He was nowhere to be found.” His father was holding his grief stricken wife, momentarily quietening her by hugging her close to him.
Edwin looked back at their house and bakery. It was now nothing more than a raging inferno.
“Poor Eadrick,” he closed his eyes as he tried to imagine his brother's pain.
“Flytte ut! Ta denne varen tilbake til skipet!” came the order.
“Father, what are they saying?”
“I think they're taking us to their ship.”
10 May, 1041
- Duke William's Fortress, Rouen, Northmandig -
“Stop that that noise!” he mouthed to himself through clenched teeth, thumping the stone floor with his fist with each word. Edwin felt like shouting aloud but he couldn't. “I can feel my heart pounding, I'll never get back to sleep. I know it's not their fault.” He was fully awake and would have to put up with the grunts, coughs and snores that resonated around the Duke's great hall.
Lying back in the darkness he gradually relaxed, became perfectly still, not moving a muscle, allowing his mind to disconnect from the rest of his body. It was a regime he practiced, from time to time, to clear his mind. After some while he moved his head, glanced over at one of his sleeping companions who, despite his nudging, continued to make popping sounds with each breath expelled from his hairy, unwashed face. Edwin smiled to himself. He turned away allowing his thoughts to drift from the safety of his rock hard bed, which was warmed only by radiated heat from the dying embers in the fire-hearth in the centre of the hall, to his sæ journey the previous day. He was the youngest of a small troop of warriors, a twenty-two year-old housecarl from Upper Barnstæd, who had volunteered to accompany Bishop Ælfwine of Wintancaester to Duke William's palace in Rouen, with the royal warrant requesting Prince Edward's return to Englaland. King Harthacnute and his council of wise men, the Witan, had declared Edward heir to the throne of Englaland.
Edwin coughed to clear his throat and turned onto his side.
He remembered the steersman shouting, “Strike!” and pulling hard on his oar in unison with the rest of the crew, feeling the ship slide silently through the calm waters out of Bosham harbour; the raising of the sail, the harbour, the coastal headland and the Wihtland soon lost from sight to the cold, damp, dawn mist. Though Edwin had much experience at sæ, he always felt a dreaded unease when losing sight of land and he wasn't the only one to experience that same fear; fear of the sæ and of being vulnerable. He remembered, ten or more years ago, as a boy, walking bare foot on the mudflats at low tide off Convennon Teg, which was not far from his home and seeing a wreck of a ship far out on the flats. It had been exposed by the low tide. He had walked towards the wreck, feeling the sandy mud squeezing and oozing between his toes, kicking through the piles of excreted lugworm casts that dotted the surface of the flats. Arriving at the wreck he found it to have been carrying huge blocks of rough-hewn stone and although the bulk of the wreckage had long been washed away, most of the keel was in place, trapped by the stones. The tide had been about to turn and by now the clear waters were up to his ankles. On a whim he had ventured a little further, feeling the hard rippled mud floor under his feet. He had felt the water turn icy cold and had been gripped by fear. Immediately ahead the sæ was black. He had found himself standing at the very the edge of the mud shelf where it dropped suddenly away into the unfathomable deep. Realising the danger he was in he had turned and fled back, panic stricken, towards the beach.
Edwin opened his eyes wide and was relieved to hear the snores and feel the floor of the hall. 'I must have drifted off,' he thought. 'Why do I stick my neck out, volunteering for these damn sæ journeys? To prove to myself that I'm not afraid? If so, I must be stupid because each time I crew or sail out to sæ, I'm gripped by my own intimate terror of the deep and of losing sight of land.' Changing position he tried sleeping on his stomach but, still feeling uncomfortable, turned onto his right side, pulling the cover over his head, continuing to muse about the journey, the battle against the storm, their ship tossing every which way, plunging into bone juddering waves. He began to grin as he remembered the Bishop draped over the side spewing his guts. 'You would have thought, seeing as he is a bishop, he would have had divine protection, being fortified by the responsibility of representing King Harthacnute, as his royal messenger boy.
'Oh Wodin!' Edwin winced again and thought about the giant wave that had crashed over the bow and nearly washed the Bishop overboard. 'He disappeared from view! We were struck with sheer fucking panic! He had the royal warrant. But there he was, still on board hanging on to the ship's rigging for dear life, his feet kicking wildly in the air. I hate the sæ and the sæ hates me! I was glad to see the Seine, Rouen and dry land. If yesterday is anything to go by, all I can say is this doesn't bode well; in order to get mummy's boy, the precious ætheling back to Englaland.' Edwin winced, 'He's a grown man for fuck's sake, who still jumps when mummy calls.'
He drew back the cover and saw that somebody had lit an oil lamp at the far end of the hall. He took a deep breath and watched the distant flickering flame. 'I almost feel sorry for King Harthacnute, our ill looking monarch. Pity he is such a nasty bastard. Thin and pale as he is and coughing up blood, I doubt if he will last much longer, and he's only twenty three years of age.'
“Wilf! Have you got your stuff packed?” asked Edwin.
“Yep! I just have this small bundle, I'll strap it onto my back.”
“Well, we need to find the Prince and see whether he needs any help.”
“I suspect he's got more than a large chest to take back. After all he's been over here, what is it, twenty years?”
“More like twenty five,” replied Edwin.
Wilf was a year older than Edwin but a head shorter and built like a rock, with arm muscles to crack walnuts. He had been trained by his father as a swordsmith but had become bored with village life, so had left to become a warrior and eventually a housecarl. He said it was for the adventure and travel. Like Edwin, he favoured the battle sword over the skeggy. As someone once said, you're at a disadvantage when swinging that long handled axe. You can't hold a shield at the same time, unless you have tremendous arm muscles to do it.
Approaching Prince Edward's room they could hear him in private conversation with someone.
“Shhh!” whispered Edwin, bringing them both to a halt outside the slightly open door. “There's something odd between Edward and this fourteen-year-old Duke.”
They remained outside, listening.
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