Matthew has kindly given us an extract from this latest, fabulous book in his Bernicia Chronicles series, which follow the adventures and experiences of Beobrand HAlf-hand. Ocer to Matthew:
“The weather has been fine these past weeks, has it not?”
“Aye,” Acennan smiled, “better than riding through rain and mud, shivering without a fire at night.” They both recalled the misery of the year before when it had rained almost every day of their month of riding along this southern border of Northumbria. All of them had been ill by the end of it, and their clothes had rotted on their backs from being constantly sodden.
“You are not wrong there, my friend,” said Beobrand. “But do you remember last year, even when the sky was filled with rain and storms raged in the heavens day after day, even then, we caught some of the Mercian brigands raiding into the lands of our king? Remember, there was that fool we caught when he tried to ride Theomund’s stud stallion?”
Attor and Cynan, who were near to Beobrand and Acennan, laughed at the memory.
“We were hardly needed then,” said Acennan. “That Mercian boy was made to regret stealing a proud Northumbrian horse!”
More men laughed at the memory. One of the few moments of that rain-drenched month that they were happy to remember. The huge stallion had not been pleased to be ridden out of its warm stable and it had thrown the Mercian youth from its back and then, when the boy sought to drag him away by pulling on the horse’s reins, the beast had attacked him. The horse had trotted back to its master’s stable. The stallion had reminded him of Sceadugenga. Beobrand and his warband had found the Mercian lad trampled and bleeding in the mud.
The boy had still been dazed when they had hanged him.
“There was not much need of us then, you are right,” said Beobrand. “That horse was well able to look after itself, it seems. But even then, with the constant rain, men raided from Mercia, seeking to steal what they could. How many men have we seen raiding this past fortnight?”
“We have seen none,” replied Acennan, “but I for one am happy of the peace and the good weather. Perhaps I am getting old.”
“Perhaps you are at that,” laughed Beobrand. “Eadgyth has tamed you when you are at your hall, of that there is no doubt.”
“I am sure she does.”
Acennan was happier than ever. His land prospered, as did his family. Eadgyth had borne him two fine children and Acennan doted on them all. But there was little that could be described as old or tame about him when he rode with Beobrand’s warband.
Beobrand stared at the smear of smoke in the pale sky over the southern hills.
“But does it not strike you as strange that this year, when the weather has been fair, and there has been a full moon and clear skies, we have neither seen nor heard of any bands of Mercians striking into Deira?”
“Perhaps you are right, lord,” he said. “But what do you think is the cause of the calm over the land?”
“I do not know, my friend,” Beobrand answered, smiling to himself at Acennan’s use of the term “lord”. He only called him thus when he was angry or nervous. “But something is not right and south of here I would wager a hall is burning.”
He straightened his back and stretched his shoulders and arms in preparation for a hard ride.
“Attor and Cynan, you are to ride ahead as scouts. Gallop back to warn us if you smell a trap. This could be bait for an ambush.” Beobrand raised his voice so that all could hear. “The rest of you, prepare to ride. We will seek out what is the cause of this smoke and mayhap we will find what has kept the Mercians so quiet these past weeks.”
Cynan and Attor nodded and kicked their steeds into a canter that took them down the slope of the hill and quickly into the shade of a stand of elm.
Acennan frowned at Beobrand, but touched his spurs to his horse’s flanks, trotting forward with the remainder of Beobrand’s gesithas.
Beobrand understood his friend’s concern and he acknowledged that he was probably right in his appraisal of the situation. Surely no good could come of this.
For Beobrand led his warband into Mercia.
To read my review of Warrior of Woden click here.
AD 642. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fifth instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.
Oswald has reigned over Northumbria for eight years and Beobrand has led the king to ever greater victories. Rewarded for his fealty and prowess in battle, Beobrand is now a wealthy warlord, with a sizable warband. Tales of Beobrand’s fearsome black-shielded warriors and the great treasure he has amassed are told throughout the halls of the land.
Many are the kings who bow to Oswald. And yet there are those who look upon his realm with a covetous eye. And there is one ruler who will never kneel before him.
When Penda of Mercia, the great killer of kings, invades Northumbria, Beobrand is once more called upon to stand in an epic battle where the blood of many will be shed in defence of the kingdom.
But in this climactic clash between the pagan Penda and the Christian Oswald there is much more at stake than sovereignty. This is a battle for the very souls of the people of Albion.
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Heroines of the Medieval World, is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.
©2018 Sharon Bennett Connolly