The Briton and the Dane The Complete Trilogy 2nd Edition
I haven't been this excited about a book trilogy in decades! This trilogy is a must read!Jax
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Release date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Literary Underground
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The Briton and the Dane The Complete Trilogy 2nd Edition
Mary Ann Bernal
The Briton and the Dane
Alfred the Great, the first King of the West Saxons to be acknowledged as King of the Anglo-Saxons, was responsible for defeating the Danish Viking King Guthrum in battle, near Edington in Wiltshire, in 878. Under the terms of the “Treaty of Wedmore,” King Alfred sponsored King Guthrum’s conversion to Christianity and permitted his former enemy to return to his lands in East Anglia, recognizing the formidable Norseman as King of Mercia and Northumbria.
During this time of unsteady peace, King Alfred began a massive undertaking to build up his defenses. He established fortified Burhs along the Wessex coastline where he set up military training camps and founded a well-trained standing army. He also designed a sixty-oar longship, which was larger than the typical Viking ship, to add to his existing fleet. By increasing the size of his navy, King Alfred was able to prevent many raiding parties from pillaging the land as he engaged the Norsemen at sea.
King Alfred was inspired by the great Charlemagne when he founded a seat of learning at his court in Winchester. Because he was devoted to education, he created schools and founded universities; he was able to lure scholars from aboard and was also able to persuade his future biographer, the Welshman, Bishop Asser, to join his ever-growing circle of learned men. The King encouraged advanced study amongst the nobility, promoted the translation of religious and ancient texts into English, and made the books readily available to all his subjects.
Promoting justice, King Alfred founded a code of law, which was fair and just to rich and poor alike. He assigned penalties for every crime imaginable, and substituted monetary compensation for physical punishment, but treason against one’s King and overlord was punishable by death. He also tried to put an end to blood feuds with limited success.
On the international front, King Alfred eagerly developed diplomatic relationships with foreign countries; he not only sent his ambassadors to the European kingdoms and the Papal court, he also communicated with the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Caliph in Baghdad.
Ruling by example, his piety was well known throughout all of Christendom. He memorized prayer services and psalms before he taught himself to read and write, and based his code of law upon the Ten Commandments. King Alfred was tireless in his efforts to eliminate the ancient ways and reinstated the laws of God’s church. He conscientiously followed the ecclesiastical decrees and enthusiastically celebrated the many feast and fast days that were sanctioned by the Pope, and fined anyone who failed to follow the laws of the church, such as not fasting during Lent.
King Alfred’s benevolence and magnanimity was demonstrated when he married his daughter to a Mercian ealdorman and returned the port of London to Mercian rule after defeating the Danes in 886. He established the border between his kingdom and the territory ruled by King Guthrum, which included East Anglia, Essex and parts of Mercia, known as “The Danelaw.”
During this time, peace prospered, but heathen raids resumed after the death of King Guthrum in 890. King Alfred was successful in keeping his country free from Viking rule, but he continued to be harassed by invading Norsemen until his death in 899.
King Alfred left a legacy, which future Kings of England sought to imitate throughout their reigns; while a number of his descendants may have achieved fame and glory, not one ever surpassed the legend. King Alfred is the only British monarch referred to as great.
The Briton and the Dane: Birthright
The opulent night sky was ablaze with sparkling stars, the familiar constellations easily identified by their various shapes and sizes. The North Star was fixed in the heavens, its light steady, a beacon to follow as one headed home.
The falling star’s path was seen for miles as the brilliant white streak of light moved across the evening sky. There were those who believed the gods were angry and feared the worst, but those who followed the new religion did not believe in superstition and omens, and they often searched for the uncommon metal left at the bottom of the crater after the star had collided with the earth. A sword forged from the heavenly remnants proved to be a formidable weapon, and plated armor and shields made from the rare material were thought to be impenetrable.
A slight chill and rising mist created an eerie atmosphere around the Keep sitting atop the hill as a dense fog crept slowly over the valley below the magnificent fortress. Most of the inhabitants traded the wooden benches in the great hall for the comfort of their fur-covered beds while dying embers cast a warm glow for the young couples that still lingered beneath the cloudless sky.
Aurelius walked throughout the valley once the sun set. He conferred with his men who guarded the secret entrance that kept the sanctuary safe from the heathen who still plundered and pillaged the land. But he willingly traded the camaraderie he shared with his brothers in arms for the love bestowed upon a husband by his wife.
Aurelius crossed the courtyard, heading for the Keep. He gazed upon the open sea as moonbeams bounced along the rippling waves while looking across the starlit heavens in search of the North Star.
Arista added more wood to the dying fire before covering her children with a warm blanket. She grabbed a cloak to keep the night chill from penetrating her bones and left the room quietly to join her husband.
“Are the children sleeping?” Aurelius questioned.
Arista nodded as Aurelius tenderly kissed her scarred face and held her tightly in his arms. She no longer hid behind a veil, nor did she shy away from her husband’s touch.
Arista was apprehensive when she rested her head against his shoulder, and trembled when she saw the falling star disappear into the darkness of the surrounding mountains.
“Perhaps, this night your star will return your memory. Would you want me still once you remember?”
“How could I not want you? I owe you my life.”
“One day, the star will take you from me and our children. It beckons you to return to your world.”
Aurelius held her tightly while silently watching the flaming celestial bodies race across the horizon.
Elizabeth found her brother, Cerdic, with Lord Bayen, atop the wall-walk. She was thankful for their love and support during the difficult months after word reached the citadel that the King’s envoy to the Welsh court had been attacked.
She clearly remembered the day when the horse that carried the young boy dropped dead before Lord Bayen and Thomas, Lord Richard’s advisor. She recalled her anxiety when the lad informed them of the carnage, and her fear when he spoke of the dead and gravely wounded. She did not deny her husband had vanished, what she did deny was the presumption that he had been slain.
Tears swelled when she remembered how Lord Bayen and her brother never left her side during her long and difficult birthing, and their concern when she cried out Stephen’s name and begged to die. She recalled the healer’s fright when she pointed to the Lord’s angel who, she swore, stood before her, and their obvious relief, when the boy that she named Gabriel finally entered the world.
Elizabeth was thankful for their King’s benevolence when he pardoned her brother. She was also grateful to Bishop Thurlac when he granted Cerdic a full dispensation to leave the contemplative cloistered life for other worldly pursuits.
Elizabeth could never repay Lord Bayen for his kindness and protection. She was aware, as were most, of his undying love and devotion. She was appreciative of Lord Bayen’s friendship, but she kept praying that, one day, he would be able to love another.
The men silently watched the bright colorful fireballs raining upon the earth. Elizabeth did not pay attention to the brilliant particles that lit the evening sky, but kept her sight upon the steady, dim light of the North Star, transfixed in its position.
“Do you think Stephen gazes upon our star, this night?” she asked her brother.
“It has been more than two summers, yet you still keep your vigil,” Cerdic gently said.
“My heart knows that he lives, and, one day, he will return to me and our son.”
The Briton and the Dane: Legacy
Two Years Earlier
The Pilgrims spoke softly amongst themselves as they walked the forest path. Brother Martel had favored the well traveled main road, but their leader chose to save time by following a more direct route through the woods since the tired band of travelers wished to reach the abbey before Compline.
Sunbeams illuminated the lush green foliage where soft breezes rustled the leaves in the towering trees while furry creatures scuttled between overgrown shrubs as a doe and her fawn jumped over a fallen tree.
“You seem unsettled,” Sidonius whispered. “What troubles you?”
“We are easy prey,” Brother Martel murmured while pointing to the sloping terrain and massive oaks overshadowing the rock-strewn trail.
Sidonius nodded, but he noticed that Brother Martel kept his hand instinctively upon the pommel of his sword as both men warily searched amongst the trees for any sign of mischief while walking deeper into the forest.
Sidonius kept Tarren protectively close and was grateful that the little ones slept. He whispered comforting words when he saw the fear in her eyes while offering to take Emidus.
“No, carrying two is tiring, but I will give you the boy should the need arise,” Sidonius murmured.
Tarren smiled anxiously, but she grasped Sidonius’ hand as she, too, scoured the threatening landscape. She tightened the wrap carrier when Concordia stirred, comforting the child silently when a flock of chirping birds flew frantically out of the swaying treetops just as mounted warriors rode over the crest of a nearby hill.
Bone chilling howls and war cries resonated throughout the woodland as brigands with drawn swords rapidly approached the startled travelers. Women screamed as they ran amongst the trees, but the men grasped the reins of the seasoned warhorses and tried to unseat their attackers, but they fell to the ground with wounds that would readily mend.
“Save your family!” Brother Martel shouted to Sidonius as he freed his weapon and prepared for battle. “Seek refuge at King Alfred’s court.”
“Leave with us,” Sidonius yelled while freeing his dagger. “You are but one sword.”
“My sword will give you time to flee. Await me in Winchester,” Brother Martel replied. “Go! Quickly!”
Tarren was terrified as a mounted fighter charged towards them, but Brother Martel easily deflected the blow, yet he was not able to defend himself against a crazed fighter who ferociously wielded his sword and savagely slashed the holy man’s eyes. Blood seeped down Brother Martel’s face as the blinded religious stumbled against a warhorse. He instinctively grabbed the reins, his hands grasping for his mounted enemy, but he fell to his knees when a spear penetrated his back.
Sidonius grabbed Tarren’s arm, leading her away from the carnage and headed towards the river. Emidus and Concordia screamed as they tried to wiggle free, but the little ones cried uncontrollably when they failed to loosen the wrap carrier.
Sidonius and Tarren were out of breath when they reached the edge of a cliff where the mighty roar of a waterfall deafened the screams echoing throughout the forest as the women were ravaged by their attackers.
The cool spray gently caressed their faces as Sidonius and Tarren looked upon the gushing water crashing upon the rocks, the turbulent river flowing towards the sea. Sidonius looked at the large boulders along the riverbed, scouring the steep and rocky terrain for overgrown trails and hidden caves.
“Do not be foolish,” a fearsome horseman said while pulling on the reins. “Your choice is simple. Take your chances with me or be enslaved.”
“We would be in your debt,” Sidonius replied while helping Tarren onto the animal’s back.
Tarren cradled Concordia, leaning against the stranger as Sidonius swung himself atop the charger, but Emidus screamed when he found himself wedged between his protectors.
“Fear not, little one,” Sidonius murmured. “We are safe.”
Lucian smiled as the well disciplined animal picked its way carefully along the narrow path that followed the winding river as they disappeared amongst the trees.
“Brother Gervase!” A young monk cried as he ran through the abbey gate and headed towards the sickrooms. “There has been an attack in the woods! I do not know how many have been wounded or slain!”
“Fetch a wagon!” Brother Gervase yelled while grabbing a healer’s bag and running out the door.
It did not take long for the holy men to reach the clearing where the vicious attack had occurred. Brother Gervase saw the vultures circling above the motionless bodies when he reached the crest of the sloping terrain. He ran down the hill, stumbling as he hurriedly approached the first victim. He knelt beside the fallen Pilgrim and gently pressed his fingers against the man’s neck.
“He is with the Lord,” Brother Gervase whispered as he made the Sign of the Cross before approaching the Pilgrim who had been felled by the dreaded spear.
Brother Gervase knelt beside Brother Martel’s body and was surprised that he still lived. Blood trickled from the gaping wound as Brother Gervase deftly removed the formidable weapon. He looked compassionately upon the wounded man’s swollen, blood-caked face, and feared the holy man’s sight had been taken.
“Where is the wagon?” Brother Gervase shouted. “His wounds are grave!”
The frightened monk ran towards the crest of the hill, but he was relieved when he saw the wagon was almost upon them.
“Quickly!” The young monk shouted. “One lives!”
Brother Gervase watched as his skillful apprentices carefully lifted Brother Martel into the wagon. The younger monk nodded to Brother Gervase as he jumped onto the seat, grabbed the reins and hit the animal’s back. The wagon creaked and the wheels squealed as the horse trotted through the vast forest. Brother Gervase wanted to push the horse harder and was tempted to take the reins, but he managed to conceal his growing impatience and silently praised the Lord when they finally reached the abbey gate.
The religious community watched in horror, as Brother Martel was taken to the healer’s dwelling.
“Is he mortally wounded?” One of the women asked.
“His life is in the Lord’s hands,” Brother Gervase told her as he ushered the curious from his quarters and firmly shut the door.
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