Two years have passed since Alfred the Great successfully defeated Guthrum, King of the Vikings.
The fair land of England is at peace. That is, until the harmony is threatened by Guthrum’s angry, vengeful, illegitimate son, Rigr, who is hell-bent on usurping his father’s throne.
Rigr demands his Birthright – an acknowledgement that he is the sole heir to the Danelaw, but his father refuses his claim. Rigr assembles his army; a motley, but formidable, cohort of disenchanted warriors.
Fearsome Guthrum, ruler of everything from Kent to Northumbria, is made aware of the threat and conjures his forces, meeting the rebellious host on the field at Thetford.
Thousands upon thousands of bloodthirsty warriors confront each other on the sunlit, windless plains of East Anglia. The victors will rewrite the course of history, and the fate of England is in the hands of the gods of war.
The author has rated this book PG-13 (questionable content for children under 13).
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.”
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