I’d like to apologize to Sir. Winston Churchill as I lifted the title of this story from the opening chapter of his multi-volume work on English history.
Now, before you begin to read I have a few admonitions. First, don’t look for any graphic sex. This is not ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. Second there are references to God, Christ in particular. Don’t get in an uproar about it. Third, it is rooted in history, but don’t get mad if I said something wrong or left something out. Last, I might be an American, but I’m crazy for England too.
Well it’s time to start. I hope you like it. More important I hope you think about the central theme.
And so let’s begin:
The riders galloped in just before dawn; there were two of them. The first man to greet them was old Edwy, the master of our Lord’s horse. I could faintly hear him from my place near the forge. My name is Aelfwine. I’m one of our lord’s housemen; that includes me and my two brothers Wulfram and Oswald. We’re part of a group of seven who serve the great lord of these parts. We live in eastern Wessex. Our lord, the good thane Aidan is of genuine Saxon blood. His is an old family; one of the families who participated in the great invasion some five hundred years ago.
As for me and my brothers we’ve got some Saxon blood, but we’re mostly old English; that is Gaelic, and, thanks to our good grandfather, we’ve a touch of Norse. Our grandfather came to this wonderful green land back in the time of Canute the Great. They say those were the days; a time when men were men and the girls, well the girls they were all ripe for the plucking.
I was up early as was my custom. Though I was a houseman, a warrior by profession, I was also a skilled artisan. Yes I worked the forge with an old man, an old man named Donnell. Donnell they say is pure Gael. He looks it too, hair a bright red, and with freckles that cover every inch of his still solid torso. I hear he’s more than seventy years old.
As for me, why I’m a big fellow; I stand near a head taller than most of the men in the village. Only my older brother, that’s Wulfram, looks down upon me. I’ve got good sandy, near blond hair, and that’s without the lime they say the Gael once used back in olden times. My wife says I have soft hazel eyes. My wife Godyfa says the reason she fell in love with me was because of my eyes.
God, or Gods is it, they know I love my wife. I love my wife near as much as I love my two babes. I love my wife almost as much as I prize my honor; of course everyone knows a man’s honor is the true measure of his worth. Trust me; I’m well esteemed among the people in the land. People know not to scoff or defame me or my family. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a base person; a man treats me with respect, regardless of his station, and I treat him the same. If it’s the meanest thrall, the ugliest hag; they may sit with me when I rest. I’ll share my water with any man or woman as long as he or she shows a decent respect and does his or her fair share of the work. We men of the house have a standard to keep; we represent our lord wherever we go.
About my wife; there’s a woman! She denies it, but she’s a true Gael, yes a Britain from the old times. She’s a tiny thing; she only comes to my nipples, a scant scamp she is. But she’s a beauty. Men come from all around just get a glimpse of her fine red hair and her sultry forest green eyes. Her skin is white like the marble the old Romans used to build their baths. Yes we know of the Romans; by the bones of the Saints we know the Romans, it’s their roads we use!
My wife’s hair is a fiery red; when it’s not braided or kept up it reaches well below her wasp-like waist. And curly, is it curly; it takes her hours of diligent work to get it straight enough to braid. I’ll say, though she’s a precious little thing she eats more than a horse fully grown. Sometimes she just amazes me where she puts it! It amazes me more that she agreed to let me take her as wife.
I don’t dare comment on her eating or any of her other habits for her temper is as fiery as her luscious hair. The man fool enough to cross my wife is a fool indeed; she’s a real vixen that one. God how I love her, but she’s a hard one to please. She married down when she agreed to take the sacraments with me. Her father was a great warrior; a houseman of true renown.
My wife; she’s filled with a vivacity and lust for life that I’m sure will defy the reaper when her day comes. Did I say lust? Lust we’re told is a terrible sin, one of the mortal sins. Well my wife is a lusty girl, and I say she lusts for me! We’ve made three babies; two are still alive. The way my wife chases my sword one would think we’d have had twenty already. We might some day; we’re still young.
Enough about my wife; it’s enough to know she puts a fire in my heart. She stirs my loins like no other! Did I say I loved her?
Though the messengers have gone inside, I say inside my lord’s great house, I can still hear old Edwy grumble. He’s a grumbler; he’ll bemoan that any horse that’s well-lathered is a horse that’s been abused. Today his complaints about the horses are only part of his angst; they’re also partly his way of releasing the tension we all feel.
I fear these riders have come with the news that at least one of the two enemies of our magnificent king may have landed. Did I say fear? I don’t mean fear in the sense that I fear any enemy; I fear the disruption their intrusion might cause my king and our people. Even more, I fear the loss of honor.
The old king, a man I was bound to respect and obey, died not long ago. His name was Edward. Edward was a religious man, a pious man; over pious some said. Edward was a Saxon, but due to the political climate he’d lived a good part of his life across the water among the Normans.
Now these Normans are an avaricious gang of cutthroats and thieves. They’re descended from Norse invaders who landed and settled among the Franks in years back, but with this new lord of theirs, this bastard they call William, they’ve become more overreaching than ever.
Well our old king Edward; they called him Edward the Confessor now that should betray his degree of piety. Our Edward is said to have bequeathed our kingdom, our grand land, to this son of a Norman whore. So what! Our wise Saxon council, the Witan, didn’t like it. Who would want to be ruled by a bastard? Our Witan met at one of our sacred places. Yes, they convened and there they elected Godwin’s son; Harold the son of Godwin was chosen by common lot, by a fair vote, to be the new Lord of our England.
Oh yes, Harold Godwinson, the ‘Golden Warrior’ is our true king. It’s his banner, the banner of the fighting man that flies over our lush fields and verdant forests. No foreign murderer shall ever flaunt his tawdry bastard’s claim over our realm.
My lord, the good and noble Aidan is a subject of Harold, and I’m a subject of Aidan. My blood may be mixed, but my heart, my sword and my axe are Saxon through and through. If the bastard comes, why let him. We’ll show him what a Saxon’s power is.
The Normans are horsemen. I’ve seen them. They cover their bodies and their horse’s bodies with steel. I’m not afraid of them. I killed one once. Yes, the scatterbrain was in London. He was all a braggart about this and that. He said any Norman knight was the equal to two housecarls. Those foreigners refer to we housemen as housecarls. Well so much the worse for them. This knight was a braggart. I called him on it. We stepped outside, and I sent him to our sweet Jesus. I used my sword and split him right in two! His blood was splattered all over everything!
So the knight’s lord got angry; he demanded payment. My lord Aidan, when he heard the cause of the disturbance demanded payment in kind. Aidan rightly claimed the Norman knight was a fool to make a claim he couldn’t sustain. When last I heard the two sides were still haggling. It’ll take a monk, or an old Breton, to sort that one out.
It could be the riders brought news of a Norman landing. If they did, then we’ll be called out. Harold has vowed not to let his realm be ravaged by any invader. If the Normans have come we’ll gather quickly, march out, and serve them up. On the other hand the riders might have brought news of another sort.
To the north, across the Poison Sea I’ve been told there’s another claimant to our land. There’s the old warrior of Norway, a killer by the name of Harold Hardrada. Hardrada, though he’s a legitimate king, his claim to our throne is no less perilous than the Bastard’s. Hardrada’s emblem is a flag with a black raven. I’m not sure if it’s the flag or the raven; but all throughout the lands to the east he’s referred to as the ‘land waster’.
Well I say too; let the ‘land waster’ come. If he comes we’ll show him he’s not fighting a pack of pagan Teutons or Slavs. We’ll meet him wherever he chooses; we’ll send him to his heathen afterworld. Yes, I’ve heard the old people say the people of Hordaland and Scodaland, and even the Danes still worship the old stone gods. If they do, and if they come to our shores, we’ll give them a taste of well-forged and well-honed Christian steel. Yes mark me; our loving Jesus and his Saints will give us the power to drown the heathen in a sea of their own blood.
Oh I see my lord has come out through his main portal. He’s waving at me. I best move ahead. It looks as though the time has come.
.... There is more of this story ...