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Authors: Mairi Norris

Tags: #Medieval, #conquest, #post-conquest, #Saxon, #Knights, #castle, #norman

Rose of Hope

BOOK: Rose of Hope
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ROSE OF HOPE

 

Book One

of the

 

BALLADS OF THE ROSES


 

Màiri Norris

 

 

 

Rose of Hope

 

Copyright 2014 © Màiri Norris

 

Cover Design © Rae Monet

Layout by
www.formatting4U.com

 

This novel is a work of fiction. The names, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or are historical references used fictitiously.

 

Any resemblance to any other actual persons or events, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means without written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

Many thanks to the moderators of the Anglo-Saxon research website “Regia Anglorum” for permission to use the riddling puzzle,
“The Shield”.

I also wish to express my gratitude to Kelly Jackson, Mary Gilgannon and Charlotte Matthews for the excellence of their help in the editing of this book.

Above all, thanks to my loving husband, Mike, my sister, Barbara, and to Charlotte, Lou, Nancy and Jackie, dear friends, one and all, for their unending patience.

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

Fallard, Ysane and I are all agreed: Rose of Hope is dedicated to Cristina from Brazil, our very first “official fan”. Her correspondence delighted us and her loyalty inspired and encouraged us. We appreciate her. Thank you, Cristina. We wish you a long, happy life with your own strong and honorable knight.

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER

 

Everything possible has been done to insure this book is free of grammatical, typographical and formatting errors. Please forgive those few that may have slipped past the many eyes that searched for them.

 

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

A guide to the
Old English, **Old Norman and ***Old Norse
words used in this story.

Angelcynn
—England

burh
—walled, fortified community or walled fortress

burhfolc
or
burhmann
—the peasant class belonging to a
burh

búrlands
—land occupied by peasants, including
ceorls
[freemen]

burnstów
—a bathing chamber

Cantware Burh
—Canterbury, Kent

ceorl
—a freeman, and member of the peasant class who owned and worked his own land, but owed a percentage of his crops/earnings to the nobleman who protected him

Ceteham
—Chatham, Kent [as named in the Domesday Book]

cifesboren—
Saxon oath

Cilterne
—Chiltern Hills

cladersticca
—a baby rattle

Cymry
—Wales

cyrtel
—female undergarment, loose, floor and wrist length

deorling—
an endearment; dear one; darling

dish-thegn
—a steward/under-steward to a lord; one in charge of running a noble household and administering slaves/servants

Eastseaxe
—Essex

eorl
—the approximate of the title ‘earl’ in later years

gástes—
ghosts or spirits of the dead

hadseax
—a short knife, usu. around seven to nine inches long; used as an eating knife or as a hand weapon by men-at-arms; among the nobility, often artfully crafted of steel, silver and gems; noblemen generally kept the blade in a boot sheath, while noblewomen carried it in a sheath attached to their girdle, along with the keys to the household

hearth companion
—Old English:
‘gesitha’
; a nobleman’s household troops, loyal to him for life;
hearth companions
were men-at-arms, but often performed many other tasks for the nobleman, including certain household duties, and that of policing his
burh
and
búrlands
in times of peace; a nobleman might hire men-at-arms or soliders on a temporary basis who were not
hearth companions;
king’s
thegns
were
hearth companions
to the royal household

hylsung—
a Saxon drum with a deep reverberation; none today know its size, shape or how it was played

ieldramodor
—grandmother

king’s thegn
—the highest level of thegn, holding office in the royal household; in authority, subject only to the king himself; holds his land directly from the king or, may inherit them

langseax
—a long knife or short sword, usu. around twenty to twenty-four inches long

léasere—
Saxon oath

nefa
—grandson

nefene—
granddaughter

Santlache
—Senlac Ridge, two leagues [six miles] outside of Hastings, England, the site where William the Conqueror defeated the English King Harold Godwineson on October 14, 1066

scop
—minstral

Sea of Germania
—North Sea

seax
—general term for a single-edged Saxon blade

syrce
—female over-garment, knee and elbow length, voluminous, gathered at the waist and secured by a girdle or rope

thegn
—a high ranking member of the landed aristocracy, usu. wealthy; a nobleman or lord; (
thegns
were of the title of
eorl
or higher); after the Conquest, this title was phased out, to be replaced by ‘baron’; by the time of this story, only a few Saxon thegns still held title, and these were of families who had supported William the Conqueror’s claim to the English throne

Walha
—Welshmen (who named themselves
Brythoniaid
, Brythons/Britons)

Wulfsingas
—“people of Wulfsin” [imaginary family]; the wealthy, noble
Wulfsingas
family traces its origins back more than 150 years, to the days of King Æthelstan, the Glorious (AD 924-939)

“…ingas”—
suffix meaning “people of”

Wulfsinraed
—home of Ysane Wulfsingas (meaning “wisdom of Wulfsin”)

*seven-day
—a week

*twelvemonth
—a year

**“Dex Aie”—
“God aid us” (
Old Norman
); Norman battle cry heard at the great battle of Hastings in 1066

**eschecs—the game of chess

**Nourmaundie
—Normandy, France (
Old Norman
)

**Sanguelac
—“Blood Lake” (
Old Norman
); the name given to Senlac Ridge after the great battle

***björr—
(
Old Norse
); a strong Viking liquor

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Waltham Forest, Northeast Eastseaxe, a few leagues west of the Sea of Germania, Angelcynn [a remote corner of the kingdom]

Wulfsinraed Burh

1078 - The Month of Digging, Raking and Sowing - Early Spring

 

In the shadowed hour before dawn, Ysane Wulfsingas waited for execution upon the parapet atop the wall surrounding her home. Fire blistered along her veins, though she shivered with icy tremors. Her cyrtel clung to her, the undergarment’s damp folds sticking to her chilled skin. ’Twas an irritant worse than the abrasions of her bindings. She shuffled from one foot to the other to ease the cramps that stabbed her lower limbs. ’Twas painful to stand after three days chained to the wall in the holding pit.

Fog drifted among the dark trees in the middle distance. It swirled above the winter grasses and around the knees of the ceorls, eerily silent, who gathered in the clearing across from her to observe the final moments of her life. Below her feet, the dark, cold waters in the river channel rushed swift and deep on their ceaseless journey to the sea.

How placidly the river flowed in summer—sweet memory!—with the verdant green of lily pads clustered here and there along the banks. But this day, in the burgeoning spring, its banks nigh overflowed with runoff from early rains and melting snows. Soft mists of powdery gray rose above the rapid current. Filled with debris, it rushed and gurgled merrily along, as if in mockery of her demise.

Fool. Inanimate things cannot mock.

She shuddered. The thought of her body, caught up in that roiling flood, nigh sent her to her knees. Her foot slipped to one side as she sought to maintain her balance.

Her executioner, his grip bruising, snatched her upper arm. A hearth companion of her husband, he hovered so close she could brush the hardened leather of his jerkin with her fingers. He raised his short, single-edged hadseax in his other hand, the gesture one of menace. “Here now, lady, ’tis too late to try to run. Naught can stop justice from taking its course.”

She made no answer. There was no need. Justice had already been served where ’twas due, and by her own hand. She watched for the movement from Sir Ruald that would signal the moment her life would cease. By his decree, her death was not to be mourned. This was her punishment, for she had murdered her husband.

The sun was nigh to rising. Thick clouds hung low, the air bitter and moisture-laden. First light was shadowy, drear and gray, like her heart.

Fear should rule the haze of my thoughts, for death wins me at last. But that endless flow, a numb and dark unknown, yawns as a sweet release.
Ah, how hushed is the morn, almost as if creation itself awaits the end.

She inhaled, to savor the salt tang of the sea that drifted in faint counterpoint to the more earthy scent of the river. Her gaze roamed one last time over the land of her birth, to the slight incline that touched the toes of the distant chalk ridges of the Cilterne and the indentations of small meadows that opened, unlooked for, in the vastness of the forest. A little hiccup of sorrow escaped her lips. Never again would she see the sunlight turn the woods to emerald and bring to vivid life the meadows overrun with wildflowers of varied hues. She wanted to weep, but the heartache ran too deep.

She glanced toward the village that straddled the river downstream. One last, lone man jogged through the village gate and up the road to join the spectators waiting for the sunrise. Among them, her hearth companions stood fettered. Her soul cried at their bleeding, battered forms. For their loyalty, they also were sentenced to die this day, tossed into the violent flood to be smashed by debris until the black water stole the breath of life from their lungs.

Oh, I cannot bear it! They deserve this not.

Her eyelids drifted shut. Images, hard and fleeting chased across their shadowed landscape.

Cynric, why have you abandoned me to meet my fate alone? I mourn your loss. Walk you still in this mortal plain, or have you too, been deprived of life? Angelet, what evil fortune decreed your doom? How I miss you.

Oh, that monstrous night. Has it truly been but three days since life crashed round me in ragged shards, ripping bloody strips from my soul? ’Tis as if I have lived a lifetime of pain. Would those last moments before Renouf’s assault could be relived, how differently would I have behaved. Yet, what is done, cannot be undone. At least in death there is peace.

She opened her eyes to meet the glee in Leda’s expression. The slave, at least rejoiced.

Domnall, held by two burly hearth companions at river’s edge, met her gaze. Even bound as he was, they feared his strength. He regarded her through eyes dark with a plea for forgiveness. She found the strength to smile. ’Twas all she could give to ease his remorse, for he was not to blame for this fiasco. His jaw tightened and his bloodied lips pursed, but he nodded.

At the back of the crowd, a motion caught her notice. Her brows furrowed as she sought to make sense of what she saw, for the movements were furtive, and hauntingly familiar. But the mists swirled and the movement was lost.

Ruald stepped forward, garbed in full mail as if for battle.

The great fool! He postures a stance before the gathered ceorls as imperious as a king.

In the growing light, his eyes glittered. His mouth curved in triumph.

A breeze heralded the sun’s rebirth. It soughed through the trees, stirred the ends of her hair and teased the hem of her cyrtel, its caress a final, precious sensation of farewell. Its fingers shifted the fog. A single beam of light broke through the clouds. With it came the signal. ’Twas time. Ruald’s fisted hand lifted high, held for a space of three stuttering heartbeats, and sliced downward to his side.

BOOK: Rose of Hope
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