RAVENFEAST – The Saga Leaps Ahead. Book Three OUTCAST will be out soon – BETRAYED near final editing stage

"RAVENFEAST" - The Saga Leaps Ahead. Book Three "OUTCAST" will be out soon - "BETRAYED" near final editing stage

The Norse shieldwall …

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… Breaking through the Northumbrian and Mercian fyrd at Gate Fulford in late Steptember, 1066… Is this the beginning of the end for Anglo-Saxon England?
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King Harald came mid-September, 1066 with a great fleet of over three hundred ships. After his death and defeat of his army at Staenfordes Brycg (Stamford Bridge) a score or so ships were needed to take away the survivors and their king’s corpse

Beginnings of the RAVENFEAST SAGA series:

[Seven years ago now I was thumbing through one of our national tabloids when I chanced on one story I thought could be of use to me. I had been ‘angling’ for an idea for a book or maybe even a series. What caught my eye was an interview with the singer James Blunt, in which he told the reporters Martel Maxwell and Elise Jenkins about one of his forefathers, a Danish noble of royal blood, who fought beside King Harold at Hastings. He did not specify this man’s name, but suggested his family name was ‘Blond’. That name could easily cover a majority of Danes, but I went into the family history of King Harold, unearthing many interesting facts and thus was ‘born’ Ivar Ulfsson]:

IVAR ULFSSON, a close kinsman of King Harold Godwinson, is one of the king’s most trusted huscarls – his personal bodyguards, chosen for weapon skills and social ties to their lord. Although true to his kinsman the king, he is torn through recent events by his friendship with the king’s brother, Tostig, former Earl of Northanhymbra (Northumbria).

Asked by Harold to ensure Tostig’s safety in the slaughter to come at Staenfordes Brycg (Stamford Bridge, east of York), Ivar must feign distrust in the king’s apparent unwillingness to help his brother for the sake of unity in the kingdom. After the fighting Ivar’s task is to see that Tostig leaves England for Flanders. First, however, the woman Braenda he met years before (after the defeat of Gruffyd ap Llewellyn in Gwynedd, northern Wales) seeks him out at the Earlsburh. Her bullying husband rouses them from their slumbers but Braenda eludes him.

At Richale (Riccall near Selby), when Ivar visits the king’s brother on his ship, Tostig in his rage at being duped thumps Ivar in the pit of his stomach, winding him. Nevertheless Ivar is forgiven by Tostig before he takes a fond farewell of his former earldom.

Before he can take the road south with two friends from Waltham in Essex, one of Ivar’s armed escorts, Sigurd is slain by an unknown attacker. Ivar is accused by Morkere’s huscarls who have ridden with him of the murder and must return to York with them to clear his name. Whilst in the Earlsburh, on his way to seeking out Sigurd’s widow Braenda, one of the two friends Beorhtwulf is killed by the drunkard Garwulf. In the following hours Garwulf is slain to avenge Beorhtwulf’s death and his brother Saeward is taken back to York to face the Thrijungar court. Ivar rides on south to London, hopeful of catching up with Harold with an old friend, the dispossessed outlaw Hrothulf, his woman Aethel and son Theodolf.

Thus begins the saga series RAVENFEAST. The sons of two great noble dynasties face one another across a wooded dale in the Andreds Weald, the thickly forested South Downs of the eleventh century. Only one can hope to win and the outcome decides a nation’s fate for centuries to come!

Yet even after winning on Caldbec Beorg (Caldbec Hill) this is only one step towards the coveted throne for William. At the approach to Lunden (London) with a force of five hundred knights to take the Witan’s surrender he cannot know the Witan have seen fit to appoint King Eadward’s young kinsman, the aetheling Eadgar as king. With him are survivors of the defeat at Caldbec Hill such as Ansgar the shire reeve of Middlesex and Harold’s nephew Hakon. Between them they have raised a new fyrd force to meet the Normans with a special, warm welcome on the Southwark end of London Bridge. Can the duke fulfil his dream?


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Harold’s huscarls stand below the knoll their king has adopted as his high point of command

“RAVENFEAST: Farewell to Legend”

is available through the publisher Authorhouse, and on-line from Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble in paperback (ISBN 978-1-4567-8961-9) and in e-book format (ISBN 978-1-4567-8962-6).

The paperback, at a hefty 620 pages is a lot of book for your cash, whichever way you take it, with the map of Britain in the 11th Century that you see at the base of this page, historical notes, glossary of terms and key to the names of major cities, regions and other geographical features. As well as new copies that are printed on request by Authorhouse, Amazon has on offer used copies.

*”RAVENFEAST” is also available on Kindle through Amazon.

See below about the next follow-up, “OVERTHROWN – The Dream Fades”, and about work underway on “OUTCAST – Storm in the Kingdom” –

*I shall look into having “RAVENFEAST” re-published under the New Generation umbrella with my other titles. A few changes have been made early in the book, so keep a sharp look-out. The reissue could be out later this year.

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The cover of ‘RAVENFEAST: Farewell to Legend’. The raven image is that shown on Harald Sigurdsson’s banner, Land-Oda (Land-Ravager). Duke William also had a raven banner – odd for so-called Christian leaders when you consider they were Odin’s birds!
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The Normans landing at Pefense – Pevensey. They had a pre-fabricated castle builit within the old Roman fortress of Anderida on the Saxon shore. William also had a banner from the pontiff Alexander, brought to him by Normans from the south.
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It was vital to know how to maintain the shieldwall both in attack and in defence. The solid wall could be intimidating. Equally a solid wall could put off an attacker; any ‘cracks’ or weaknesses would present prime targets to an opportunist foe.
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Harold would have addressed his men before the coming battle to raise their morale qand stiffen their resolve

William’s cavalry ready themselves for the uphill advance

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‘Terce’ – the ninth hour – had been rung on the bell of the nearby chapel. This marked the beginning of the Norman duke’s bid to gain his kinsman Edward’s crown.
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William did not just mount an invasion. This was to be a crusade against an unbeliever – Harold ‘usurped’ the crown and showed himself a perjuror by denying his oath of allegiance to the duke. Here Eustace of Bolougne carries St Peter’s banner.
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It was late in the day before William’s men finally reached the hilltop and penetrated the weakened shieldwall. He had drawn the least experienced of the Saxons in feints and was soon to reap the rewards
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The Normans and their allies had gained the hilltop and were making inroads into the depleted shieldwall…
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The injured Harold’s huscarls formed a defensive line around him

London Bridge late October, 1066

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In the Saxon Chronicle the battle at London Bridge occurred in December, 1066 when Duke William came to London with five hundred knights to take the Witan’s surrender. I don’t think he waited that long and placed it late October in RAVENFEAST

This is Britain at the time of the Conquest

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Names of burhs (towns and cities) are shown as they would have appeared in the Saxon Chronicles of the time

OVERTHROWN, the second in the RAVENFEAST series has been available through New Generation Publishing www.newgeneration-publishing.com/ since last year under ISBN 978-1-909039-89-6 @ ?11.99 in the UK. Alternatively you can check the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Gardners and Bertrams sites for the US/Euro/Worldwide price or order through your local bookshop.

The ‘dream’ in the subtitle is for one part the wish of Eadgar ‘the aetheling’ to take the crown as is his due. It is also the wish of Ivar Ulfsson to convince Eadgar that his dream is attainable, in order to realise his own wish for land in England as a king’s thegn.

The plan begins to unravel as Earnald, the Frankish monk Ivar needs as interpreter, dies on them on the way to Hastings. Calamity follows hard on the heels of catastrophe as the mission seems doomed to failure. On reaching London again a Norman knight sent by Odo tells Ivar he is to ride back to Rochester under escort, to give himself up to William’s half-brother Bishop Odo. Otherwise one of his friends and a number of Kentish folk are to be hanged. His friend is saved from the noose, as are the other hostages but at the expense of others killed saving them. In London again Ivar rides to see Eadgar, who tells him the Witan have ‘sold out’ to William and that he is no longer king. Absolving Ivar from his oath of loyalty, Eadgar also aids his escape from the young Norman noble Gilbert de Warenne who follows him to the old burh. Ivar is able to elude him. Back at the ‘Eel Trap’ inn Ivar meets one of Harold’s sons, Eadmund, who takes him and his few remaining friends to meet his brothers Godwin and Magnus at Leagatun (Leyton).

Against the better judgement of those around him, before Christmas Ivar announces he wishes to spy on William’s coronation at the West Mynster, to see which of the nobles give their oath to the new king. Ably assisted by three of his friends, Saeward, Oslac and Cyneweard, Ivar evades capture again after the coronation. He meets his love, Braenda – this time in the guise of an innkeeper near Ceolsey (Chelsea) – .and spends the night with her. Ivar learns from a passing stranger, Hereward, that the inn has lain derelict for years, and that the old servant who took care of their horses had been dead for as long. In skirting London they meet an old fellow near the heath at Hamstede (Hampstead) who offers them hospitality and drugs their ale… They wake to find themselves captive of Gilbert de Warenne, and, bound to their horses are escorted through the city to Ealdgata (Aldgate). There’s a map in the book on page 12 with the main ‘burh’ names in the original spelling, taken from the Saxon Chronicles. There are the historical notes and glossary of terms as well as explanations of place names at the back of the book. More later…

Work is almost complete on the editing stage for book four, “BETRAYED – The Net Tightens”, over 700 m/s pages.In the introduction, ‘Heretofore’ the tale recaps on ‘OUTCAST’ before launching into the main story, beginning with Ivar being wounded during William’s siege of Exeter in the winter of 1067. Ivar and Saeward venture out in the dark over the walls to spy out the king’s camp for Harold’s eldest son Godwin. With them is Father Eadwig who knows the Norman tongue, having studied at Caen with the king’s half-brother Odo. Saeward is there to help the priest, whilst Ivar must play a mute Brother, tonsured, shaven-faced again. There are surprises in store, a few twists and a mention of Hunding (Hrothulfsson) as his ‘uncle’ somewhere in the middle chapter(s) when Ivar beings the seriously wounded Magnus Haroldson to Bosanham, (this is where Ivar first came to stay with his aunt Gytha, Earl Godwin and his sons, Svein, Harold and Tostig.

‘OUTCAST – Storm in the Kingdom’ –

Soon to be published is the third volume, ‘OUTCAST – Storm in the Kingdom’. where under pressure from his priest, Godwin Haroldson sends Ivar away because Ivar will not repudiate his lover, the witch Braenda. ‘OUTCAST’ will be available very shortly. I shall keep you posted with a ‘Stop Press’ on the headline.

Ivar is not alone. Oslac and Cyneweard ride west with him, soon to be joined by Theodolf and Saeward. Read their adventures as the three are captured by Ivar’s nemesis Gilbert de Warenne with his posse of Norman cavalry and a weasly Oxford thegn. Freed again, Ivar punishes the grasping innkeeper Bruning and sends de Warenne and his ally packing back to Oxford.

Further west Ivar and his friends take friend Thegn Osgod’s Northumbrians to be Normans until a troop of Normans shows from the west,. With the weight of numbers against them, the Normans pull back and the newly reunited friends Osgod and Ivar ride on west with their friends and followers to join Eadric ‘Cild’ in Wales. A summer of raiding on Norman strongholds beckons. On learning his old enemy Copsig has been made up to Earl of Northumbria north of the Tees, Ivar browbeats Harding, one of Osgod’s friends into taking him, despite the likely threat to his own life from Gospatric and his kinsman Osulf. As kinsman of Tostig he would be targeted, as much an enemy as the Normans, and his Danish background does not help.

Follow the background tapestry to this saga on the Northworld Saga Site. Look up the page titled ‘Sunset’, which takes you from the time of Knut/Canute’s successors by way of Edward II, ‘the Confessor’ to Harold and the aetheling Eadgar, the last of the Saxon royal blood-line. Click on the link for Northworld Saga Site www.northworldsagasite.webeden.co.uk There is a Bookshelf/Contact page where you can follow Ivar’s progress, use a link to the Amazon site for ordering and read a shortened Profile about the author.

Watch this space…

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Cover design of “OVERTHROWN – The Dream Fades”, book two in the RAVENFEAST series. Details will be available within weeks
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Harold adopted the Norman style of shield for his men shortly before William’s invasion. A huscarl was expected to fall by his king in battle. Had Ivar not been knocked out, he too would have fallen with Harold