Friday 20 December 2013

Udda and Edith - from The King's Chalice historical novel

Content that his daughter was in good hands, Edith’s father prepared to leave for his own estates.  Udda gladly agreed that he would care for her since he too was reluctant to leave Udric who was still too weak to defend himself.
“The Queen has left court. My father has returned with Lord Aethelstan to lead his council. He will arrange for an escort to bring you home. I have heard that the Earl of Chester has returned to his manor. He was heard to suggest that your young man might have been involved in the attack on the King. No, daughter, do not interrupt me, for you should know what is being rumoured at court.”
“Udric was almost killed father. He would never have threatened Aethelstan. The two have been friends since Udric was only a child. How could he have been involved?”
“Chester’s son is not a friend of Udric. He wanted to have you for his wife. Jealousy does strange things to a man’s judgement and that is probably a kind description. You turned him down and I refused him on your behalf. Stay with my father for they may look to question your virtue. That family has tongues like vipers and spread poison without a thought for anyone’s good name. If you have found happiness with Udric and are content then my father and I will protect you as best we can. Bless you daughter! If Udric survives, it will be God’s will and the marriage should go ahead. Udda will not leave his son and it would be a hard father who would deny his daughter the right to nurse her intended.” Lord Brihtric stroked his daughter’s face and kissed her lightly. He bowed quickly to Udda and left the King’s chamber, pulling the heavy curtain across the doorway.
Udda put his arm around Edith’s shoulders. Her cloak lay discarded on the bed.
“I agree with much of what your father said. Lord Chester is forgetting that when the King and Udric went into the mews, I was on the other side of the courtyard. I heard him cry out and the screaming of the birds. There is no truth at all in the lord’s accusations. Many a time Udric has protected Aethelstan from harm. Now that he is King he will have skilled and learned men to advise him. Udric can return to Didlington, finish his house and get married as you planned.
Having been a witness to the attempt on the king’s life he could still be in danger from Edwin’s supporters should the matter come to trial. The assailants themselves can harm no one. The King tells me that they are being kept as chained slaves until they die of exhaustion or old age.”

from The King's Chalice historical novel

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Thursday 19 December 2013

The Sheriff meets a murdered man - extract from King's Chalice

The sheriff arrived with his own retinue and strode quickly into the church leaving stable staff to deal with his horses. The priest was bobbing obsequiously, moving rapidly backwards to clear a way through the crowd until his sandal caught on an uneven cobble and he toppled over. The crowd laughed as his bare white legs were exposed, their amusement over this trifling incident serving to reduce the tension which had been building since Udric had been accused of murder. Many of them liked him and were taking Prince Aethelstan’s side against his brother. Edwin was quick to notice their partiality and ordered those who did not move out of his way fast enough to make way for their betters. Ill concealed scowls met his demands there being sufficient numbers that he could not accuse any one of them of contempt.
“My lord Sheriff!” greeted Edwin pompously, determined to take precedence in the matter. “The murderer is already taken. He is under guard.”
The Sheriff responded with a nod and pulled aside the sheet which now covered the murdered man. Pulling the man’s head from side to side, he examined the purple bruises on either side of his Adam’s apple. The well formed lips were drawn back in a grotesque parody of a smile.
Prince Aethelstan watched the law man inspect the cadaver, appreciating the thorough but quick movements as the body was turned this way and that.
 “Prepare the body for burial,” ordered the sheriff brusquely glancing at the monks who had stepped back to give him room. “Wrap the shroud well and leave it guarded.”
The monks moved forward to complete their tasks without a word being said as they wrapped the corpse from head to toe in fine wool shrouding. The church emptied, men and women returning to their work now that the sky was now truly lightened. The carts still trundled through the high gates, bleating animals headed for the King’s slaughter house and the smell of new bread wafted over the courtyard from the open kitchen door.
Prince Aethelstan strode briskly up the staircase his forehead puckered with concern. He knew that the Sheriff would question Udric and prayed that the man was as impartial as he was rumoured to be.
“Trust this to happen when father is not here. He would have seen through Edwin’s spiteful tricks, although I cannot at the moment see how it was done. There is no way my father will sanction trial by combat, not with his precious son, but …”  As the Prince pushed the curtain of his room aside a glimmer of an idea was beginning to form. At the moment it was a mere possibility at the fringe of his conscious thought. He sipped from the night ale and spat it out onto the rushes.
“Ugh! Yes! Why did my brother need food or drink last night. The servants always put more than enough in case any of us wake and need refreshment. Edwin had no need to send a servant for food.” Now he was beaming and caught sight of his full blooded grin in the small bronze looking glass, a prized possession.
“Ha! Not so clever brother. And, come to think of it, whose knife was it. It was not Udric’s for his is here beside the bed. Where’s the sheriff?”
Guards spilled into his room when his voice was raised. They followed him to the guardroom where the sheriff and the captain were talking quietly.
“My lord Sheriff, forgive my interference.”
The Sheriff and the Captain of the guard had both risen to their feet when Prince Aethelstan barged into the small room. Their breastplates creaked and smelt of new grease with every movement in the confined space.
“Lord Prince” muttered the Sheriff as he bowed quickly.
“My brother accuses Udric. It is true they fought years ago and Prince Edwin’s throat was similarly marked. Father ruled that Edwin had provoked Udric so he was not punished as my brother thought he should have been. I believe he still harbours a grudge and feels that Udric should not be my friend and body-servant. Udric sleeps in my chamber and as far as I know never left it until the alarm bell was sounded. What puzzles me is, well, two things.
Looking down at his hands the prince held up a forefinger and paused before resuming his spoken thoughts. He looked up expectantly at the faces of the two men. The sheriff was regarding him seriously while the Captain’s face showed a hint of a smile as if he admired the prince in his effort to clear Udric of this awful deed.
“Firstly, who knows the man? He wears my brother’s colours but I do not recognize him. Secondly, and now I am guessing! Was the man killed elsewhere and then wrapped in my brother’s cloak and put under the staircase?”
The Sheriff was nodding. The prince was only voicing his own suspicions but he had his work to do and liked to follow his own procedure. “Lord, some of what you say has occurred to me. There are several matters which need to be explained. I will question the man Udric shortly. Unfortunately if both of you slept well then neither of you can vouch for the other during the hours of darkness. Let me carry out my own investigation. It will be thorough and I will hear all sides in this tragic matter. Does the man have kin? A wife? Does he sleep close to Prince Edwin? All I know is that he is a servant in his household. When I know more then a trial can take place, if it is warranted. For now, you must let me perform my duty. The captain here has Udric under guard and we will go and see him. In view of your interest you cannot be there and neither can your brother as he is the accuser.”
The Sheriff bowed to Aethelstan and he took the hint and left the guardroom. With every step the questions and possible answer tumbled randomly through his thoughts. He returned to the hall unaware of the greetings from people he passed.

from "The King's CHalice" by Janet K.L. Seal
Buy your copy at Amazon or a bookshop

Friday 13 December 2013

NEW EBOOK - The Battle of Oporto 1809

Author:            Oliver Hayes

Buy your Kindle version HERE

The Battle of Oporto was key early British victory in the Peninsular War that ensured that the troops commanded by Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) would not be driven out by the French any time soon.

In March 1809 the French under Marshal Soult defeated a British-Portuguese army just north of the Douro River and pushed on to captured the great city of Oporto. Soult believed that his victory had as good as won the war for him. All he needed to do was rest his men for a few days, then continue south to capture Lisbon. But then British troops were reported advancing north toward Oporto and Sould realised he had a fight on his hands. The battle that followed was a rare instance of Wellington organising an offensive against a prepared and entrenched opponent.

Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.

This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War. This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.

Chapter 1 - The Peninsular War
Chapter 2 - The Commanders at Corunna
Chapter 3 - Weapons, Soldiers and Tactics
Chapter 4 - The French Army
Chapter 5 - The British Army
Chapter 6 - The Portuguese Army
Chapter 7 - The Battle of Oporto
Chapter 8 - After Oporto

About the Author
Oliver Hayes is a military historian who has written extensively for books and magazines on different aspects of the military. He is now writing a series of books on the Peninsular War for Bretwalda Books.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Fate of Mercia

Because Mercia was now under King Edward's control the Council had suggested that its governance was a suitable task for Prince Aethelstan. Udric watched the Prince leave Winchester with a suitable entourage until he could no longer recognise his friend's blond head among the pennants and upright spears of the guards.
He returned to Didlington thoughtfully, guiding the horse over Cranburne’s rolling hills where the path across the grassy common land was still marked by white-painted stones. The tumuli stood as silent reminders of an age long past, sheep not fearing to awaken the sleeping spirits within.
Owen’s wife had surprised everyone by giving birth to a healthy boy child, a cause of great celebration as it had been thought that she was barren. Although their courtship had been brief she now revelled in her position of authority at the new manor and held her head high on the regular visits to Wymburne where she had previously been an object of pity.
It was into this cycle of seasonal activity at the start of a new year, nine hundred and twenty four years after the death of the Lord Jesus that the dramatic news of King Edward’s death was brought by messenger to Wymburne. All men of thegn status or landowners were to proceed to Winchester with all speed.  Udda and Udric were stricken with grief, each having received favours from the dead king.  Now his legitimate son, Aelfweard, was to be crowned as successor. First the funeral and then the crowning, attended by the highest and the lowest in the land, some of his slaves hoping for freedom in the time honoured way.
They left together wearing the best clothes Galena had hastily prepared. Fur lined cloaks would double as bedcovers for there was no doubt that accommodation would be in short supply. Udric knew from experience that the king’s hall was not as snug as his father’s house or his own with its braziers.
In contrast to the purpose of their visit the sun blazed from a clear sky as if the world rejoiced. In the distance a few feathers of cloud caused momentary shadows on the rich pasture. It was not warm but fine weather lightens the heart. Udric hoped that he would no longer be the subject of tittle-tattle. There had been no opportunity to discuss the matter with Prince Aethelstan who had been elated over his new appointment. To a certain extent Udric knew he had allowed the matter to fester, but this would not be the occasion to allow his hurt and anger to surface.

from "The King's Chalice" historical novel by Janet K.L. Seal.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

A Visit to the King

Udric was summoned to the King’s chamber, the messenger stressing that the King was in no mood to be kept waiting. His heart plummeted to the very soles of his boots. He felt he needed to visit the midden on his way to hear his punishment so great was the fear and dread.
“I am coming with you. That little whelp will have told so many lies to my father,” stated Aethelstan forcefully, ignoring Udric’s protests that he needed to put his own case to King Edward.
The two young men strode confidently across the courtyard where the offence had been committed. Udric’s head was held high with a self assurance that was acting of the finest degree. They were admitted to the King’s chamber by the huge bodyguard. For one fleeting moment Udric thought that the man did not seem as massive as he used to be, surely a figment of his over-active imagination.
“My Lord King,” Udric bowed deeply then stood silent, unafraid to look the ruler of England in the eye. There was a moments silence when the only sound was the settling of twigs in the brazier. Edwin shuffled his feet, studying the rushes with uncommon intensity.
When the King spoke his voice reflected the tiredness of body and mind which were taking their toll on his health. “Well Udric, son of Udda, I am told you attacked my son Edwin, here in the courtyard and would have killed him had you not been prevented. Is this truly what happened? Prince Edwin tells me that the assault was entirely unprovoked, that you have insulted him on many occasions. How say you?”
Prince Aethelstan snorted, partly in disbelief at the story Edwin had told his father and partly because he could not contain the laughter which had almost erupted when he heard that Edwin claimed there had been no provocation. The King glared at him before turning back to regard Udric expectantly.
“My lord King, we have been taught that jibes and taunting are to be ignored unless they affect the honour of a man or that of his family. For several months Prince Edwin and I have grown apart though I do not think much of it was of my doing. He cast aspersions upon my mother’s chastity which did affect the honour of my family. I appreciate that my family are not of noble birth but lessons here have taught me standards of behaviour which should be applicable to all, high or low-born. I ask your pardon but do not regret teaching Edwin to keep his opinions about my family to himself.”
“That is boldly said, young man. Tell me what did my son say of your mother, the young woman who I saw wed to your father right here in my court?” The King’s voice had developed a steely edge which should have warned Prince Edwin that matters were not going his way. When he attempted to interrupt, the King barked at him to hold his tongue.
Edwin reddened at the abrupt command from his normally mild tempered father. He fell silent but Aethelstan could see how difficult it appeared to be.
Udric was reluctant to admit to the king that the young prince had accused him of being a bastard, progeny of his mother and the King himself. He settled for merely mentioning that Prince Edwin had called his mother a ‘peasant whore’.
“I have a feeling that that is not the whole truth, although God knows that is bad enough. Do you honestly think Edwin, that lord Algar would be Udric’s good-father if there was even a hint of impropriety? You will apologise to Udric and mind your manners in future.”
‘If looks could kill’, thought Udric, ‘I would be dead right now.’ Edwin’s apology was accompanied by such a potent look of hatred that it was almost tangible. Prince Aethelstan stood impassively, his face giving nothing away as the pantomime was played out in front of King Edward. He left after bowing briefly to his father followed moments later by Edwin, sullen and subdued, already plotting his revenge. Udric bowed to the King who smiled and nodded approvingly.

From "The King's Chalice" historical novel by Janet K.L. Seal

Monday 9 December 2013

NEW EBOOK - The Battle of Salamanca 1812

Author:            Oliver Hayes

For six weeks in the spring of 1812 Wellingston’s Anglo-Spanish army marched and countermarched across western Spain as it sought to find away past the French army of Marshal Marmont. Their chance came at Salamanca.

The hilly country around Salamanca had bad roads and poor sightlines, a fact that explains why Marmont mistook a move by Wellington to dress his lines as being a preparatory move for a general retreat. Marmont ordered an advance, and was then wounded before he realised his mistake. Wellington, watching from a nearby hill, spotted the French error and threw his heavy cavalry forward with devastating results.

Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.

This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War. This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.

Chapter 1 - The Peninsular War
Chapter 2 - The Commanders at Corunna
Chapter 3 - Weapons, Soldiers and Tactics
Chapter 4 - The French Army
Chapter 5 - The British Army
Chapter 6 - The Portuguese Army
Chapter 7 - The Battle of Salamanca
Chapter 8 - After Salamanca

About the Author
Oliver Hayes is a military historian who has written extensively for books and magazines on different aspects of the military. He is now writing a series of books on the Peninsular War for Bretwalda Books.

Buy your copy on Kindle

Friday 6 December 2013

Talk of Marriage

He found Edith in the hall talking to Aethelstan. Neither of them saw him approach. The prince was holding her hand and looked up guiltily when Udric strode up to them. Jealousy rose like bitter gall in Udric’s throat. He did not notice the elegant blue gown she was wearing or the pretty veil which partly covered her long dark hair.
“We were taking of my late father’s wish that I marry suitably,” stated Aethelstan almost unnaturally quickly. “Now that the succession is settled my need to marry is less urgent. The lady Edith here ...”
Udric interrupted rudely, his long friendship with the eldest prince temporarily forgotten. “Is mine, betrothed to me with your brother’s blessing and her father’s permission.”
Edith quickly moved to stand beside him but her attempts to soothe him were brushed aside impatiently.
“Oh I know all that. Your woman is safe with me.  She is pretty I’ll grant you, as your own sister is, but I find myself unmoved by beauty at this time.  It’s a curious feeling, especially when I have wenched and boasted of my prowess with the serving women. My young cousin Aelfwyn, from Mercia, eyes me speculatively and also the daughter of a Welsh lord, but my brother now has the choosing of my wife if he cares to bind a contract with it.”
Knowing that he spoke the truth, as only recently the late king’s sister had been forced to marry the Northumbrian earl for reasons of state; Udric’s anger subsided as quickly as it had risen. Now feeling awkward he stepped back, colliding with a stool as he did so. He fell clumsily, arms and legs waving wildly in an attempt to save himself. As he lay on his back in the rushes both Edith and Aethelstan laughed at his discomfort before offering a hand to pull him to his feet.
“Thank God the rushes seem to be fairly clean!” Udric scowled as he brushed the straw from his best tunic and braies.
In a moment the old camaraderie returned, the misunderstanding swept aside as they all embraced, giggling unrestrainedly.
Aethelstan called for wine and sweetmeats to be taken to his room as with linked arms, the friends negotiated their way past the trestles and stools to the doorway.  Without separating, the lady Edith, having waved away her maid, turned the trio sideways so that they filed through, Udric attempting to hold her overskirt so that he did not step on it. Prince Aethelstan brought up the rear still laughing at Udric’s embarrassment.

from The King's Chalice by Janet KL Seal

Buy your copy at a bookshop or Amazon

Thursday 5 December 2013

Udda's Fight

A man screamed in pain startling the mare. Udda’s head jerked up suddenly. Throwing the reins over a peg he ran to the mews to find his son bleeding profusely from a knife wound. On the point of attending to his son’s injury his eyes adjusted to the dim light inside the mews. At the far end of the building the king was being held firmly by two men while a third held a hot iron in one hand. At a glance Udda saw that Aethelstan’s struggles were ineffective against the brute strength of his captors. The birds were screaming on their perches adding to the fearful atmosphere. Udda pulled out his knife and lunged at the nearest man. The blade struck home causing the ruffian to loose his grip. A well aimed kick in the groin completed the man’s submission as he rolled in agony amid the droppings. The gerfalcon clawed at his face, its leather thong stretched to its limit.
Attacked now by the hot iron, it caught Udda on the arm. The pain caused him to drop his weapon which was immediately kicked beyond his grasp. Blows followed rapidly as he bent down, scrabbling in the dirt to retrieve it. Dizzy from their force he heard a voice saying that the iron would have to be reheated to take out the king’s eyes. In the horrified silence which followed Udda struggled to martial his wits. A further attempt to grasp his knife brought an agonising blow to his head so he lay as if stunned waiting for his chance to attack. With a quick lunge he snatched it, rolled onto his back and threw the knife. The blade struck just below the man’s breast bone. He sank to his knees falling across his comrade who had been so savagely ripped by the falcon. He died moaning, face down on the filthy floor, his blood dripping slowly from the mortal wound.
Now unarmed, Udda sprang at the last of the assassins oblivious to any danger to himself. His fury leant him a God-given strength far beyond his normal capacity, a temporary feeling of invincibility. Lashing out angrily, and landing several hard punches, the man fled leaving his companions, dead and alive. Panting with the effort and emotion, Udda un-gagged the king and cut the ropes which held him before sinking to the ground exhausted. Sweat had broken out all over his body despite being a relatively fit man from the physical activities he did during the working day. He wiped his face with the sleeve of his robe, shocked by what had been intended. A feeling of dizziness and nausea forced him to remain on his knees until the sickness passed.

from "The King's Chalice" by Janet K.L. Seal

Buy your copy at Amazon or at a bookshop

Tuesday 3 December 2013

NEW BOOK - North Korea and the Ballistic Missile

Author: Andrew May

The nuclear-armed ballistic missile is the most destructive weapon the world has ever seen. The latest country to gain this awesome weapon is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more commonly referred to as North Korea.
In 2013 the world held its breath. North Korea moved two ballistic missiles to their launch pads as international tension ramped up over the fraught political situation in the two Koreas.
North Korea had first acquired short-range Soviet-built ballistic missiles during the 1970s. In the subsequent decades, a whole family of indigenous missiles was developed, of increasing size, range and technical sophistication. North Korea’s short-range missiles threaten South Korea, Japan, and possibly even Alaska and Hawaii.
In parallel with the development of ballistic missiles themselves, North Korea has embarked on a programme to produce nuclear warheads that could be carried by the missiles. The country has carried out three nuclear tests since 2006, with the most recent taking place in 2013.
But how dangerous are the ballistic missiles of North Korea? How did the world get to this dangerous impasse? This is the book to answer those questions. 

Chapter 1: North Korea’s Missile-Centred Culture
Chapter 2: What is a Ballistic Missile?
Chapter 3: Ballistic Missiles of North Korea
Chapter 4: Tactical Ballistic Missiles
Chapter 5: Strategic Ballistic Missiles
Chapter 6: Ballistic Missiles – Countering the Threat
Chapter 7: Nuclear Proliferation – North Korea and Beyond
Appendix A: Glossary of Technical Terms
Appendix B: Ballistic Missiles of the World
Appendix C: Chronology of Events

About the Author

Andrew May is a former defence scientist with an MA from Cambridge University and a PhD from Manchester University. His thirty year career spanned academia, the civil service and the defence industry. He has worked on advanced technology research in Farnborough, strategic planning in Whitehall and operational analysis for a large defence company. He is now based in the South-West of England where he works as a freelance writer and blogger.

First ebook sale of December - LEOPARDKILL

Buy your copy ON AMAZON

Product Description

A thrilling war novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the Peninsular War that saw a small British force pitched against Napoleon’s Grande Armee.

It is Autumn 1808. The French army is gone from Portugal...except for one man. And what he has stolen is deadly secret.

Sergeant Joshua Lock and Captain the Honourable John Killen pursue the spy deep into Spain ahead of Sir John Moore’s British army - a force now ordered to fight the French alongside native troops. But instead of helping their new allies, the Spaniards seem to have turned against them.

Their quarry still free, Killen’s discovery of Lock’s affair with a fellow officer’s wife drives the childhood friends apart as savage winter storms grip the Galician mountains. With discipline breaking down, and Spain’s armies in disarray, every man must decide for himself - who is friend and who is foe? Should the outnumbered, starving British stand and fight, or run for the sea, and home?

Whilst unbeknown to the bickering allies, Bonaparte himself is storming through Spain with but a single destroy every ‘mangy English leopard.’

Meticulously researched to be historically and militarily accurate, this dashing novel of cavalrymen at war is written by an expert horseman.

About the Author
Jonathan Hopkins has worked in occupations as diverse as bulk tanker loader and kitchen designer, but since 2001 has fitted and repaired saddles professionally.
A lifelong horse-keeper and long term chair of an affiliated riding club close to his home in South Wales, his interest in the cavalrymen who served under the Duke of Wellington originally grew out of research into saddlery worn by troop horses, for which there are no surviving patterns.
Leopardkill is his second published novel.