Authors: Regan Walker
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business
establishments or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 Regan Walker
All rights reserved. Unless specifically noted, no part of
this publication may be reproduced, scanned, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, known or hereinafter invented, without the express
written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading and distribution of
this book via the Internet or by any other means without the permission of the
author is illegal and punishable by law. Participation in the piracy of
copyrighted materials violates the author’s rights.
Praise for Regan Walker’s work and
“Ms. Walker has the rare ability to make you forget you are
reading a book…the characters become real, the modern world fades away and all
that is left is the intrigue, drama and romance.”
Straight from the Library
"Mesmerizing medieval romance! A vivid portrayal of love
flourishing amidst the turbulence of the years after the Norman Conquest."
Kathryn Le Veque, USA Today Bestselling Author
She crossed herself and covered her mouth, fighting the urge
to spew at the sight of so much blood and so many bodies strewn about the
clearing, blood congealed on their clothing, their vacant eyes staring into
space. Some of the blood had pooled on the ground to catch the rays of the sun.
The metallic scent of it, carried by the wind, rose in her nostrils.
At her side, the hound whimpered.
Until the Normans had come, Yorkshire had been a place of
gentle hills, forests and thatched cottages circling a glistening jewel of a
city set between two winding rivers. A place of children’s voices at play, some
of those voices now silenced forever, for among the bodies lying on the cold
ground were mere boys, their corpses cast aside like broken playthings.
At the sound of heavy footfalls on the snow-crusted ground,
she jerked her head around, her heart pounding in her chest.
A figure emerged from the trees, so close she could have
A tall giant of a knight, his blood-splattered mail a dull
gray in the weak winter sun, ripped off his silvered helm and expelled an oath
as he surveyed the dozens of dead. The sword in his hand still dripped the
blood of those he had slain. He was no youth this one, at least thirty. His
fair appearance made her think of Lucifer, the fallen angel of light.
seasoned warrior of death who has taken many lives.
Had he killed people she knew? Her heart raced as fear rose
in her chest.
Would she be next?
The love story of Sir Geoffroi de Tournai and Emma of York
is set in England in 1069-70 during what became known as William the
Conqueror’s Harrying of the North. While I have used minor artistic license to
fit the story, most of the events in
actually occurred as I
have described them.
At the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066,
Northumbria in the north was a very different place than Wessex in the south.
At one time it was the capital of the Danelaw where the laws of the Danes
governed from the 9
into the 11
century. Even after
Northumbria was incorporated into England in 954, it was governed by powerful
earls and thegns who operated somewhat independently from the king.
In its language and culture, Yorkshire was
Anglo-Scandinavian not Saxon. Almost every street in the city of York had the
Old Norse suffix “
” or “gate” meaning “street” and most of the
personal names would have been Scandinavian.
It is not surprising, then, that in 1068 when William the
Conqueror came north and built his first castle in York (as told in
), the people resented his presence and that of his French
knights. They did not consider William their king any more than they had the
Saxon Harold Godwinson before him. The situation was made worse by the
despicable way the Normans treated the people.
Maerleswein, the former Sheriff of Lincolnshire and Emma’s
father in my story, was a real historic figure and a rich English thegn of
noble Danish lineage. He did not fight against William at the Battle of
Hastings, but by 1068, he’d had enough of William and his egregious taxes and
joined the rebellion.
In 1069 when my story begins, York was the largest city
north of London and an important center of commerce with as many as 15,000
residents. It was a city William very much wanted under his control. But it was
not to come to him easily.
One indication of the seething resentment of the
Northumbrians for the Norman invaders is seen in the fact that the great
families—both English and Danish—that had been feuding for hundreds of years,
came together in 1069 to fight against William. Given York’s history, it was
natural for the rebels to look to the Danes for help.
William’s vengeance on the North for the ensuing rebellion
was so horrible that for decades thereafter, the land between York and Durham
remained untilled and no village was inhabited. It would take the North
centuries to fully recover.
Orderic Vitalis, the English chronicler and Benedictine
monk, said of William’s actions, “I dare not commend him. He leveled both the
bad and the good in one common ruin by a consuming famine…he was…guilty of
wholesale massacre…and barbarous homicide.”
Indeed he was.
William of Jumièges, a monk and contemporary of William the
Conqueror, said that “from the youngest to the oldest” most of the population
of York was killed.
The wolves would have had a great feast on the bodies left
lying in the woods where they fell.
It was enough to turn any noble knight rogue.
(Both real and fictional)
Sir Geoffroi de Tournai
Emma of York
Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, Earl of Talisand
Serena, Countess of Talisand
Maugris the Wise, a seer
Maggie, cook and housekeeper
Mathieu, squire to Sir Geoffroi
Sir Alain de Roux (“the Bear”)
In York, the Northumbrians and their allies:
Maerleswein, Emma’s father, Danish nobleman and former
Sheriff of Lincolnshire*
Cospatric, Earl of Bamburgh, former Earl of Northumbria, and
cousin to King Malcolm of Scotland*
Magnus, Emma’s Irish hound (in modern terms, a wolfhound)
Inga, Emma’s friend
Feigr, sword-maker and Inga’s father
Finna and Ottar, twins, Emma’s adopted children
Artur and Sigga, Emma’s servants
Edgar Ætheling, Saxon heir to the throne of England
Waltheof, Earl of Huntingdon, cousin to King Swein, King
Harold and Earl Cospatric*
The Normans in York:
William I, King of England, Duke of Normandy
William Malet de Graville, Sheriff of Yorkshire
Richard FitzRichard, Castellan of York (1
Gilbert de Ghent, Castellan of York (2
William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford
Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother to William the
Sir Eude de Fourneaux
King Swein of Denmark
Osbjorn, brother to King Swein
King Malcolm of Scotland
Margaret of Wessex, sister to Edgar Ætheling and betrothed to
Where now is the warrior? Where is the warhorse?
Bestowal of treasure, and sharing of feast?
Alas! The bright ale-cup, the mail-clad warrior,
The prince in his splendor—those days are long sped
In the night of the past, as if they never had been!
From the Anglo-Saxon poem
York, England, December 1068
The Minster bell tolled loudly as Emma hurried down
Coppergate, gripping her green woolen cloak tightly to her chest against the
winter chill. The deep folds of her hood hid her flaxen hair. Only the huge
gray hound striding beside her told the merchants who it was that passed their
A glance at the nearly white sky warned her nightfall would
bring snow. She hastened her step. There were things she needed for
Christmastide and neither the ominous weather nor the risk of encountering one
of the dreaded Normans would keep her from town this day.
Townspeople on either side of her hurried along, their steps
displaying the same urgency of last minute tasks.
Nearing her destination, she heard raised voices in French.
Her stomach clenched. Where the French knights went, wickedness always
followed. They treated the people of York—even the thegns—worse than serfs,
freely taking what they wanted often as not. It was why, even with Magnus at
her side, she was grateful for the deadly seax at her hip. Both the hound and
the knife had been gifts from her father.
She slowed as she approached the altercation and slipped
into the shadows in front of the goldsmith’s shop, leading the hound with her.
Across the street, four knights wearing mail hauberks
crowded around Feigr’s stall where the best swords in all of York could be
found. At the rear of his shop, smoke billowed from the forge, open to the air.
As was the Norman custom, the knights wore no beards and
their hair was shorter than any man of York would deign to wear.
She watched as one of the knights abruptly lifted a sword
from those Feigr displayed and strode away, clutching his prize.
Feigr chased after him shouting his protest against the
knight’s failure to pay.
The three knights who remained laughed.
Emma inwardly seethed, her brows pressing into a frown at
yet another incident of treachery from the garrisoned knights. One among many
that had angered the people of York. Feigr worked hard for the living he
provided for himself and his daughter, Inga. He could ill afford to give away
his fine swords.
One of the knights directed a leering gaze at Inga where she
stood next to the stall. Garbed in the simple rust-colored tunic she wore when
helping her father, Inga was still an appealing young woman, her delicate
features and golden hair only adding to her slim body.
And she was now alone with only an old servant.
Magnus moved slightly forward, lowered his head and stared
straight ahead at the three knights, a low growl rumbling from his throat. Emma
knotted her fingers into the coarse fur of the hound’s neck, feeling the
tension in his body. Something was about to happen.
The leering knight suddenly reached for Inga, his powerful
hand clutching the girl’s delicate arm.
Inga shrieked in terror.
Magnus’ growl grew louder as his dark eyes narrowed on the
Norman who held Inga.
The knight pulled Inga to his chest.
Attempting to break free, Inga tugged her arm back, but she
was a frail thing and provided little resistance to the muscular knight.
“I’ve seen the one who will warm my bed this night,” the
knight confidently announced in French to his two companions.
“Yea, a fair one,” one of the knights tossed back.
Emma gripped the hilt of her seax, her body tensing to move.
Beneath her other hand, Magnus tightened his muscles to lunge. She caught the
edge of his ear between her fingers and hissed a caution under her breath. The
hound quivered but obeyed, remaining by her side. The tall Irish hound was more
a threat than she was, for his sharp teeth had brought down more than one wolf
in the forests of Yorkshire, but she would not yet let him enter the fray.
The knight who held Inga lifted her long plait of dark
golden hair, letting it run over his hand.
Inga let out a wail and then a whimper as tears streaked
down her face. “Please, no.”
Emma could stay her hand no longer. Anger, building as she
had watched the Norman’s ill treatment of her friend, now compelled her away
from the shadows. She took a step toward the street, Magnus moving with her.
A hand reached out, staying her progress and tugging her
back. A familiar voice spoke from behind. “Nay, my lady, leave it be. See, her
father returns. The knight must have paid him for the sword.”
Recognizing the voice, she guided Magnus back into the
shadows. ’Twas Auki, the goldsmith, whose shop had been her destination. She
shifted her eyes to where Auki pointed to Inga’s father hurrying down the
street toward his stall.
Facing Auki, she pulled her arm free. “I cannot let them
treat Inga so.”
“You would only put yourself in their sights, my lady, were
you to do aught. Feigr will protect her, and see, now the townspeople have
stopped to watch.”
Keeping her hand on Magnus, Emma turned toward the gathering
crowd, a frown on every face. It was not the first time the people of York had
seen the Normans seize what was not theirs. Since the garrison of knights had
come earlier in the year, fear rode the streets of York like an ever-present
phantom. But this time there was more than fear in the eyes of the people.
There was outrage.
Reaching his stall, Inga’s father stepped between his
sobbing daughter and the knight, breaking the man’s hold on her arm. Though
smaller than the knight in stature, long years of working with metal had given
Feigr brawny shoulders and arms. He faced the knight, his bearded chin raised
in defiance, his stance sure.
The knight clenched his fists and leaned into Feigr,
touching the sword-maker’s chest with his own, a threat apparent to all.
Emma tensed, worried for Feigr should the three knights
attack him together. At her side, Magnus resumed his low growl. Removing her
hand from her seax, she stroked the rough fur on his neck to calm him.
The murmurs of the townspeople grew boisterous as they
stared at the unfolding drama, their gazes condemning the effrontery of the
French knight who dared lay hands on a maiden of York.
One of the knights turned to look at the crowd, then strode
to his companion who was confronting Feigr. Placing his hand on the knight’s
shoulder, he whispered something in his companion’s ear.
The knight jerked his shoulder away. “What is one of them to
so many of us?” he challenged.
“A crowd gathers. The wench will keep, Eude. We are expected
back at the castle.”
With a speaking glance at Inga that sent a shiver of fear
through Emma, the knight called Eude shrugged and joined his fellow Normans.
As the three of them swaggered away from the stall, Eude
made a rude gesture that caused his fellow knights to bellow their laughter.
Rage choked Emma. Had they planned the whole affair taking
the sword to lure Feigr away from his shop?
As the French knights sauntered down the street, relief
replaced Emma’s anger. She was thankful for the crowd of townspeople that had
come. Their show of strength had no doubt kept the knights from doing worse.
“Thank God I did not bring Finna and Ottar,” she muttered
beneath her breath. The last thing she wanted was for the two young orphans who
lived under her protection to have witnessed the assault on her friend.
The crowd dispersed, shaking their heads.
With Magnus at her side, Emma rushed across the street to
where Inga’s father comforted his daughter. Both were clearly shaken by what
“Oh, Inga. I am so sorry. Are you all right?”
Gray eyes, wide with fear, looked up at Emma. Barely
sixteen, Inga had shouldered much since her mother’s death two winters before,
helping her father with his shop as well as their home. Emma, seven years
older, had lost her own mother at a young age and knew well the emptiness it
left. She tried to look after the younger woman, for there was no son to help
Feigr, no other child.
Not knowing what to say, Emma reached her hand to touch
Inga’s arm in solace. The gesture brought little comfort, for Inga turned her
face into her father’s broad chest and sobbed.
Feigr’s eyes glared his hatred as his gaze followed the
French knights disappearing down the street.
In the distance the tall square tower of the Norman castle
loomed over the city like a great vulture’s nest.
* * *
Talisand, Lune River Valley, northwest England, February
“’Tis enough!” Sir Geoffroi de Tournai called as he sheathed
his sword and strode from the practice yard outside the palisade fence. Passing
through the gate, he entered the bailey, heading toward the stairs leading up
to the timbered castle, his sweat chilled by the frigid winter air. Having seen
the king’s messenger ride in through the gate, he was anxious to know what that
ominous arrival portended.
Geoff stepped into the great hall where sunlight sifted
through the shuttered windows to cast pale streams of light onto the herbed
rushes strewn on the floor. Built less than a year before, it still smelled of
new wood. But stronger was the spicy aroma of mutton stew. His mouth watered as
he imagined tender chunks of meat in rich sauce and butter dripping from a
thick slice of bread. Suddenly he was starving.
“I suppose ye have a yearning for some of me stew after all
yer swordplay,” observed Maggie coming toward him, a twinkle in her green eyes.
As Talisand’s cook, the plump Maggie held a special place in
his heart. When he and the Red Wolf had arrived to claim Talisand the year
before, Maggie was the first of the English to accept them, mayhap the only one
at the beginning. That her husband was the blacksmith rendered the pair
indispensable. To knights who wore chain mail, fought with blades of steel and
rode iron-shod warhorses, the blacksmith was most valuable, a good one, like
Maggie’s husband, highly prized.
“A picture of your stew has been with me all morn, Maggie,
but I must see the Red Wolf before I eat.” Sir Renaud de Pierrepont was the
Earl of Talisand by King William’s decree, but Geoff still thought of him as
he’d known him years before, the knight named for the beast he had slain with
his bare hands.
Before Geoff could head toward the Red Wolf’s chamber,
Maugris approached, his ancient blue eyes shining out of his weathered face
framed by gray hair that was ever in disarray. A Norman, who had come with them
to England more than two years before, Maugris was neither a soldier nor a
servant, nor the wizard the people of Talisand had at first thought him. He was
a wise man and a seer who directed his own fate. It struck Geoff then, as it
always did, how nimble the old man was in both mind and body. Maugris had been
the first of them to learn the English tongue.
Geoff’s gaze shifted to the door of the bedchamber where the
Red Wolf lay.
“Lady Serena is with the earl just now,” Maugris informed
him. “’Twould be best to eat first.”
“I suppose you speak wisdom,” Geoff muttered as he stretched
his hands toward the hearth fire.
“Why not join me at the table?” Maugris suggested.
Though anxious to see his friend, Geoff grunted his
agreement and headed for the high table.
“Sit yerself down,” insisted Maggie, “and I’ll see ye both
have some stew.”
He and Maugris took their seats.
“How is he, Maggie?” Geoff inquired, his brow furrowed in
worry as he again looked toward the bedchamber where Renaud was recovering from
a wound all were concerned could lead to a deadly fever.
“None too pleased, I expect. ’Twas worse than he pretended.
He is already growling at being so confined, but Lady Serena rightly insists he
Maggie disappeared into the kitchen and a servant brought
trenchers with bowls of stew and bread and butter to join the pitchers of ale
already on the table.
Geoff speared a piece of mutton from his stew with his
Maugris reached for the bread. “The Red Wolf is not used to
being injured or mayhap I should say he is unused to
injuries. Lady Serena has forced him to do so.”
“’Twas a bad riding accident that,” muttered Geoff,
remembering the fall Renaud had taken from his stallion a few days before when
the horse had stepped into a hole and fallen. “His Spanish stallion is none the
better for it, either.”
“Belasco will recover, as will his master.”
“Have you seen that in one of your visions?” Geoff asked,
only slightly amused, for he desperately wanted assurance Ren would be well.
Maugris took a sip of his ale. “Nay, but I know the Red Wolf
and his Spanish stallion. Both will recover in time.”
Knowing Maugris was never wrong, Geoff’s spirits lifted.
“And I will be thanking God when that day arrives.”
He cut a large piece of bread with his knife and slathered
it with butter. It was nearly to his mouth when, out of the corner of his eye,
he glimpsed Serena, Countess of Talisand, coming toward them from the chamber at
the base of the stairs, her flaxen hair covered now that she was wed. Beneath
the headcloth were two long plaits trailing down the front of her violet gown.
Round with the child she would deliver in the spring, Serena
walked slowly to the dais. “Good day to you both.”
Geoff set down his bread and he and Maugris rose as one and
“My lady,” Geoff said, helping her to her seat.
Once settled, Serena rested a hand on the mound of her
belly. “’Tis fortuitous my lord cannot climb the stairs and must be confined to
the lower chamber as I will soon be unable to climb them myself.”
“’Twill not be long now,” observed Maugris. “The coming of
April will see the Red Wolf with his first cub.”
“I look forward to the day he arrives, Maugris,” she
returned, casting the old man a kindly glance. “I cannot sleep for this babe’s
kicking in the night.”