Authors: Mark Alder
Tags: #Historical Fiction, #England, #France
Banners of Blood: Book One
To Dad 1933–2013 Much missed
‘There’s a one-eyed yellow idol, to the north of Kathmandu.’
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Isaiah 45: 7 King James Bible
I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.
Luke 19: 26-27 New International Bible
In the year that King Edward, the third of that name after William called Bastard and Conqueror, overthrew The Mortimer who had ruled as regent and tyrant and that Edward, later known as The Black Prince was born to the king.
She sang to the child for the last time on the night that the priest came, leading his stern-faced men with their staves and their spears.
This is what she sang:
‘Heather is your bed
The stars are your candles
And your blanket is my caress.’
It was a child’s song, and she’d sung it to him when she laid him to sleep under the summer moon since he came to her when he was very small.
‘Don’t!’ Dowzabel turned his dark head away on the wrap of hare’s fur that did for his pillow.
‘Too big now for a hug from your old nan?’ The woman was thin, wrapped in a coarse green shawl but her face was bonny, made plump by her smile.
‘Yes! I’m six!’ The boy was just as thin, starved almost.
‘You don’t know that! You could be just a baby. Give us a cuddle!’ She stretched out her arm to him, teasing.
‘I know! You know it! You told me.’ He pulled away from her, embarrassed, laughing. He wanted to hug her and he wanted not to hug her or, rather, to be the sort of boy who didn’t want a hug. Further up the scraggy turf of the moorland hill sat two men, silent and watching, spears in their hands, bows at their sides. Their names were Beliar and Danjal, both hardened robbers. Dowzabel didn’t want to look soft in front of them.
He sat up. The moor under the evening moon was so beautiful, the sky a hollow lilac, the standing stones watching down in the pale distance like sentries on the castles of the hills.
A kestrel, silver in the dusk, turned the world around its wing. A beat, a flutter, a sudden and momentary fury. It tumbled, stopped and hovered almost motionless, its wings wide, possessing the land. Now the evening hung beneath the bird’s stillness – as if everything stopped for this child of the air.