Tomorrow, for four days (18th-21st November) Book One of my Viking trilogy, Shadow of the Raven, will be free again on Amazon. I know that many of you ordered a copy last time it was free – for which I’m extremely grateful. As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s a great help to self-published authors just to have copies of their books ‘bought’ in this way, as it helps to make the book more visible on Amazon. Of course, it’s even better if people read and review it. As many other authors have said on WordPress, reviews are like gold dust to authors.
Both of my books are available from all Amazon marketplaces. Here are the two main links to Shadow of the Raven:
This part of the story is set in the Danish lands where Eadwulf, son of the Mercian king, has been taken as a thrall (slave). In this scene, he is forced to flee from the village by Ivar and Halfdan, the two vindictive sons of Jarl Ragnar. Now Eadwulf is being pursued by Halfdan and his two minions, Skorri and Reinn – and the vicious wolf-dog, Viggi. Bjorn, who also appears in this scene, is Ivar and Halfdan’s older brother, the jarl’s firstborn.
Eadwulf has reached the forest in hope of shelter, only to find the pathway he chose blocked by a massive, fallen oak – just as Halfdan and the wolf dog catch him up:
‘So, Mercian, time for Viggi’s reward, I think,’ Halfdan said slowly, straining to hold the the snarling dog in check. ‘Nice try at the river, by the way, but I knew you must have crossed somewhere once the water became shallower. Didn’t take much to work that out. The broken branches and flattened grasses up the bank were a bit of a giveaway. And naturally, Viggi had no problem picking up your scent across the heath.’ Halfdan picked gorse flowers and bits of foliage from his breeks with his free hand and smoothed down his tunic. ‘Nothing to say, thrall? Then let’s get this done with.’
Halfdan bent to unfasten the leather leash, the two boys peering from behind him, slavering in anticipation of gruesome entertainment.
‘Release the dog, Halfdan, and it’s dead.’
Halfdan spun round in alarm, treading on the hound’s tail and falling against Skorri and Reinn, bringing them down with him. The dog let out a yelp and snapped at Halfdan’s ankles, causing him to cry out in pain. The sight of his red-headed brother ready to loose the arrow from his bowstring caused Halfdan to emit such a startled cry that Eadwulf almost laughed.
‘What are you doing here, Bjorn? How long have you been standing there?’ Guilt coloured Halfdan’s face and he seemed to shrink beneath Bjorn’s scathing gaze.
‘More importantly, what exactly are you doing here? But before you attempt your feeble explanations, Halfdan, I’ll answer your second question: I’ve been here long enough to see what you were about to do and apparently I’m only just in time to put a stop to it!’
Bjorn glowered at Halfdan, his arrow aimed unwaveringly at the dog. His gaudy evening tunic and baggy trousers were muddy and adorned with fragments of heath. ‘I’ve been roused before daybreak with a tale of my brothers’ wicked scheme and the request that I dash across miles of open land to deal with it. I’m now saturated to the skin and exhausted by moving faster than Sleipnir across the sky. Is it any wonder my temper’s simmering close to boiling?’ He released his breath with controlled calmness. ‘What I demand, Halfdan, is an explanation: preferably one that sheds a more favourable light on these antics and possibly justifies your behaviour, which frankly I, for one, cannot condone.’
Halfdan hung his head, mustering up the courage to answer. ‘We were apprehending an escaped thrall,’ he lied, looking for support from his two minions. But they had shrunk into the shadows, fearful of the authority of Ragnar’s firstborn. ‘This thrall thought he could just run away – from the jarl!’
‘And just why should he do that? Where do you think a boy, a foreigner at that, could run to in a strange land? And manage to survive, of course?’
‘How should I know where he’d go? We just saw him running off.’
‘And at what hour would that have been?’
Halfdan’s brow puckered. ‘Perhaps two or three hours before sunrise.’
‘And you and Ivar are usually outside at that time?’
‘No, but . . .’ Halfdan faltered, clearly searching for a plausible lie. ‘We were roused by noises outside.’
‘So, you’re saying that this would-be escapee made so much noise he could have roused the whole village?’
Halfdan stared at his half-brother, opening his mouth to reply, but the words seemed firmly lodged in his throat. At length he garbled, ‘I saw the thrall running off when I went to the, um, latrine. I ran and told Ivar, who said that Viggi would soon find him. So we followed his trail to here . . .’
Bjorn’s bowstring remained resolutely taut. ‘Unfortunately for you, I have evidence to verify that events took place quite differently.’ He shook his head, his expression more of sorrow than anger. ‘And it’s apparent that had I not arrived when I did, Eadwulf would now be little more than a bloody mound at your feet!’
Unable to find words of reply, Halfdan remained mute, returning Bjorn’s calculating stare with cold-eyed defiance.
‘Get back to the village, the three of you,’ Bjorn said, flicking his bow. ‘You’ve no idea how tempted I am to sink this arrow in that evil cur’s skull anyway. Believe me, Halfdan, you’ll not get away with this. I’m not the only one who knows the truth of your intentions for this day.’