Today Glynn Holloway, author of 1066: What Fates Impose, graces our pages with a passage from his novel–and a tense moment he shows us. In remembering the cataclysmic events of 1066 we look back at the day King Harold, having left troops guarding the English coast against invasion from the east, rushes north to stave off another one there. Harald Sigurdsson, King of Norway, has defeated York and the two monarchs are about to face off. It is September 25, 1066 and as the armies are about to meet at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold also faces his brother Tostig, who has allied himself with the foreign king. He keeps his wits about him, and somewhere along the line is mentioned the promise of “six feet of English earth.” If Harold prevails, where would it take him next?
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At Stamford Bridge
In the Viking camp by the side of the river, the Norsemen were in good heart, enjoying a glorious summer morning. The scene was bathed in a golden light that lifted the spirits. The earth was still dry and cracked, even so late in the year. Most of the men had finished breakfast and were waiting for the hostages to arrive. Some of the soldiers were playing board games, some idly chatting and exchanging banter. A small group gathered on the riverside were throwing stones at a washtub, which had jammed itself in some reeds on the far riverbank, upstream from the bridge.
‘King Harald, after we have the hostages, what do you intend to do?’ asked Tostig, chewing on the last of his bread.
‘We’ll take them to Riccal, and then we’ll go to London.’
‘When you’ve . . .’
‘What’s that,’ Harald interrupted, ‘on the ridge up there?’
Tostig looked across the river to the top of the valley. There on the skyline, underneath a cloud, he could see bright flashes and glints.
‘Does that look like ice to you, Tostig?’
By now, most of Sigurdsson’s soldiers could see what their king was looking at but none could make it out.
‘No, it’s sunlight catching on something,’ said the earl.
‘It looks like ice.’
‘It can’t be; it’s much too hot. It’s metal. It’s the sun catching on metal.’
‘That cloud is dust. That’s the dust kicked up by an army. The sun must be catching on their swords and armour. This means trouble, Tostig.’
‘Well, it might mean trouble but then again, it might not.’
‘That’s not very helpful, Tostig,’ growled Sigurdsson, glaring at him.
‘It might mean some of my kinsmen have come to welcome you. The word must be out that York fell easily into your hands; perhaps they’ve come seeking mercy and friendship.’
The Viking camp looked full of statues as everyone stopped and stared at the horizon; as they did so the vision on the ridge grew bigger.
‘King Harald,’ said Tostig, looking concerned, ‘I think that’s the English army. Why don’t we retreat to the ships at Riccal?’
‘I didn’t come all this way just to run away at the first sign of trouble. We can handle this lot. What we’ll do Tostig, is send three men on our fastest horses to Riccal to fetch help. It’ll be the Englishmen who’ll have the biggest surprize of the day.’
‘It’s your decision,’ Tostig said. ‘I’ve no wish to retreat, either.’
Sigurdsson gave him a cutting look, then ordered three men to ride to Riccal and a dozen more of his finest berserkers to cross to the York side of the river to defend the bridge. While his men donned their armour, Sigurdsson planned to cross the river to pay King Harold a visit.
The horses were brought up and Tostig mounted effortlessly; Sigurdsson lost his footing in the stirrup and fell to the ground with a thud. Embarrassed but unharmed, he rose to his feet and with his second attempt climbed into the saddle. With a small troop behind them, he and Tostig made their way across the bridge and rode boldly to where the English army lay poised on the ridge.
On his side of the River, Harold saw Sigurdsson fall from his horse.
‘Does anyone know who that man is, the one in the blue tunic, wearing the fancy helmet?’
‘That’s Harald Sigurdsson himself,’ answered the ealdorman.
‘He’s certainly a big man,’ said Harold, ‘but I don’t think this will be his lucky day.’
Author Glynn Holloway is so generously gifting a signed copy of 1066: What Fates Impose to one lucky winner. For your chance to win the contest, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here, and your name will be entered into the drawing. Good luck!!!
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To read the review for 1066: What Fates Impose, click here.
Author Glynn Holloway also writes …
I’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.
Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.
After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.
From Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.
What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.
(My favorite part of that: “That somebody ought to be me.”)
This post was updated to include blogger introductory corrections from final draft.