Extract from The Saxon Wolf: Prologue
As you may know, The Saxon Wolf (Fire Born 2), is coming out after Christmas. So I am posting the Prologue of The Saxon Wolf here, as an extract, to try and whet your appetites before the launch of book 2 early in the new year. Be a sweetheart, pre-order a copy, and tell all your friends . . . or just enjoy the opening scene of my latest Viking novel.
Spring AD 773
The shield-maiden stood perfectly still in the line of warriors, a warm trickle of shame running down the inside of her leg. This was not her first battle, by any means, nor was she the only fighter to have released her bladder in fear that day. But she was surprised at herself – revolted by her lack of control.
Around her stood several hundred of her comrades, folk of the North, all well-armed and armoured, and their commander, a Danish jarl, who stood to her left and a little behind the line of shields. The shield-maiden hoped no one in that press of humanity would recognise her abject terror. She had a reputation for fearlessness that she cherished – her features might be pretty, her body might be slender and short, her limbs wiry rather than powerful, but she could fight, and until this day she’d truly believed that she was dauntless.
Evidently not. The fear roiled in her guts like a poisonous eel, icy and ever moving. Her leather trews were soaked through now with her own sweat and wastes. And, were it not for the crush of warriors about her, she would have been tempted to run as fast as she could from this horror-filled gore-patch, to preserve her frail young life from certain destruction.
In the air directly above her, a lone red kite circled the battlefield, waiting for its reward, and away to her left, impatient crows hopped and squabbled among the fallen. The bully sun beat down, a great molten disk of metal in the perfect blue sky.
She stood in the second line, just below the crest of the small ridge. She and her comrades had not yet engaged in this life-and-death struggle. But it must be soon – the waves of battle must crash over her very soon. She could hear the sounds of slaughter: the rip and wrench of human flesh; the constant screaming; the shouts of rage and joy. The raw reek of shit and blood coated her tongue; the din of steel smashed against steel relentlessly, the rattle and slap, clash and clatter of blades pounding tattered mail and battered shields.
And nearby, a young man crying out softly for his mother.
Her body was shaking, despite the heat of the day. Stop! She ordered herself. Stop this! She bit a fold of her lower lip until the blood ran coppery-sweet. But her hands still trembled. She knew she would vomit again soon.
Abruptly the front rank of her comrades was swept away, the thin line of warriors hurled this way and that, shot down with evil, hissing arrows, or battered into bloody ruin by the whirling enemy blades. The battle noise, that awful din, was much louder now, and all around, suffocating, numbing – and suddenly there, revealed as if by a swiftly ripped-back curtain, stood a dread monster from a heathen nightmare, an enormous creature of black fur and fresh, dripping blood. Clad in gore-clotted mail and a vast, sodden bearskin cloak, and holding a bearded axe in one huge paw, the Rekkr threw back his great shaggy head, opened his maw and roared at the clear vault of the sky.
A bold champion stepped from their ranks to challenge this dread monster: a massive, shaven-headed fighter, a young, bare-chested warrior, strong as a full-grown ox, the trusted bodyguard of her jarl. He bellowed his own challenge at the Rekkr and struck out hard at the creature. Behind him, the girl hefted her shield, snatched a quick instant to wipe the sweat from her brow, and when she looked again, the champion was down, the battle-mad berserkr’s axe buried haft-deep in the young man’s bare chest.
Another warrior leapt on the monster’s back, stabbing in hard, but the Rekkr plucked the attacker off like a cloak and, holding his head in one hand, he pulled out his seax, a long, brutal fighting knife, and jammed it into the squirming man’s neck, before dropping him like a rag to the turf.
The monster’s gaze now fell directly upon the terrified shield-maiden, his mouth grinning broadly. She could see bloody spittle and big square teeth in the blood-red hole. His eyes were black as jet, huge and mad. He took a step towards her, the bloody seax gripped in his right hand. He made a deep humming sound as he advanced inexorably on her small, trembling form.
She shouted: ‘Bjarki! Stop it! You love me, as I love you. You know it, inside. Inside the real you. Stop! Come back to me. You cannot hurt me!’
The Rekkr did not seem to hear her.
Her comrades were fleeing, melting away before this creature; she felt their absence, a space around her, and now stood alone on the grassy slope, face to face with this unholy being of such hideous power.
Her sword was forgotten in her hand. Her shield drooped.
She shouted a last time: ‘No, no, please. Bjarki, it’s me!’
‘No talking!’ the Rekkr bellowed. He slashed at her with his dripping seax. She stumbled backwards, tripped on her own feet, fell flat on her rump.
Bjarki leapt on top of her, landing like a cat on knees and elbows, straddling her winded body. She stared up into the twisted face, twitching, spattered with frothy blood; the face of the man she loved – the monster she loved – and felt his sharp steel pierce her belly and loins, again and again, a series of brutal punches.
She felt no pain, just his weight on her body, and a deep sadness. And an icy coldness, a void; blackness rising, rising till it filled her whole world.
End of extract.
The Saxon Wolf (Fire Born 2) is published on January 13th, 2022. You can pre-order the novel in paperback or as an eBook from Amazon by clicking here