"What could be better than an intriguing mystery, a little romance, and a short sojourn in a place and time that’s little known and less understood? Douglas Bond shines a light on the past in a way that’s as entertaining as it is informative."
Janie B. Cheaney, Senior Writer, WORLD magazine
"Magnificent! The whole thing reads aloud so well, like a sung ballad in its words and cadence. Amazing." Mother of three
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“Well, as much as I loved the Crown and Covenant Trilogy and thought they were written well, this new book is on a different planet. I love it!” 11-year-old reader
"What a great yarn! The story thread worked very well, not predictably, and with enough twists and turns to keep attention riveted. It read great, both aloud and silently. I applaud the flow and cadence."
"Your descriptiveness is wonderfully done and strikes the mark, providing depth and nuance, and immersing the reader in a certain beauty of word and mind-picture."
Cynwulf slept fitfully through the fury of a violent night. The timorous beasts with whom he slept fared no better. Clumping together in terror, they bleated pitifully at the rumbling that shook the timbers of the make-shift bothy. From where he lay on his sea-grass and eider-down mat, Cynwulf pulled his wolf hide over his head to muffle the rumbling. He imagined in his mind’s eye Thunor wielding his dreaded hammer, laying waste the rocky promontory of nearby Bedlowe Craig, jutting into the heavens above Lindisfarne.
But it was morning now. Thunor had at last spent his rage and put up his hammer, and all was still. Through gaps in the planking above, Cynwulf saw the twinkling of sunlight, giving promise of a fair late-winter day. All was still, that is, save the stirrings of the sheep in his charge, and the slavering, persistent muzzle of Chester, the wolfhound at his side.
“That were a troubled night, then, were it not?” said Cynwulf, scratching the coarse head of the beast at his side. He flung aside his night covering and rolled onto his feet, Chester’s tail eagerly thumping the planking of the bothy.
Thrusting an axe into both sides of his ox hide belt, Cynwulf drew aside the door of the bothy. Chester bolted into the morning, the sheep bouncing behind. Cynwulf paused at the sight. Sunlight shone brilliant white off the backs of the sheep and sparkled like gemstones on the wet grass all about. Winter had been long, and dark, and frigid, and a sight bathed in warmth and beauty such as this was rare on the coast of Northumberland.
Fire-red sky the morning before this one, and the metallic scent of tempest last evening, had prompted Cynwulf to draw out of the sea and weigh down his longboat with stones. It lay upside down high up the beach, a smaller version of his bothy.
It had been after another violent tempest two years ago that Cynwulf had looked out on his stretch of tideland to discover the battered remains of a Viking ship, its occupants nowhere to be seen, their cleaving blades silenced by the violence of the sea before they could slake them on the inhabitants of the island settlement. Though he shared blood with their race, he could feel nothing but relief that they had perished, every man of them. The plunderer’s battered ship the sole survivor, Cynwulf had salvaged enough planking to build his own man-sized longboat, and he had, with great effort, levered the forward half of the doomed vessel onto high ground, and with still greater effort, flipped it upside down. Amidst the odd looks and jests of his neighbors, he had ever since been crafting it into a living place for himself, for Chester, for his few sheep, and perhaps one day for a woman.
The woody quacking of a mob of eider duck caught Cynwulf’s ear, and he scanned the seashore where dozens of the black and white waterfowl ducked and bobbed in the shallows for their breakfast. Cynwulf’s innards churned as he watched them feed. Just as he had hoped, after such a storm as had hurled itself upon the island last night, the sand beach was strewn with new-fallen trees from the mainland north.
“All hail!” said Cynwulf with a smile. “In Thunor’s thundering tempest, god has prospered my way.” Sea-battered Lindisfarne had few trees and so was largely beholden to the storms and the tide for fuel and timber. And both storm and sea had smiled upon his path that day. From this stretch of beach alone, he would find fuel to sell and perhaps enough timber to frame the west transept of the priory chapel, for a fee. And after such a storm, there’d be any number of repairs needed on the island. Cynwulf smiled with satisfaction. He would put Chester to watching the sheep after breakfast, and set to the windfall with his saw.
He turned back toward his sheep and the rolling grasslands, Chester intoxicated by the sun-drenched morning, baying and lumbering ahead of the woolly mob.There was a thought nagging at Cynwulf’s mind, one ill-formed but persistent. He tried shaking his head to fend off that thought, but it was no use. He had lived too many spring times to ignore it. It was in the warming time when the Norsemen go a-viking. The isle of Lindisfarne, though barren and windswept and its inhabitants few and owning little, was the first landfall jutting out into the North Sea, and so could ill-afford to ignore the vulnerability of its situation. Though it might seem that raiding such a place was an expenditure of energy not worth the trouble, the horned-barbarians, from time to time, could not resist. It happened but one springtime in five, but when it did the dragon-prowed longboats, red-stripped sails billowing, appeared out of the mist, and ran their grinding keels onto the shore, disgorging wild men, far from home, lusting for blood...