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Authors: Anna Markland

A Man of Value

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A MAN OF VALUE

THE MONTBRYCE LEGACY~BOOK TWO

ANNA MARKLAND

Kindle Edition

ISBN 978-0-9878673-2-2

 

What are readers saying?

“Late 11th century Europe is the backdrop for this beautiful, well told historic romance. Filled with interesting characters, a solid plot and colorful backgrounds this story reeled me in and kept me turning pages till the end. This is a very well written, well thought out and plotted story. It is Book 2 of the Montbryce Legacy but is a great stand-alone book. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series (as well as the 1st). I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story.”

~Susan-Goodreads Reviewer

“Set in the tapestry of ongoing conflict and politics in the year 1087, this sensual, bittersweet love story between Agneta and Sir Caedmon Woolgar is beautifully written.”

~Mimi Barbour, author of
His Devious Angel

“I am so intrigued by the characters in these stories. I love the strong women who struggle to overcome their own demons, as well as the complicated men who likewise must discover their own self-worth. I'm absolutely hooked.”

~English PH -Amazon Reviewer

“Anna Markland weaves a fantastic tale of love, passion, raw emotions and inner conflict. The characters become real people and I was transported back to 11th century England, with all their trials and tribulations. Caedmon's experiences and realizations while on the Crusade are both raw and enlightening. The historic detail wound into their love story is simply brilliant! A fantastic read!”

~Lorrie A.-Amazon Reviewer

 

 

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Try not to become a man of success,

But rather try to become a man of value

~Albert Einstein

For my father William Gaskell

A Lancashire lad through and through,

Honest, loyal and true

 

 

PROLOGUE

Edwinesburh, Scotland, 1087

Caedmon Brice Woolgar liked the sound of laughter, and savoured the guffaws of his friends, already well into their cups. He parted his long hair down the centre, gathered the thick black locks into two bunches, and pulled back tightly. Sticking out his tongue, and rolling his eyes, he continued his mockery. “They say William Rufus, the new King of the English, wears his long blond hair parted in the centre, and off his face, which is always red, as if he’s angry. That’s why they call him Rufus.”

Edgar choked on his ale. “Don’t let the fair Aediva see you making that face, Caedmon,” he teased. “She’ll no longer love you.”

Caedmon felt his face redden. “Aediva doesn’t love me, though she thinks she does.”

“And what of the beautiful Audrey, and the voluptuous Coventina—and the well-endowed—”

“Cease! Can I help it if these women lust after my handsome face?” Caedmon interjected good-naturedly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand after taking a long swig of his dark ale.

“It’s not your bonny face they lust after, my brawny friend,” Leofric Deacon commented sardonically, bending his long arm to his head and looking cross-eyed at his own bulging bicep. “It’s those impressive muscles.”

“Aye!” was the jovial agreement, as tankards clinked together and laughter rang out.

“I hear Rufus is a dandy who dresses in the height of fashion, however outrageous,” Edgar Siward cooed, prancing foppishly around the crowded alehouse.

Relieved the jesting had turned back to Rufus, Caedmon carried on, “Rumour has it the new king’s eyes are threatening, his voice strident, as if he’s trying to intimidate. They say he’s a bully who easily takes offense.”

Leofric imitated the features Caedmon described, giving rise to further fits of laughter.

Despite their levity, Caedmon knew they were all wondering if the son of the hated Conqueror would be as ruthlessly cruel as his recently departed father.

“The Normans have their problems with all William’s ambitious sons. Robert Curthose won’t be content to be the Duke of the Normans. He thirsts for Rufus’s throne,” Edgar opined. “Did you know that when they were boys, Rufus and his brother Henry once stood on a high balcony and dumped a full chamber pot on their brother Curthose’s head? Playing dice must have become too boring.”

General comments of disgust ensued.

“Perhaps, while they are busy trying to steal from each other, we can help our King Malcolm regain Northumbria?”Caedmon slapped his friend on the back. “Pray you’re right, Leofric. I too would like a piece of Northumbria to claim as my own.”

“As would any one of us,” Siward agreed. “It’s ironic all of us were born in this barbaric country, yet we’re outcasts, the sons of Saxons who fled the Conqueror after Hastings.”

“Aye, and most of us fatherless, our heroic sires dead at Hastings, or Dover, or any one of the innumerable merciless skirmishes with the brutal Normans,” Leofric lamented.

“And listen to us. ‘
Aye
,’ Leofric says, as if he’s a Scot,” Caedmon said. “We sound like Scots, though we’re Saxons. We’ve had to learn the tongue of the Gaels to survive at King Malcolm’s court.
Aye
, we sound like Scots, though any Scot knows we’re not.”

“At least we haven’t been forced to learn the hated Norman French,” Edgar offered.

Eivind Brede came over from another table and joined the conversation. “Here we are, landless and powerless, but looked upon by our exiled forebears as the hope of the future, the pride of our race. We burn to liberate a country many of us have never set foot in.”

Caedmon’s Saxon mother, Lady Ascha Woolgar, took such pride in him, and he’d always admired her bravery at risking the flight to Scotland after the death of his father at Hastings—a pregnant woman, with no one but her brother, Gareth, for sustenance. Even after Gareth’s death, she’d prospered in Scotland, and become a respected pillar of the exiled Saxon community. His mother made sure everyone recognized him as the son of a martyr of Hastings.

“I wish with all my heart I could restore my mother to her own country, the land of her birth,” he declared solemnly.

His friends nodded in silent agreement, and not a word was spoken for several minutes.

They all seethe with the same longing, an England ruled again by Anglo-Saxons.

“Now we’re getting too serious,” he said finally. “We’ve sworn to help King Malcolm oust the Normans, at least from Northumbria. Let’s drink to that.”

He leapt up onto his seat. “King Malcolm
Cenn Mór!
Malcolm, the Great Chieftain,” he shouted, raising his tankard.

“Northumbria!” came the echo.

“Aye!”

 

CHAPTER ONE

Bolton, Northumbria, March 1093,

Sixth Year of the Reign of William Rufus

Agneta Kirkthwaite crouched in terror in the abandoned hayloft, shivering, despite the warmth of her mother’s arms clasped tightly around her. Her father, Sir Eidwyn, had hurried them into hiding as soon as the outriders had raised the alarm.

“Make sure you have your dagger, Ragna,” Eidwyn told his wife, his voice strained.

The barbaric Scots had been increasing their murderous raids on Norman holdings in Northumbria, and though the Kirkthwaites weren’t Normans, their manor in the tiny village of Bolton, more prosperous than most, might tempt raiders. Over the years since the Conquest, their isolation, and alliances with the Normans, had spared them many of the ravages experienced by other Northumbrians. Now, in defense of their home, Eidwyn and his sons, Aidan and Branton, had armed themselves and the villagers and were ready for an attack.

Unholy battle cries heralded the arrival of the marauders, raising the hairs on the back of Agneta’s neck. Ragna Kirkthwaite pressed her eye to a crack between the old planking of their hiding place.

“God save us,” she breathed, making the Sign of the Cross. “They’re naked!” She looked away, and dragged Agneta across the rough floorboards, further from the wall.

“Who are they, Mamma?” Agneta whimpered. “Why are they attacking us?”

“Barbarian Scots,” her mother spat. “Will they never give up their claim to Northumbria? Stay here.”

Ragna crawled back to the chink, and peered out again. She gasped, and scurried back to Agneta, who grasped her mother’s sleeve. “What is it?”

“There are Saxons with them.”

“But father is a Saxon. Why would Saxons attack us?”

Ragna took a deep breath. “I don’t know, but your father and brothers will fight them off, with the help of the villagers.”

The mayhem below continued for a long while. Agneta winced at the harsh sounds of metal on metal, screams of pain, and shouts of triumph. Then suddenly—nothing. She clung to her mother for long anxious minutes, until the faint smell of smoke wafted up to them.

Ragna inched closer to the crack. She choked back a whimper and her forehead slumped against the wood.

“What’s wrong? What is it?” Agneta whispered frantically.

When her mother didn’t reply, Agneta crawled over to the crack and looked.

The house is on fire.

She was about to look away when new shouts came to her ears, and she caught sight of her father. Sword drawn, he fought with two naked raiders whose bodies shone eerily. Were they covered in grease?

“Papa looks tired,” she whispered. She turned to look at her mother, and saw a tear roll down her cheek. She looked back through the crack. No one!

Suddenly, Aidan, her beloved seventeen year old brother, one year older than she, staggered into view and fell to the ground, clutching his chest. A shrieking marauder appeared, leapt onto Aidan, and plunged a dagger into his back.


Aidan
,” she rasped, her throat dry as dust. She furrowed her brow in anguished disbelief, and rocked to and fro, hugging her knees. “They’ve stabbed Aidan.”

Her mother crawled away from the wall, and curled up, whimpering.

Where are Papa, and Branton, and the villagers?

Agneta couldn’t help it. She was drawn to look back at the slaughter. Before long, she’d witnessed the murders of Branton, and her father. Bloodied, broken bodies lay all over the courtyard. The only sounds were the crackling of the burning timbers, and the victorious laughter of the barbarians who’d perpetrated this horror.

Fear gripped her and she couldn’t stop the tears streaming down her face. Her mother had gone strangely quiet. Agneta sniffled, wiped her runny nose with her sleeve, and looked through the crack again. Her stomach clenched and she blinked rapidly. A man in chain mail was crouched beside Aidan. He turned the boy over, and dragged him into a sitting position, cradling Aidan’s shoulders with his arm. Agneta fisted her hands against the wall, her fingernails biting into her palms.

Please don’t hurt him.

The warrior smoothed the hair off the boy’s face then lay Aidan down again. Agneta flattened her palms against the wall and clawed at the splintering wood. Everything seemed to have tilted and she was afraid she might swoon.

Aidan, Aidan—

Unexpectedly, the man rocked back on his heels and slowly stood, brushing the dirt from his leggings with his gauntlets. With the back of her fist she strangled a cry that threatened to burst from her throat. Even seen from her high perch, he was a giant.

Oh God! He’s looking up.

Her insides pitched and rolled, but she willed her body to be still. The man removed his helmet and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. Black hair fell to his shoulders. She couldn’t look away. Soon another man came to stand beside him, similarly clad.

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