Today, it is exactly one month to the publication of my debut novel “Bright Sword”.
Am I getting excited? A bit, but I still can’t believe it.
To prove to myself that it is actually happening, I am releasing a short extract for you to read, to whet your appetite.
This piece comes from the start of the book, from the very first chapter, in fact.
Byrhtnoth has arrived at the King’s hall. It is winter, there is a feast, perhaps Christmas. He is seven years old.
Inside, the blast of noise almost knocked us backwards. So many voices shouting at the same time, like a battle was taking place. I felt my new friend’s hand tighten in mine.
“At least it’s warm,” I said. After the cold outside it was almost too hot. The thick smoky heat carried with it the smell of many bodies, dirty straw and spilt ale. Best of all was the smell of food; the wonderful smell of roasting meat.
Long boards stretched either side of the hall with warriors seated at them. Nearest were young men, clad in shades of brown or grey with only a glimpse here and there of more colourful embroidery. Further away were the older men, wealthy thegns, with richer clothes. So many colours, like a summer meadow. The bands of embroidery were wider and more intricate. Gold rings flashed as arms moved, and jewels glinted from knife hilts. Everyone was shouting, mostly in good-humour; toasts and bragging, snatches of drinking songs. There were arguments, which never quite developed into fights. Someone would pull the men apart and pour more ale from the large jugs scattered liberally along the boards.
The far end of the hall was invisible. Hidden by the smoke of the fire pits; not just one hearth that you might find in an ordinary hall, but a whole line of them. Over every one a carcass roasted or a cauldron bubbled. Servants carved slabs of meat from the great roasts, cleverly avoiding the flames leaping up from the fires. Others rushed around with plates of meat or baskets full of warm crusty bread.
Someone thrust some meat into my hand before dashing elsewhere. It was golden brown and crispy on the outside, still slightly bloody inside. I had never held so much meat in my hands. Before anyone could change their mind, I tore off a piece and handed it to my companion. He ripped at it like a half starved dog, gulping it down in chunks. I bit into the fragrant meat, the fat running down my chin. I had never tasted anything so delicious before.
I was licking the last of the juices from my fingers when the door opened again. It was the man who had let us in.
“You two still here? Someone’s given you something to eat?”
I nodded; fearful we had done something wrong.
“Come with me. I’m Oswald, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me.”
Close to the door sat two men. They waved us on when they saw we had no weapons to hand in. Behind them was a vast collection. Knives and sharp seaxes lay neatly on a bench, some sheathed, others gleaming in naked menace. In the corner stood axes, firelight glinting from the vicious blades. Bundles of spears like sheaves of corn leaned against the wall. Then I saw the swords. I stopped and stared. They hung from hooks, some marked by the badge of their owner, sheathed in scabbards of different lengths, some plain leather; many dyed glorious colours and inlaid with gold, silver or decorated with precious jewels. The sword hilts rose proudly from the scabbards, matching them in decoration. Some were new, highly polished, crying out their owner’s status. Others were old, handed down through some great family, pommels worn smooth by the hands of generations of warriors. Automatically my hand fell to the small plain knife that hung from my belt.
“Don’t worry. Eating knives are allowed.” One of the guards smiled at me.
I hung my head and hurried away.
“You’ll have a sword one day,” he shouted after me. I looked back. His grin broadened and he nodded before giving me a wave. As I followed Oswald along the side of the hall, I felt a sudden thrill. A sword. Could I ever earn a sword of my own? Had my father, whoever he was, owned a sword?
I’m sorry there isn’t more. For that you will have to wait until January 28th.
Bright Sword is the first book of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles.
Publisher: Book Guild Publishing Ltd
The paperback can be pre-ordered here and through other outlets.
It will also be available as an ebook.
I hope you will enjoy it.