The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Series)

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9780008104603: The Price of Blood (The Emma of Normandy Series)

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell's gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England's King AEthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered AEthelred, still haunted by his brother's ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder. As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men--even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword. Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series.

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About the Author:

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She holds an M.A. in English Literature and her historical research has taken her to Britain, France and Denmark. She has two grown sons, and she lives with her husband in Oakland, California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Dramatis Personae

*Indicates a Fictional Character

Royal Family

Æthelred II, King of England

Emma, Queen of England

Children of the English king, in birth order:

Athelstan

Ecbert

Edmund

Edrid

Edwig

Edgar

Edyth

Ælfgifu (Ælfa)

Wulfhilde (Wulfa)

Mathilda

Edward

Emma’s Household

Aldyth, niece of Ealdorman Ælfhelm

Elgiva, daughter of Ealdorman Ælfhelm

*Father Martin

*Hilde, granddaughter of Ealdorman Ælfric

*Margot

Wymarc

Robert, Wymarc’s son

Leading Ecclesiastics

Ælfheah, Archbishop of Canterbury

Ælfhun, Bishop of London

Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester, Archbishop of Jorvik

Leading Nobles

Ælfhelm, Ealdorman of Northumbria

Ufegeat, his son

Wulfheah, his son (Wulf)

*Alric, his retainer

Ælfric, Ealdorman of Hampshire

Godwine, Ealdorman of Lindsey

Leofwine, Ealdorman of Western Mercia

Eadric of Shrewsbury

Godwin, Wulfnoth’s son

Morcar of the Five Boroughs

Siferth of the Five Boroughs

Thurbrand of Holderness

Ulfkytel of East Anglia

Uhtred of Northumberland

Wulfnoth of Sussex

Duke Richard II, Emma’s brother

Duchess Judith

Dowager Duchess Gunnora, Emma’s mother

Robert, Archbishop of Rouen, Emma’s brother

Swein Forkbeard, King of Denmark

Harald, his son

Cnut, his son

Hemming

Thorkell

Tostig

Glossary

Ætheling: literally, throne-worthy. All of the legitimate sons of the Anglo-Saxon kings were referred to as æthelings.

Ague: any sickness with a high fever

Breecs: Anglo-Saxon term for trousers

Burh: an Anglo-Saxon fort

Burn: a small stream

Ceap: the market street

Cemes: a long linen undergarment for men

Ceorl: a freeman, neither noble nor slave; peasant

Chasuble: an ecclesiastical vestment, a sleeveless mantle covering body and shoulders, often elaborately embroidered, worn over a long, white tunic

Cyrtel: a woman’s gown

Danelaw: an area of England that roughly comprises Yorkshire, East Anglia, and central and eastern Mercia, where successive waves of Scandinavians settled throughout the ninth and tenth centuries

Ealdorman: a high-ranking noble appointed by the king to govern a province in the king’s name. He led troops, levied taxes, and administered justice. It was a political position usually conferred upon members of powerful families.

Eyas: a falcon chick, taken from the nest for training

Five Boroughs: a region in Mercia made up of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford, and Lincoln, it exercised significant political influence in late Anglo-Saxon England

: literally flesh street; outdoor meat market

Fyrd: an armed force that was raised at the command of the king or an ealdorman, usually in response to a Viking threat

Gafol: the tribute paid to an enemy army to purchase peace

Garth: a small piece of enclosed ground used as a yard, garden, or paddock

Geld: a tax levied by the king, who used the money to pay the tribute extorted by Viking raiders

Gerningakona: Old Norse term for a woman who practices magic

Godwebbe: precious cloth, frequently purple, normally of silk; probably shot-silk taffeta

Haga: a fenced enclosure; a dwelling in town

Handfasting: a marriage or betrothal; a sign of a committed relationship with no religious ceremony or exchange of property

Headrail: a veil, often worn with a circlet or band, kept in place with pins

Hearth troops: warriors who made up the household guard of royals and great lords

Hibernia: Latin name for Ireland

Hide: an Anglo-Saxon land reckoning for the purpose of assessing taxes

Hird: the army of the Northmen; the enemies of the English

Host: army

Hythe: Old English term for a wharf or pier

Leech: a physician

Lindsey: the district of eastern England between the River Witham and the Humber, in the northern part of Lincolnshire

Mantling: in falconry, the action of a bird spreading its wings and arching over its prey to hide it

Mere: a lake or pond

Murrain: a disease of domestic animals

Nithing: a pejorative term in Norse and Old English meaning “abject wretch”

Reeve: a man with administrative responsibilities utilized by royals, bishops, and nobles to oversee towns, villages, and large estates

Rood: the cross on which Christ was crucified

Sámi: a culture indigenous to Norway, believed to have prophetic skills

Scop: storyteller; harper

Screens passage: a vestibule just inside the entrance to a great hall or similar chamber, created by movable screens that blocked the wind from gusting into the hall when the doors were opened

Scyrte: a short garment worn by men; shirt

Seel: to sew shut the eyes of a falcon for training

Sennight: a week

Skald: poet or storyteller

Smoc: a shirt or undergarment

Thegn: literally one who serves another; a title that marks a personal relationship; the leading ones served the king himself; a member of the highest rank in Anglo-Saxon society; a landholder with specified obligations to his lord

Thrall: a slave

Wain: a wagon or cart

Wergild: literally man payment; the value set on a person’s life

Witan: wise men; the king’s council

Wyrd: fate or destiny

Prologue

Shrove Tuesday, March 1006

Calne, Wiltshire

Æthelred knelt, his head clutched in his hands, bowed beneath the weight of his crown and his sins. Somewhere above, the vesper bells rang to mark the call to evening prayer, and at the very moment of their tolling he felt his limbs tremble, convulsed by a force beyond his control.

The familiar, hated lethargy settled over him, and though he strove to keep his head down and his eyes shut, a will far stronger than his own pulled his gaze upward. The air before him thickened and turned as black and rippling as the windswept surface of a mere. Pain gnawed at his chest, and he shivered with cold and apprehension as the world around him vanished. Sounds, too, faded to nothing and he knew only the cold, the pain, and the flickering darkness before him that stretched and grew into the shape of a man.

Or what had been a man once. Wounds gaped like a dozen mouths at throat and breast, gore streaked the shredded garments crimson, and the menacing face wore Death’s gruesome pallor. His murdered brother’s shade drew toward him, an exhalation from the gates of heaven or the mouth of hell—he could not say which. Not a word passed its lips, but he sensed a malevolence that flowed from the dead to the living, and he shrank back in fear and loathing.

Yet he could not look away. For long moments the vision held him in thrall until, as it began to fade, he became aware of another figure—of a shadow behind the shadow. Dark, indistinct, shrouded in gloom, it hovered briefly in the thickened air and then, like the other, it was gone.

Released from the spell, he could hear once again the pealing of the vesper bells and the murmur of voices at prayer, could smell the honeyed scent of candles and, beneath it, the rank stench of his own sweat. The golden head dropped once more into cupped hands, but now it was heavy with fear and tormented by a terrible foreboding.

A.D. 1006 This year Ælfheah was consecrated Archbishop; Wulfheah and Ufegeat were deprived of sight; Ealdorman Ælfhelm was slain . . .

—The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Chapter One

March 1006

Near Calne, Wiltshire

Queen Emma checked her white mare as it crested a hill above the vast royal estate where the king had settled for the Lenten season. Behind her a company of thirty men, women, and children, all of them heavily cloaked against a biting wind, rested their mounts after the long climb. In front of her, in the middle distance below the hill, the slate roof and high, gilded gables of the king’s great hall dwarfed the buildings and palisade that encircled it. The hall marked their journey’s end, and Emma looked on it with relief, for it was late in the day and her people were weary.

As she studied the road ahead, a single shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds massed in folds across the sky to slant a golden light upon the fields below. The furrowed land shimmered under a thin film of green—new shoots that promised a good harvest in the months to come, if only God would be merciful.

But God, Emma thought, seemed to have turned His face against England. For two years now, promising springs had been followed by rain-plagued summers so that food and fodder were scarce. This past winter, Famine and Death had stalked the land, and if the coming season’s yield was not bountiful, yet more of the poorest in the realm would die.

She had done what she could, distributing alms to those she could reach and adding her voice to the faithful’s desperate pleas for God’s mercy. Now, as the golden light lingered on the green vale below, she prayed that her latest assault on heaven—the pilgrimage she had made to the resting places of England’s most beloved saints—might at last have secured God’s blessings on Æthelred’s realm.

She glanced around, looking past the horse litter that bore her son and his wet nurse to find her three young stepdaughters. Wulfhilde, just eight winters old, was asleep in the arms of the servant who rode with her. Ælfa sat upon her mount slumped within the folds of her mantle. Edyth, the eldest at twelve, stared dully toward the manor hall, her face drawn and pale beneath her fur-lined hood.

Emma chided herself for pushing them so hard, for they had been on the road since daybreak. She turned in her saddle to lead the group forward, but as she did so the wind made a sudden shift to strike her full in the face. Her mount sidled nervously, and as she struggled to control the mare another fierce gust pushed at her like a massive hand that would urge her away.

She felt a curious sense of unease, a pricking at the back of her neck, and she squinted against the wind, searching for the source of her disquiet. On the mast atop the manor’s bell tower, the dragon banner of Wessex heralded the king’s presence within. He would be there to welcome her—although not with anything resembling love or even affection, for he had none of either to give. Æthelred was more king than man—as ruthless and cold as a bird of prey. Sometimes she wondered if he had ever loved anyone—even himself.

She did not relish the coming reunion with her lord, but that alone did not explain her sudden sense of foreboding.

As she hesitated, her son began to wail, his piercing cry an urgent demand that she could not ignore. She shook off her disquiet, for surely it must be her own weariness that assailed her. She nodded to her armed hearth troops to take the lead, and then followed them down the hill.

When she rode through the manor gates she saw a knot of retainers making for the kitchens behind the great hall, one of them carrying the standard of the ætheling Edmund. She puzzled over his presence here while a groom helped her dismount. Edmund had accompanied his elder brothers Athelstan and Ecbert to London in February, charged with the task of repairing the city’s fortifications and the great bridge that straddled the Thames. All three of them were to remain there until they joined the court at Cookham for the Easter feast. What, then, was Edmund doing here today?

The anxiety that had vexed her on the hill returned, but she had duties to perform before she could satisfy her curiosity. She led her stepdaughters and attendants into her quarters, where she found a fire blazing in the central hearth, the lime-washed walls hung with embroidered linens, and her great, curtained bed standing ready at the far end of the room. Three servants were setting up beds for the king’s daughters, and a fourth stepped forward to take Emma’s hooded mantle and muddy boots.

She slipped out of the cloak, then looked about the chamber for the women of her household who had been sent ahead and had, she guessed, supervised all these preparations.

“Where are Margot and Wymarc?” she asked, still unnerved by that moment of unease on the heights above the manor.

Before anyone could respond, Wymarc entered the chamber with a quick step, and Emma, relieved, drew her into an embrace. They had been parted for only a week, yet it seemed far longer. Wymarc was a bright, comforting presence in her household—and had been since the day they left Normandy together for England. Four years ago that was—four years since Emma stood at the door of Canterbury Cathedral as the peace-weaving bride of the English king, with Wymarc looking on from only a half step away.

She had missed Wymarc this past week.

“Margot has taken Robert down to the millpool,” Wymarc said, “to look for ducklings.” She shook her head. “It is a marvel that a woman of her years can keep pace with my young son, yet she does it.”

Emma smiled, imagining Margot, as small and cheerful as a wren, walking hand in hand with a child not quite two winters old. Children, though, had ever been the center of Margot’s world. Healer and midwife, she had been Emma’s guide since birth—and the nearest thing to a mother that Emma had in England.

She glanced at Wulfa and Ælfa, who were already shedding their mud-spattered cyrtels for fresh garments.

“The girls will be glad to see Margot,” she said. “Ælfa took a fall this morning and wants a salve for the cut on her knee. And Edyth”—she nodded toward one of the beds where Æthelred’s eldest daughter was curled up tightly, knees to chest—“yesterday she bled for the first time and she’s feeling wretched, of course, and swears that she’s ill. She’ll listen to no words of reassurance from me, but I expect that Margot can persuade her that she’s not about to die.”

At this the expression in Wymarc’s usually merry brown eyes grew guarded, and the warning glance she cast toward the girls told Emma that something was wrong but that an explanation would have to wait until they could speak privately.

She changed quickly into clean stockings, linen shift, and a dark gray woolen cyrtel, then she drew Wymarc aside.

“What is amiss?” she asked, taking the silken headrail that Wymarc was holding out to her. “Is it something to do with Edmund? I saw his bannermen as I came into the yard.”

“I pray it is not true,” Wymarc whispered, “but there is a rumor that one of the æthelings has died in London.” She clutched Emma’s hand. “Emma, I do not know who it is.”

The headrail slipped, forgotten, from Emma’s fingers. She stared at Wymarc and had to will herself to breathe. Edmund had been with Athelstan and Ec...

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The second book in Bracewell s outstanding Emma of Normandy series, set in 11-century England, when Vikings are on the brink of invasion. 1006 AD. Queen Emma, the Norman bride of England s King AEthelred, has given birth to a son. Now her place as second wife to the king is safe and Edward marked as heir to the throne. But the royal bed is a cold place and the court a setting for betrayal and violence, as the ageing king struggles to retain his power over the realm. Emma can trust no one, not even the king s eldest son Athelstan, the man she truly loves. Elsewhere Viking threats to the crown are gaining strength, and in the north the powerful nobleman AElfhelm is striking an alliance with the Danes. His seductive daughter Elgiva, former mistress to the king, is forced to act as a pawn in his plan, and is given as wife to a Viking Lord. Can King AEthelred finally listen to Athelstan, whose plan to strengthen the kingdoms ties will put off the Viking threat once and for all? Emma must protect her only child without abandoning her noble position. And her inner conflict, between maternal instinct and royal duty, will be played out against the dramatic and bloody struggle for Britain s rule. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780008104603

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