The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Chronicles Series #2)
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The second installment of Bernard Cornwell’s bestselling series chronicling the epic saga of the making of England, “like Game of Thrones, but real” (The Observer, London)—the basis for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC America television series.
This is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.
At the end of The Last Kingdom, The Danes had been defeated at Cynuit, but the triumph of the English is not fated to last long. The Danish Vikings quickly invade and occupy three of England’s four kingdoms—and all that remains of the once proud country is a small piece of marshland, where Alfred and his family live with a few soldiers and retainers, including Uhtred, the dispossessed English nobleman who was raised by the Danes. Uhtred has always been a Dane at heart, and has always believed that given the chance, he would fight for the men who raised him and taught him the Viking ways. But when Iseult, a powerful sorceress, enters Uhtred’s life, he is forced to consider feelings he’s never confronted before—and Uhtred discovers, in his moment of greatest peril, a new-found loyalty and love for his native country and ruler.
and looked up into the king’s face. ‘I have found you!’ he said with what sounded like utter joy and conviction. Alfred, bemused, did not know what to say so I stepped forward. ‘We discovered him, lord,’ I said, ‘in the hills. He was searching for you.’ ‘I escaped Guthrum,’ Æthelwold said, ‘God be praised, I escaped the pagan.’ He pushed his swords to Alfred’s feet. ‘My blades are yours, lord king.’ This extravagant display of loyalty gave Alfred no choice except to raise his nephew and
to meet the Danes, going with Peredur and two of his courtiers. I went after them and found Asser trying to convert the Danes. He told them that God had brought us and we would slaughter them all and their best course was to surrender now and yield their heathen souls to God. ‘We shall baptise you,’ Asser said, ‘and there will be much rejoicing in heaven.’ The Danish leader slowly pulled off his helmet and his face was almost as frightening as the boar-snouted mask. It was a broad face, hardened
says.’ Iseult did not bother to answer him. She was using handfuls of grubby straw to clean my mail coat. The armour had been fetched from the Corncrake tavern and given to me, but I would have to wait till morning to get my weapons, which meant they would not be newly sharpened. Steapa, because he served Odda the Younger, was one of the king’s bodyguard, so he would have all night to put an edge on his sword. The royal kitchens had sent us food, though I had no appetite. ‘Just take it slow in
was in sudden good health, better than he had been in years, and it was all because of the medicines that Iseult made. The celandine and burdock she had gathered on the mainland had taken away the agony in his arse, while other herbs calmed the pains in his belly. He walked confidently, had bright eyes and looked strong. ‘Iseult stays here,’ Beocca said. ‘If you want the king to live,’ I said, ‘send her with us.’ ‘She stays here,’ Beocca said, ‘because we want the king to live.’ It took me a
‘Wasn’t he one of the hostages?’ ‘Wulfhere let them live,’ I said. ‘He let them live?’ he asked, astonished. ‘And Wulfhere is now on Guthrum’s side.’ I gave him the bad news. ‘He’s here, in the hall. He’s agreed to fight for Guthrum.’ ‘Here?’ Alfred could scarce believe what I said. Wulfhere was his cousin, he had married Alfred’s niece, he was family. ‘He’s here?’ ‘He’s on Guthrum’s side,’ I said harshly. He just stared at me. ‘No,’ he mouthed the word, rather than said it. ‘And