I cannot recall much about the cold winter of 1067. Snow fell heavily and ice seized the ponds and streams near the house where Oswald, Godwin and I were lodged. I wrote a message to Duke William asking that my dog Rip be sent to me but received no reply. I missed him more each day for he would have loved to run after snowballs and roll in the drifts. Then, at the beginning of February, a party of Normans appeared at our door. At their head was Robert de Comines, one of William’s leading barons. He was tall and as tough looking as a bear and at close quarters he smelled like one as well. A jagged white scar ran from his temple to his jaw and it was said that the Frenchman who had given it to him was still clinging to life in the cess-pit of de Comines’ castle, fifteen years after the battle.
He scowled at me as he entered the hall and threw the letter I had written down upon the table.
‘You want your dog back, I see.’ He sneered. ‘You would do well to remember that when you seek favours from your lord you should address him properly. He is King William.’ He pointed to where I had written the word Duke. ‘King William. King of England. My king. Your king. Remember it.’
He stared menacingly at Oswald. ‘You must learn to tutor the youngster better, Englishman,’ he said. ‘Or we will find a fitter guide for him.’
He strode to the door, nodded to one of the soldiers and left. The soldier slipped out of the door, then returned and dropped a bundle on the floor. I heard a snuffling from the bundle and pulled back the cover. A huge bark sounded in my ear.
‘Rip,’ I cried. He leapt out and began to lick my face from chin to brow.
Finally the days began to warm and lengthen and the catkins appeared upon the trees. But there was less joy for me at the approach of spring than there had been in the past. Godwin, Rip and I began to spend most of our time out of doors but wherever we went Norman soldiers lumbered after us. They were unfriendly shadows, ones we could shake off no more than our own familiar ones.
One morning in mid-March, Godwin and I were skimming stones across the mill pond when one of the soldiers hurried down towards us. ‘The King is here,’ he said. ‘He commands your presence.’
I nodded and skimmed one last stone into the water. I began to walk back to the house and then stopped. This was the first time that I had heard the word king and thought, not of Harold, not of myself, but of William. I was stunned by this realisation.
‘Are you alright?’ asked Godwin.
I nodded. ‘I’ve just realised how everything has changed, and me along with it.’
Godwin frowned. ‘I guess we will all have to get used to it,’ he said.
I glanced at him. It was the first time I fully realised that I was not the only one who had been grieving for the passing of our old world.
We entered the hall and found King William perched on the edge of the table. He was deep in conversation with fitz Osbern. Scribes sat near by, feverishly scrawling out commands upon parchment.
William looked up as we entered. ‘You grow taller, Edgar,’ he said. ‘They must be feeding you well.’
‘I cannot complain,’ I said. ‘My lord,’ I added, after a pause.
William noticed the delay and his eyes gleamed. He held my glance for a long moment and then quickly stood up.
A sudden fear gripped me, I felt like turning and running away. But I remained where I was. ‘You sent for me, lord,’ I said.
‘I did,’ he said. He clapped his hands together and smiled. ‘I have been long away from Normandy and it is time that I returned to see that all things are in order. I would like you to accompany me. We will not be away from England for very long.’
I said nothing immediately. I didn’t think for a moment that he was requesting I go with him or that there was any way that I could refuse. But I knew somehow that the manner of my going would be important to me. ‘I am honoured, lord,’ I said after a moment. ‘In what way can I serve you when we are there?’
William laughed and clapped his hand upon my shoulder. ‘Do you hear that, fitz Osbern?’ he said. ‘Earl Edwin thought he would be taken to Caen in chains. Not Edgar. He wants to know how he can serve me.’
‘He seems to have a good head on his shoulders,’ said the steward, gruffly but not unkindly.
‘Mark that, Edgar,’ said William. ‘Praise from William fitz Osbern. Treasure the memory, note who is here so that they can bear witness in the future.’ He gazed at me long. ‘He is almost always right.’
‘Always,’ said fitz Osbern, ‘always.’
William laughed out loud. It was genuine laughter and so infectious that, despite myself, I started to laugh with him.
The Lost King: Resistance is available on all e-readers. The third novel in the series will be available later this year.
- Envoys from Duke William #SampleSunday #histfic (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- The Journey to Battle. #HistNov #SampleSunday (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- The Start of a Life-Long Friendship. #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- Outcasts: The Knighting of the Commoners #SampleSunday #HistNov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)