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Monday, 17 November 2014

Kindle Free Book Promotion: The Deepening Night


Are you looking for a different kind of historical romance?

Get THE DEEPENING OF NIGHT FREE for five days only on Amazon.

Offer runs from 17-21 November - so don't miss out!

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Would you like to read a prequel novella to the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series for free?


Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels, behind the scenes 'extras', snippets about Anglo-Saxon England, and podcasts from Jayne!


Sunday, 26 October 2014

KINDLE PROMOTION: THE DEEPENING NIGHT

Historical adventure romance - with a twist!

Get THE DEEPENING OF NIGHT for 99 cents for five days only on Amazon.

Offer runs from 27-31 October - so don't miss out!

Are you looking for a different kind of historical romance? 

I write well-researched historical romance adventures set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England. They're realistic love stories about men and women we can all relate to. It's not just about a couple falling in love, it's about triumph against adversity, and a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery. 

So, here's what THE DEEPENING NIGHT is about...

A forced marriage.

A battle of wills.

A slow-burning passion that could change the course of history.

7th century Britannia was not for the faint-hearted. Men were warriors - they had to be - but just because women didn't have the freedom they have today, doesn't mean they were weak. My novels are about women who discover their strength, and the men who love them for it.

Sounds like the kind of historical romance you're looking for?

Get a copy of THE DEEPENING NIGHT for 99 cents from Amazon while this offer lasts.

_____________________________

Would you like to read a prequel novella to the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series for free?


Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels, behind the scenes 'extras', snippets about Anglo-Saxon England, and podcasts from Jayne!


Monday, 20 October 2014

Into Battle: a warrior's life in Anglo-Saxon England

Death wasn't just a part of life in Anglo-Saxon England - it was a way of life.

However, that doesn't mean that men ran headlong into battle without a thought about their own mortality. How we define courage is a fascinating theme for any author, and one that seems to be cropping up again and again in the latest novel I'm working on: THE BREAKING DAWN

To illustrate one man's view on battle, here's a conversation between the hero and heroine from THE BREAKING DAWN - Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn (Prince of Powys), and Merwenna, the young Mercian woman who he is reluctantly escorting home.


“What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?”
“To fight in a great battle… were you scared?”
Dylan stifled a groan at that. This line of questioning was even worse than her previous one. He almost wished she would return to interrogating him about her dead lover.
“It’s difficult to describe,” he hedged.
Merwenna did not reply and after a few moments he realized she was still awaiting his response. Eventually, the silence became so ponderous that Dylan threw aside caution and answered her honestly.
“Battle is your whole life, from birth to death, squeezed into one drawn out moment. Everything is sharper, brighter. It assaults your senses, and there’s no escape, except through death. There’s no future, no past, just a nightmare you can’t escape. There’s no time for fear – if you’re afraid you’ll soon be dead. So you fight. You kill. And you keeping killing till it’s over.”
Dylan’s voice trailed off, and he heard Merwenna’s sharply indrawn breath. He felt a pang of regret at that, for he had not meant the words to come out so harshly. He would have usually honeyed them for female ears. Yet, something in Merwenna’s voice had demanded the truth – and so he had given it to her, or at least his version of it.
“It sounds ugly,” she said finally, her voice subdued.
“It is.”

Want more?

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fact and Fiction - using real history in historical romance

My historical romance isn't exactly main-stream... 

What do I mean by that? Yes, there's a couple that fall in love and triumph despite adversity - but my books have a strong focus on real historical figures and events, not just the central love story. The story is strongly rooted in the period, and couldn't exist outside it.

I didn't start off writing them that way - it's just that when I was researching the period - Anglo-Saxon England - I realized that fact is not only stranger than fiction. It's often stronger. As such, I base my stories around actual people and events, and I think my stories are stronger for it.

So, if you love early British history - mixed in with a bit of romance - my books might be what you're looking for!


Historical figures I used in the Kingdom of the East Angles series

  • Raedwald of the East Angles, the king thought to have been buried in the Sutton Hoo longship.
  • Eni of the East Angles - father of Annan, who later becomes King of the East Angles.
  • Eorpwald, Raedwald's son, who succeeded his father.
  • Ricberht, the usurper who kills Eorpwald and takes the throne.
  • Sigeberht, Raedwald's exiled stepson who returns to Britannia, overthrows Ricberht, and takes back the throne for the Wuffinga family
  • Botulf, the missionary who founds the monastery at Iken.
  • Ecgric, the man who co-rules with Sigeberht after the King of East Angles dedicates his life to Christianity.
  • Anna (who I call Annan), Raedwald's nephew, who takes the throne after Sigeberht's death
  • Penda - the warlord king of Mercia, and our villain. Penda is the last pagan ruler of Anglo-Saxon England.


Historical events I used in the Kingdom of the East Angles series

  • King Raedwald's burial in a longship at Sutton Hoo.
  • The death of Raedwald's son Raegenhere, slain in the Battle of the River Idle against Aethelfrith of Northumbria.
  • Sigeberht's return from exile in Gaul to take back the East Anglian throne for his family.
  • Sigeberht's abdication of the throne, in favor of a monastic life.
  • Sigeberht's refusal to bear arms in battle against the Mercians. He goes into battle with only a staff for protection and dies.
  • Annan's supervision of the building of Devil's Dyke the southern and western borders of the Kingdom of the East Angles


Work in progress...


I've now left the Kingdom of the East Angles behind, and traveled to Mercia. I'm currently hard at work on the first novel in this series, THE BREAKING DAWN.

Once again, I am using history to form the story's backbone. Our bad guy, King Penda of Mercia is back (and more ruthless than ever), while our novel's hero is Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn, the Prince of Powys, who forms an alliance with the Mercians.

The story begins at the Battle of Maes Cogwy (Maserfield), where the Mercians (with the help of the Welsh) defeat the Northumbrian army.

King Oswald of Northumbria dies at this battle and is famously dismembered, his head and arms stuck on poles at the edge of the battlefield. Oswald (who was later sainted) became revered as a Christian martyr and his dismembered limbs ended up in various relic collections in monasteries around Britannia.

Want more?


Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels, behind the scenes 'extras', snippets about Anglo-Saxon England, and podcasts from Jayne!


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fate is everything - how the Anglo-Saxons saw the world

The Anglo-Saxons had a fatalistic view of the world. To them, it was fate - or wyrd - that dictated who would live, and who would die. 

This was a world dominated by blood feuds and battles. Read any of the literature of the time, The Wanderer or Beowulf, and you will notice just how dominant the role of fate is - the message is clear: whatever your doom is, you can't escape it.

As the famous quote from The Wanderer states: "Wyrd bið ful aræd" - Fate is everything. 

Death was something all people of the time were used to - although that doesn't mean they didn't grieve for their departed. They sang laments for the dead and created stories about them, preserving their memories for years to come. Usually, only the high-born were buried as most folk of the time were cremated. The Anglo-Saxon burial mounds that have been excavated have uncovered a wealth of treasures. The nobility of this era were buried with the items that were the most precious to them in life.

You can never write a story in isolation. Setting a novel in a world dominated by the idea that we have no control over our destinies, provides an interesting challenge. The age we live in now is one of self-determinism and independence; an age where most women are relatively free to pursue their lives as they wish. The trick when writing a historical romance set in the era, is to keep the story as true to the time as possible, without alienating a modern audience - a delicate balance indeed!

If wyrd was fundamental to the way Anglo-Saxons viewed the world then 'courage' came a close second. In fact, the only way a man might be able to 'cheat' fate, was through valor - as this quote from Beowulf hints: "Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good".

Want more?


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Monday, 30 June 2014

Quote from NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK about the price a king paid for ambition

Historical romance should be about more than just the central love story. It should also bring the period to life and, if possible, interweave real historical figures and events into the plot. 

I do a lot of research for my novels set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England, and the gems I discover are often the driving force for the stories. There's nothing more satisfying than bringing history to life.

In NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK I interweave the tragedy of Sigeberht of the East Angles into the love story.

Sigeberht was the exiled stepson of the famous East Anglian King, Raedwald. After years exiled in Gaul, he returned to Britannia to take back the throne for his family; after a usurper killed his half-brother, Eorpwald, and made himself king. However, Sigeberht's decision had grave ramifications. He hated his life back in Britannia, and the role he had forged for himself. Eventually, he shunned his responsibilities as ruler, in favor of a life of religious contemplation - but when the Mercians marched on the East Angles, he was forced onto the battlefield. A man of conviction, Sigeberht went into battle refusing to bear arms - only a wooden staff. Of course, he died.

With history like this - who needs fiction! A quote from NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK, which encapsulates Sigeberht's conflict, is below. I hope you enjoy it.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

New novel underway - THE BREAKING DAWN!

The Breaking Dawn

THE KINGDOM OF MERCIA

The first novel in an exciting new historical romance series, set in Anglo-Saxon England. From Jayne Castel, the author of the genre-breaking KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series. Ten years after THE DEEPENING NIGHT ends, another adventure begins...

Available on Amazon in late 2014!

You cannot fight fate

641 A.D., Kingdom of Mercia - Britannia

Merwenna, a young Mercian woman, travels to Tamworth in search of her betrothed. She is naive and wary of the world beyond her remote village - but she is determined to know what has happened to the young man who blindly followed his king to war... 

Dylan, an arrogant Welsh prince, has helped the Mercia gain victory. Unfortunately, glory turns to ashes when it dawns on him that he has sacrificed his men for nothing... 

He is but a pawn in King Penda of Mercia's game of thrones.

The king returns to Tamworth, where Merwenna grieves for the man she has lost. A guest in Penda's Great Tower, Dylan's relationship with the Mercian king quickly sours. Events soon take a turn there is no way back from...

From the moment they meet Merwenna and Dylan's paths are intertwined.

They believe they understand the world, and their places in it...

They think they know what is worth living, and dying, for...

Yet the adventure that lies ahead will teach them that love is not at all what they thought - and that some battles are not worth winning.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nervously awaiting the semi-final ABNA results for NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK


Still waiting to find out if NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK has reached the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (Romance Category) - just a few more days as the results will be out on 13 June!

In the meantime, my Publishers Weekly review (which all quarter-finalists receive) is out. Last year's (DARK UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT also reach the quarter finals) was a real stinker - but thankfully this year's reviewer loved NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK! 

Frankly, I've never received such a glowing review. 

In this round, the Publishers Weekly reviewers had to read the whole book and review it. Hope this bodes well, although as the numbers now drop from 100 per category to 5 - the chances are slim. Will still be biting my nails down to the quick though!

Here is the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review:
Historical romance takes on a new dimension in this novel set in a different period, the early 600s A.D. Young Freya enjoys her life of isolation deep in the woods of Britannia with her mother -- until they are both summoned to the side of the usurper king. Taken hostage, Freya must navigate her new life as a young woman thrust into the role of slave, first to the pretender to the throne, and then to the rightful heir, King Sigeberht. Along the journey, she encounters Aiden, commander of Sigeberht’s armies and incorrigible flirt. The pair grow alongside each other as significant changes impact their lives, drawing them to each other and away from those they love, and deeper into the territorial and religious wars plaguing the land. Filled with stark, compelling details about the atrocities of battle, the masterful storytelling flows naturally from one scene to the next. History comes alive in each breathtaking detail for a fully immersive experience. Character development is excellent and the author brings them to life on the page.

If this review has piqued your interest, you can read an excerpt on Amazon.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Love is love - enduring themes

Love is a fantastic subject to write about. It’s something that touches us all, in some form, throughout our lives.

One of the things I’ve noticed in writing my historical romances, is that there are endless variations on how to tell a romance – plus enduring themes on love that take on a life of their own when they meet my characters! 

Cynewyn and Wil, Raedwyn and Caelin, Freya and Aidan, and Saewara and Annan – they all have their unique stories to tell.

Here are the love themes in my historical romance series, the Kingdom of the East Angles, set in Anglo-Saxon England:

Night Shadows – Second chances at love

DarkUnder the Cover of Night – Forbidden love

Nightfall till Daybreak – Love between slave and master

TheDeepening Night – A loveless marriage











Interested in sampling this series? Sign up below and get a free copy of Night Shadows - the prequel to the Kingdom of the East Angles series!



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Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels and exciting updates!







Monday, 21 April 2014

NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2014!

Exciting news - my historical romance set in Anglo-Saxon England, NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK, has made it through to the quarter finals of this year's ABNA (Romance Category). 

NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK is the second novel in the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES SERIES. Set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England, it's the tale of a young woman taken as a king's slave, an ambitious warrior in search of a new life in Britannia - and the will of one man who rules them both.

DARK UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT, the first book in the series, made it to the ABNA quarter finals last year as well - so I'm delighted that both novels have made it this far!

The samples of all the quarter finalist novels are now up on Amazon. Click on the image below to download your free sample and have your say!


Friday, 4 April 2014

One Giveaway over - one more to go!

The three-day giveaway for NIGHT  SHADOWS is now over - more than five hundred copies given away in total!


Thanks to those of you who downloaded the book. I hope you read, and enjoy, the novella - and feel free to review the novella on Amazon or Goodreads!

This story kicks of the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series: three, full-length historical romance novels set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britannia.

I will only be running one more giveaway for this novella, so if you didn't have a chance to get a free Kindle copy during this giveaway, put 28 & 29 April 2014 in your diary for the next one!

Find out more about NIGHT SHADOWS!


Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels and exciting updates!







Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Get NIGHT SHADOWS for FREE on Amazon




NIGHT SHADOWS is now available on Amazon to download onto your Kindle for free - just three days only (1- 3 April)!

Download NIGHT SHADOWS for free here.

NIGHT SHADOWS is the novella that begins the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series: three kings, three unforgettable love stories. Immerse yourself in the romance of Anglo-Saxon England - and step back into a world when only the strong survived.

"It does not matter how much we distance ourselves, how far we run - the past always shadows us."

In the spring of 609 A.D., in the village of Went, a young man comes to ask for the hand of the ealdorman's daughter.

Wilfrid is intense, takes himself a little too seriously, and is in love with Cynewyn - a spoiled young woman who has been promised to another. Spurned and humiliated, Wilfrid leaves the ealdorman's hall, never to return.

Ten years later, Cynewyn's life has not turned out as she had hoped. Her husband is dead, her village is under siege - and to make matters worse, she has just been told she has to abandon her village.

Among the men escorting her and the surviving villagers back over the border is her former suitor - Wilfrid.

The past decade has changed, and embittered, them both. Wil no longer believes in love, and Cynewyn no longer believes in happy endings. Yet neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them, or its consequences...

Sounds like something you might enjoy?

Download NIGHT SHADOWS for free here.

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Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels and exciting updates!






Saturday, 29 March 2014

Coming up: Get NIGHT SHADOWS for FREE on Amazon

From 1-3 April 2014, NIGHT SHADOWS will be available FREE on Amazon Kindle!

NIGHT SHADOWS is the novella that begins the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series. Three Kings, four unforgettable love stories; in a world where only the strong survived. NIGHT SHADOWS is the story of Wilfrid and Cynewyn: a spearman and an ealdorman's daughter. It is a tale of wrong choices and second chances...



You can also get a copy of NIGHT SHADOWS for free by signing up for my newsletter below:

Sign up to Jayne's monthly newsletter and receive a FREE copy of NIGHT SHADOWS (PDF format). Newsletter subscribers will also get sneak previews of upcoming novels and exciting updates!


Thursday, 27 March 2014

New covers for my historical romance set in Anglo-Saxon England

Since most of us do judge a book by its cover, I thought it was high time my historical romance covers had a face-lift!

Take a look at my new selection of covers below. What do you think? I was looking for a slightly dreamy, mystical feel...

The KINGDOM OF EAST ANGLES series is now complete - starting with NIGHT SHADOWS in 619 A.D. and concluding with THE DEEPENING NIGHT in 630 A.D. Note that although the stories are in chronological order, they can all be read as stand-alone novels.

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THE KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES

Four unforgettable love stories; in a world where only the strong survived.

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Click on the banner below to find out more about the series.


Monday, 24 March 2014

Available now on Amazon - NIGHT SHADOWS

My latest historical romance adventure - NIGHT SHADOWS - is now available on Amazon Kindle! This novella kicks off the exciting KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series. It is the tale of wrong choices, and second chances. Read on to find out more...

"It does not matter how much we distance ourselves, how far we run - the past always shadows us."


A NOVELLA

In the spring of 609 A.D., in the village of Went, a young man comes to ask for the hand of the ealdorman's daughter.

Wilfrid is intense, takes himself a little too seriously, and is in love with Cynewyn - a spoiled young woman who has been promised to another. Spurned and humiliated, Wilfrid leaves the ealdorman's hall, never to return.

Ten years later, Cynewyn's life has not turned out as she had hoped. Her husband is dead, her village is under siege - and to make matters worse - she has just been told she has to abandon her village.

Among the men escorting her and the surviving villagers back over the border is her former suitor - Wilfrid.

The past decade has changed, and embittered, them both. Wil no longer believes in love, and Cynewyn no longer believes in happy endings. Yet neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them, or its consequences...

NIGHT SHADOWS is the novella that begins the KINGDOM OF THE EAST ANGLES series: three kings, three unforgettable love stories. Immerse yourself in the romance of Anglo-Saxon England - and step back into a world when only the strong survived. 


Sensuality/heat level: SENSUAL (sweet - SENSUAL - sizzle)

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Read the Prologue of NIGHT SHADOWS below:

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry



Prologue

The Proposal

The village of Went, the Kingdom of the East Angles
Spring 609 A.D.


The squeals of children playing in the dirt in front of the hall, echoed through the warm air. A glorious spring day was coming to a close. The sun cast a honeyed light across the village of Went, staining the timber and thatch of the surrounding houses a deep gold. The children – three boys and a girl – raced each other excitedly around the wide space in the center of the village, shouting with delight.
 Cynewyn paused from scattering grain for the geese that clustered at her feet, and watched the children with a smile, enjoying their enthusiasm and joy. Not so long ago, she had been one of those children; now she had left that carefree life behind.
Cynewyn stood before her father’s hall, lingering at her task. She glanced up at the wide amber-streaked sky. The sun was a balm on her skin after weeks of rain and cold. Emptying her pot of grain, Cynewyn was about to retreat inside, when she spied a well-built young man with short, light-brown hair striding across the yard toward her. His face was set with purpose.
Wilfrid was of the same age as her – eighteen winters – and he was staring at Cynewyn with unnerving intensity. Other men laughed and flirted, but not Wilfrid. He took everything, including himself, seriously. He appeared to be making directly for her, and Cynewyn had little choice but to await his arrival.
Judging from the intensity of his gaze, the tense set of his shoulders and the resolute determination of his stride – Wilfrid of Went was preparing himself for a confrontation.
“Good evening, Cynewyn,” he greeted her. His voice, a low rumble for a man of his age, always took Cynewyn by surprise. She had never heard him raise his voice, and when he spoke, it was always with unwavering purpose. Unlike the men in her family, who were garrulous and loud, Wilfrid used words sparingly.
“Evening, Wil,” she replied pleasantly, meeting his stare. She noticed that his hazel eyes looked almost green in this light. “‘Tis a while since I saw you last.”
“I’ve been away,” Wilfrid replied simply, his gaze becoming even more penetrating.
Cynewyn felt her body grow hot and uncomfortable under his stare. He looked at her like he was about to devour her; the hunger in his eyes made Cynewyn flush. She stepped back from him and gave a flirtatious smile in an attempt to lighten the mood between them.
“Away? Where?”
“On the border – our neighbors are making trouble again,” he replied, before glancing down at the ground, his face awkward. “I missed you.”
Cynewyn hid her embarrassment with another smile. She was not sure how he expected her to respond.  She had not missed him at all. Why would she? Still, his infatuation made her feel beautiful and desirable, and she found herself enjoying the attention.
“How gallant of you,” she returned his gaze through her lashes, noticing the way his gaze travelled from her eyes down to her mouth. “Why did you miss me?”
Wilfrid reddened slightly at the question. He was obviously not used to flirting, and was not sure how to respond.
“I missed seeing you,” he eventually managed. Then, he blurted. “I want to ask your father’s permission for us to wed. If he says ‘yes’, will you marry me, Cynewyn?”
She stared back at him, taken aback by the proposal. He really was no fun at all. She had been enjoying the attention until he ruined things.
In truth, she had no interest in Wilfrid. Not only was he of a low rank, but he was too quiet, intense and humorless for her tastes. He always wore an expression as if he bore the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Besides, Cynewyn had already been promised to Aldwulf, the charismatic son of an ealdorman who lived in the neighboring village. Blond, handsome and charming, Adwulf never failed to make her laugh. She had been delighted when her father suggested the match.
Silence stretched between Cynewyn and Wil, before he stepped closer still and gently took her hand. It was the first time he had ever touched her. His hand was warm, dry and strong. The sensation of their skin touching gave Cynewyn a jolt in the pit of her belly – it was an oddly stirring sensation. Nonetheless, Cynewyn had to resist the urge to jerk her hand from his.
“Will you?” he repeated.
Cynewyn gave Wil a sweet smile and extracted her hand from his. She took two steps back, almost treading on a goose in her haste. The bird gave an enraged hiss and flapped at her.
“You will have to ask my father,” she replied, lowering her eyes demurely, for she knew exactly what her father’s response would be. “If he agrees, I will marry you.”
Wilfrid smiled then. The expression transformed his face, making him look handsome.
“I will ask him then,” he told her, his discomfort dissolving. “I will do it now.”
Then, without another word, Wilfrid turned and strode into her father’s hall.
Cynewyn watched him go, incredulous. The man’s presumption stunned her. He was low-born. Did he really think he could wed an ealdorman’s daughter? How could he have mistaken her light-hearted flirting for real interest?
Picking up her skirts, for she did not wish to miss a moment of what was about to unfold under her father’s roof, Cynewyn followed her suitor inside.

Eomer of Went was sitting at a long table with his men. He was playing Hnefatafl, ‘King’s Table’; a game where two players moved wooden pieces across a board with twenty-six squares in an attempt to capture the king of the opposing player. He was exchanging good-natured threats with the warrior playing him, when Cynewyn entered the hall at Wilfrid’s heels.
Skirting the shadows, Cynewyn made her way over to where her mother was sitting near the fire pit, weaving a tapestry at a huge loom. Silently, Cynewyn took a seat beside her and picked up her distaff. She then resumed the task she had spent the afternoon at before escaping outside to feed the geese and enjoy the sunset – winding wool onto the wooden spindle.
“Wilfrid!” Eomer boomed, his gaze resting on the young man who had stopped before the table. “Fancy a game, eh?”
“M’lord,” Wilfrid began. His voice cracked slightly, betraying his nerves. “No, this evening. I have come to ask your permission.”
Eomer of Went inclined his head, his blond eyebrows raising. “For what, lad?”
The hall went still then; all gazes fastening on Wilfrid. Suddenly, Cynewyn felt an unexpected pang of pity for the youth. He might be arrogant, but she did not envy him his impending humiliation.
“I wish to wed your daughter.”
Wilfrid’s voice, although quiet, echoed in the shocked silence. Cynewyn stared at her father and felt a brief surge of panic at the blank expression she saw there.
What if he agreed? She had not paused to consider that possibility.
A moment passed and then Eomer’s face creased into a smile, a pitying one. Relief flooded through Cynewyn and she breathed once more.
“You would not be the first lad who has taken a shine to my comely daughter,” he said, shaking his head. “Yet she is promised to another. Did she not tell you?”
The look on Wilfrid’s face caused some of the other warriors present to snigger.
“Who?” Wilfrid finally managed when he had recovered from the shock.
“Adwulf of Blackhill,” Eomer replied, giving Wilfrid a patronizing smile. “He’s an ealdorman’s son – you’re a free man with a spear like your father before you. I can’t wed my only daughter to a man of such a low rank. You understand?”
“No,” Wilfrid replied, his voice flat and harsh, “I don’t.” His gaze shifted to Cynewyn then. Their gazes met and for an instant, Cynewyn saw his naked anger and humiliation.
You knew, that gaze accused her. You knew and didn’t warn me.
“I may not be high-born,” Wilfrid turned his attention back to the ealdorman, “but I am one of your warriors. I have served you loyally and will continue to do so. I would protect your daughter with my life.”
Eomer roared with laughter at that. His warriors joined him; and the sound echoed mockingly through the hall.
“I’m sure you would,” Eomer straightened up, still holding his belly, although his tone held a warning that he was tiring of this conversation, “but the answer still is no. You are not worthy of her.”
Wilfrid’s breath hissed between his clenched teeth. His face was flushed and his eyes glittered with rage.
“I’m as worthy of her as any man!” he snarled.
“Careful, lad,” the ealdorman warned, the amusement draining from his face. “You’re over-stepping the mark. Now, off you go. Let me get back to my game.”
“If I’m not worthy of Cynewyn, then I’m not worthy to serve you!” Wilfrid replied, not moving.
A deathly hush settled over the hall. All gazes were upon Wilfrid as the young man removed the two bronze arm rings he wore on his right bicep and hurled them to the rush-matting at his feet. They were rings that the ealdorman had gifted him for his loyalty and valor.
“As you reminded me – I am a free man,” Wilfrid ground out. Eomer stared back at him, momentarily struck speechless. “I serve whom I choose. From this moment on, I no longer follow you.”
With that, Wilfrid turned and, not sparing another glance in Cynewyn’s direction, stalked from the hall and out of their lives.

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