Today we feature 1066 Turned Upside Down author Anna Belfrage
with an excerpt from her alternative history story:
The Danish Crutch
by Anna Belfrage
For almost twenty-four years since Edward became King in the early 1040s, England had been at peace (discounting minor squabbles and the matter of Wales.) His reign was relatively prosperous because of it. The building of abbeys and churches took precedence over fortified defences – which is why there were no stone-built castles in England prior to 1066. The political upheaval caused by the death of Edward not having an heir, however, spread further than just Normandy. Whatever happened in England could affect trade for all the countries that bordered the North Sea – and beyond..
‘Where are we going?’ Gunhild asked, staring at the encroaching buildings, the narrow alleys that led off the main thoroughfare. She’d get lost in less than a heartbeat here!
Rolf hopped over an overflowing and stinking gutter, regained his balance, and lifted his crutch to point at the looming towers. ‘There.’
Gunhild came to a stop. For a long, long time she studied the walls, the towers and the heavy gates.
‘That William, he lives there?’ she asked in a hushed voice.
‘Thor’s bits!’ she exclaimed, her cheeks heating when he raised a brow. ‘I just meant…’ She sidled closer. ‘How on earth are we to stop a man so powerful he lives like that?’ She gestured at the castle. ‘And look at all his men!’
‘Who said it would be easy?’ Rolf led the way up towards the main gate. ‘And no one has tasked us with tearing down the castle – just the man.’
Gunhild gave him a long look but chose not to comment.
The men manning the castle gate waved them through, no more than a cursory glance at Rolf – a cripple elicited little interest – a far more curious gleam in their eyes as they studied Gunhild. She disliked being scrutinised by unknown men, and moved closer to Rolf. He took her hand, a warm, comforting hold.
They entered the crowded, sun-lit bailey. Here too were shops and tradesmen, the promising smell of warm bread mixing with that of horses and red-hot iron. A smith, an armourer, a fletcher – men trading in weapons rather than fripperies.
Other than the sturdy hall, the enclosed space contained a chapel and an assortment of timbered buildings hugging the walls. There were men everywhere, many of them men-at-arms, even more servants, rushing back and forth across the courtyard.
‘There must be more people here than in all of Lund,’ Gunhild said, liking that he had still not relinquished her hand.
‘Probably.’ He slid her a look. ‘Not saying much, is it?’
The sound of a horn filled the air and the ground shook under approaching horses. The gateway filled with riders, with horses that snorted and threw with their heads. In the lead rode a man dressed in garments of vivid blue. He drew his stallion to a halt and dismounted fluidly.
‘Is that William?’ Gunhild whispered. The man looked as impregnable as the castle, broader by far than Rolf, albeit that he was half a head shorter. Rolf nodded, no more.
The duke dragged a hand through his short hair, brows pulled together in a ferocious scowl as he berated the stable-boy for not being quick enough, the wind for remaining stubbornly from the west.
‘God’s will,’ one of his companions said, and William turned on him.
‘God’s will, Odo? Truly? If so, my dear lord bishop, you’d best spend your days on your knees and beseech Him to change his mind – soon!’ He made for the ornate door leading to the hall, his companions at his heels.
‘It might help if you added your voice to the prayers,’ Odo said.
‘What!’ William kicked a dog out of his way. ‘And you don’t think I do? Every waking moment I pray – for the wind to change, for me to bring that traitorous, foresworn English earl to his knees.’
What happens next? – find out more here…
1066 Turned Upside Down
By Joanna Courtney, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Richard Dee, G.K. Holloway,
Carol McGrath, Alison Morton, Eliza Redgold, Annie Whitehead
With a foreword by C.C. Humphreys
Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings in 1066? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his crown? If so – here is the perfect set of short stories for you.
1066 Turned Upside Down explores a variety of ways in which that momentous year could have played out very differently.
Written by nine well-known authors the stories will take you on a journey through the speculative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history.
“1066 Turned Upside Down is the exemplar for how analytical counterfactual history should be done, combining the best elements of fiction and non-fiction to create an immensely impressive achievement.”
“As a collection, the quality of the writing is exceptional and the variety of possible outcomes presented is truly fascinating.”
“The collection is assembled in such a way that between the ‘alternatives’ are the related facts as they happened, as far as historians and archaeologists know – which still leaves room for these experienced writers’ imaginations.”
“A book I will read and re-read. I heartily recommend it”
“The real joy of a collection of stories like this is, of course, that you are likely to be introduced to writers you may not have come across before.”
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