Thirteen year old Wiley is determined to become a knight even though he has no father. Wanting to see the enemy up close, he disobeys orders by sneaking into the great hall. Recognized by two Danish strangers he runs for his life, but not before catching the windblown parchment. Later kidnapped and taken to Denmark, Wiley discovers his identity and finds two unexpected allies-King Svein's seventeen-year-old son Knute and Svein's sister-in-law, Lady Freya, who help him escape the wrath of Forkbeard.
Aided by his friends, an alchemist with Greek Fire, the Norwegian Viking Thoren, and a strange dwarf named Toadskin, Wiley probes the mysteries of the parchment, new enemies, a lady underground, his own beginnings, his future as a knight, and God's foreknowledge.
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A Tale of High Adventure in 1013
By Ruth Anderson Lawler, Bob May, Dot Hagen-May
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 Ruth Anderson Lawler
All rights reserved.
The promise was made before I was born, to warriors who lived across the sea in Denmark. It was a simple promise for protection from the new bride's brother in England to the new groom in Denmark. My guardian--Lord Harold--was the brother who made that promise to Kormac the Dane. Truth be told, had he known how his words would be twisted he would have chosen them more carefully and saved us a whole heap of trouble.
The promise that nearly took my life was written on a parchment that later disappeared—twice falling into the wrong hands. Had I, William called Wiley, fallen into that first set of hands at the wrong time I would not be telling you this story. Those hands belonged to Svein Forkbeard, the second meanest man I had ever met. He was certainly no friend of God, but rather, I suspect, a friend of Satan the Devil. This you may judge for yourself.
My life turned upside down on an ordinary spring day that suddenly became extraordinary. Strangers recognized me that day, when even I didn't know who I was. One of those strangers, Halfdan, easily earned the title of the meanest man I had ever met. Those men changed me from an unnoticed nobody into a target they pursued in a deadly game of greed and betrayal. Now, many years later, I'm still not sure I understand all that happened. No man can tell which events God, Satan, fate, destiny, man or chance arranged, though I'm certain God always rules over all.
When I was a child morning usually crept into my bed while I was still soundly sleeping and in need of more rest. My mother Gudrid always said, "Wiley, if you don't get out of bed you will rot under the covers till the trolls come to make pudding out of the pieces of you." So I would rise up, knowing that I would soon be able to fall asleep again during morning devotions. Our chapel was wickedly stuff y with the whole household crammed into it, and Brother Timothy droned on through each service like a giant bumblebee carrying the weight of the Heavens.
"We must persevere," he was saying as I fought to keep my head up. "We must carry on. Even in this year of our Lord 1013, much of the world still has not come to know our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, our mission is clear. We must make the Prince of Peace known to our enemies, for we are certain that the dreaded raids of the fierce Viking invaders will not cease to bring terror to English shores until those heathen become our brothers in Christ."
As he started the Bible lesson I was in my usual stealth nap position. It had taken me years to learn to fall asleep sitting bolt upright so that I appeared to be awake. I was just dozing off when fate I believe, happened to send a mouse skittering across my feet. Perchance I kicked Luke on the bench beside me. For that reason or no reason, he kicked me. On any other day we would have played, quietly kicking each other back and forth—but on this day I wanted to listen. Brother Timothy had used a new phrase that sent my sleepiness scurrying away with the mouse. I watched as Luke skillfully captured the mouse, trapping it by its tail under his foot. Yet I still heard Brother Timothy too.
The lesson was about Naomi of Bethlehem-Judah and her faithful Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. It seems that Naomi's husband had moved his family to Moab to escape famine in Israel. Their two sons married Moabite women, but while they were living there Naomi's husband and sons got sick and died. Suddenly the three women had no husbands to provide for them, and no children to support them in their old age. Truly, these poor widows were sorely in need of the kinsman redeemer that Brother Timothy was talking about. It was a story I just had to hear—but Luke was bent on mischief. He had picked up the mouse by its tail and turned toward his little sister Sukey.
Sukey had been watching Luke with wide-eyed interest, but now as he moved the mouse over her lap, she was holding her breath and doing her best to keep from screaming. Brother Timothy, unaware, continued the Bible lesson as I listened with itching ears.
One of the young widows, he said, decided to go home to her family in Moab; but Ruth, who was loyal and kind, refused to leave Naomi. She told Naomi she would follow her wherever she went and live wherever she lived. Furthermore, Naomi's people would become Ruth's people, and Naomi's God would be Ruth's God also. They would both die and be buried in the same place, or else said Ruth, the Lord should kill me now.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that after those strong words Ruth and Naomi stayed together and went to Bethlehem in Israel. It didn't surprise Sukey. By my reckoning Sukey didn't even hear that part of the story. She knew from the roguish look on her brother's face that she was his target. Meanwhile Brother Timothy might as well have been in Heaven, because the entire mouse drama completely escaped his notice. He went right on with the story of Ruth.
Once Naomi was back home in Bethlehem she wanted to sell some land that had belonged to her dead husband. Then she and Ruth could live on the money the land would bring. In the meantime, in order to provide food for herself and Naomi, Ruth was gleaning grain left behind by the reapers in a barley field.
Now Naomi knew that the owner of the field was Boaz, a rich relative or kinsman of Naomi and Ruth's husbands. Luckily for the women, there was a law in Israel in those days concerning a kinsman redeemer, but Luke and his wildly wiggling mouse almost kept me from hearing what one did. Some of the nearby castle folk were staring at us as brother Timothy droned on. I just knew Sukey would scream and end the story, but she—bless her brave heart—did not. Mercifully, she silently fainted against the side of the lady sleeping next to her.
Luke grinned, letting the mouse dance over me, and I held my breath as Brother Timothy, still in his own world, explained how Boaz the redeemer saved Naomi's family.
To keep land in the family, a kinsman would have the chance to buy or redeem the dead man's land before anyone else. The widow was part of the bargain; the buyer would take her too, and marry her as Boaz did. Under this plan the first son born to Ruth and the kinsman would be given the family name of Ruth's dead husband, just as if he had fathered the child. Th at way the dead man's name would not die in Israel and his family wouldn't lose property.
So it was that Boaz became the kinsman redeemer for Naomi and Ruth. Through him the name of Ruth's first husband lived on, continuing the line of Naomi's husband even though all Naomi's closest male kin had died.
Luke poked me. The mouse wasn't fun anymore now that Sukey couldn't be teased with it. "Take it," he whispered, but I made a face and shook my head. I had to hear the rest of the story. I already knew that I too needed a rich kinsman redeemer.
Thanks to Boaz, Ruth and her mother-in-law had a secure future. Yet there was more said Brother Timothy, smiling broadly and raising both hands to the Heavens. Obed, the future first son of Ruth and Boaz, was to become the grandfather of the great King David, slayer of the giant Goliath. Even I, who fell asleep in church, knew about David the giant killer and warrior king of Israel. It was from his family line that Jesus Christ was born of Mary.
"This story," said Brother Timothy, "shows us that loyal foreigners like Ruth of Moab are fully accepted as members of God's family. We can apply this truth to ourselves as Christians. We are just as much a part of God's family as His first-chosen Hebrew children. Our faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, fits us for the kingdom of Heaven. We are accepted because God welcomes all those whose hearts and minds are stayed on Him."
That made sense to me. I knew I was destined to become a knight. I'd be proud to take the knight's pledge of loyalty and service first to Christ, then to England's king, then to my earthly lord, Harold, and finally to all mankind. Only one thing stood in my way. I didn't have a father to provide training, weapons, horses and fighting gear. My mother couldn't give those things to me, she was but a cook in Lord Harold's castle. And though Lord Harold cared for me almost as a kinsman, he'd never offered to train me beyond the basic skills of a soldier. My father and his money were my only chance to be equipped for knighthood. But woefully, although I am not stupid, sickly, rude, lazy, cowardly, ill shaped or ugly, my father would not step forward to claim me.
Something was tickling my knee. The mouse was running in place there as fast as it could. Luke held it just high enough to let it think it was getting away. My friend was determined to end my daydreaming, or try my patience—I'm not sure which. I took the mouse. If I let it go it might run into one of the ladies, who would scream, so I got down on one knee, reaching past Luke and Sukey to the sleeping lady's basket on the floor at her feet. Quickly lifting the corner of the cloth covering, I dropped the mouse inside the basket and hoped that the lady would not open the basket in a crowded place.
While Brother Timothy prayed, I was thinking of the things my kinsman redeemer could do for me. Destiny cannot be denied. I would become a knight, father or no. Even if I didn't have a nobleman for a father, I did have a noble heart. Nothing thrilled my soul quite so much as the sight of our knights riding out the castle gate with their banners flying in the wind and looks of quiet strength on their faces. My kinsman could give me his noble name if he had one, and his money to buy what a knight would need. I would become a doer of bold and daring deeds in God's name. To keep England free I would bravely drive the Scots back to Scotland and the Danes to Denmark. There would be poems and stories written about me, and my surname, whatever it was, would be spoken of with reverence and awe. Perchance even, for a thousand years. I whispered it, "Wiley The Great, the strongest, bravest, and mightiest knight of all." Or, my thoughts went, how about William the Great? Much better, William is infinitely more knightly.
A sharp pain in my anklebone brought me back to the present. Luke whispered, "Hurry, it's over, and Sukey is kicking me!"
We filed out of the chapel quietly, but then raced each other to the kitchen. One of our jobs was to serve at mealtimes, and Mother Gudrid would scold us if we were late. Besides, running outside was good for boys because it helped us keep still indoors. At least I was told that many times. Whatever, our running got us away from Sukey.
"Hurry, come quickly, you spindle-legged colts," Mother called as we neared the kitchen door and felt the heat of the cooking fires. She had a wide smile on her red face and gold in her hair where the sun played upon it. We both had streaks of gold in our sandy brown hair, like hidden treasure buried in the earth. Mother's eyes were lighter blue than mine, but we each had a slightly turned up nose with freckles.
"Lord Harold will not be wanting his bacon cold or his cream sour in the bowl," my mother warned. "We must count our blessings and serve our lord with gratitude. By God's grace he provides our protection and all our earthly needs. Because of Lord Harold and Lady Roxanne, our Rockhaven Castle is the strongest, wealthiest fortress in the whole north of England."
Lady Roxanne's Norman uncle had built our castle with rock instead of the usual mud and timbers. The builders started with the stone foundation and remains of an old Roman fort. They added more towers, more living space, and repaired the walls around it. Everything we needed was inside those inner and outer walls, including pasture, two wells, gardens, a meadow, barns, horse pens, cottages, bathhouses, blacksmith shop, storehouses, armory, mess hall and barracks for fifty soldiers. Lord Harold could also call on the support of all the neighboring knights, tradesmen and farmers. On this bright morning and in this place I was happily carefree, yet well aware that not everyone else was.
Luke and Sukey were orphans. Four years before, the Danish King Svein Forkbeard had led a midnight raid on our castle and killed their mother and father right before their eyes. Had they not run he would have hacked the children to death also. Their father, Eric, had been Lord Harold's bodyguard, housecarl and friend.
Lady Roxanne and Lord Harold both agreed to raise the orphans. At the time they had two children of their own, John and Rachel, plus me, but they had also lost three children. I heard lady Roxanne say, "Our babes had scarce entered into this world before they were called into eternity with God." She took comfort in that place she called 'eternity with God,' while I always wondered where it was and what it was like. I still do. But because they say there is no time in eternity, no hours to keep, I know I'll like it better there than here. I won't have to get up early in the morning, or stop what I'm doing just because it's time to go and do something else.
So now, counting me, Lady Roxanne had five children again, ten to fifteen years old. Sukey was the youngest and John was the oldest. John made sure everyone knew that. I was born on the first day of the new millennium year of our Lord one thousand, and was second oldest at thirteen. My best friends Luke and Rachel were half a year younger than I. But John, woefully, always disliked me because I was good at my studies while he was not. He did better at swords, spears, and war games. After all these years, I am still his favorite target.
Once breakfast, with cold sweet cream, porridge, bread and hot bacon was cleared away, I hurried to the north tower for my next job. Back then I tended to and took lessons from Anatoley, our alchemist and herbalist. He was the smartest one at Rockhaven, but so old he had gone right past being old enough to care for himself. If someone hadn't tended to him and picked up after him his life would have been constant calamity, disaster and a much greater number of accidental explosions. Absent-minded was his middle name as he'd be first to tell you.
Nevertheless, he was a talented teacher, a gifted healer, and a marvelous inventor of amazing devices. Back when I knew him he spent a lot of time working with explosives because we had so many enemies, and he was determined to scare off the Scots raiders. As an alchemist he didn't believe he could turn lead into gold with the tools he had at hand, so he spent most of his time creating herbal medicines, healing balms and those awesome inventions.
I was not paying attention as I walked because I tripped on something suddenly thrust in front of my feet. As I fell I heard the wild laughter of John and Squire Wulfric.
"Look at the clumsy oaf!" squealed Wulfric.
"What did you expect?" laughed John. "This no account has a head for books and Latin, but his legs are like those of an oafish donkey. They refuse to hold him upright."
They doubled over with laughter at this insult, untrue mind you, as I picked myself up and pretended to ignore them. Unfortunately they were just getting started.
"You think that because you write my father's letters for him you are a trusted member of the family," John said with his hand firmly grasping my shoulder and one foot pressing hard on mine. "Well think again, son of nobody, you are naught but a lowly servant, and you will never, ever become anything else, no matter what my father says or does for you." To add weight to his words he thrust out his lower lip and ground my foot into the dirt.
I felt anger in spite of myself, but didn't want to give John an excuse to heap more scorn on me. I knew he was spoiling for a fight. Pulling his hand off my shoulder and jerking my foot back, I started again for the tower with my lips and teeth clamped tightly together. But as fate decreed, I didn't get far.
Squire Wulfric picked up the heavy branch they had used to trip me and whacked me across the shoulders with it. Rage possessed me. I turned and dove for his knees, and he fell to the ground with an enormous thud. The fall knocked the wind out of him. I watched as his fat face turned from white to blue and his pale, pig-like eyes bulged into a frightened frog-like stare.
John looked from Wulfric to me, clearly wanting to end my existence, yet certain that his now purple-faced friend was going to die. Luckily for me, John chose to help Wulfric find his breath, and I was able to run to the tower in no time at all. My work was waiting.
As Anatoley pored intently over his ancient books and manuscripts I straightened up his workbench and laid out the tools and supplies he had asked for. "Toil and trouble come from minds and workplaces covered over by the Devil's debris," Anatoley was fond of saying. The floor had to be swept clean lest he set the debris on fire while he worked. Eye of Newt, his fat yellow cat had to be fed and watered lest he eat the experiment. My job was to assist and to foresee everything that could go wrong before it went wrong. Anatoley himself was too busy to notice minor details until it was too late. "The mind of a genius," he always said, "is a rare jewel, too precious to be soiled by the clutter of daily existence." I was the unclutterer, and I loved my job.
Now on this extraordinary day, right in the middle of his boiled eel breakfast, Eye of Newt suddenly stopped chewing to stare at the oceanfront window. I looked out, carefully scanned the horizon and saw—nothing. But Newt had secret senses unknown to man. He left his food and jumped onto the windowsill. Looking intently across the water he tucked his right paw under his right shoulder and stuck out his nose.
Excerpted from Kinsman Redeemer by Ruth Anderson Lawler, Bob May, Dot Hagen-May. Copyright © 2013 Ruth Anderson Lawler. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. The Promise, 1,
2. Into My Lap, 17,
3. Norsemen, Scotsmen and Greeks, 35,
4. The Lady Underground, 51,
5. One Enemy at a Time, 65,
6. Meeting the King, 87,
7. The Great Fire, 105,
8. Homecoming, 121,
9. The Wart Dwarf, 137,
10. War in the Hills, 155,
11. The Place of My Choosing, 173,
12. The War of the Kings, 189,