To Kill a Witch, page 1part #1 of Holy Warriors Series
To Kill A Witch
Holy Warriors Book 1
Rabbit Hole Publishing
For my parents for encouraging me to learn about the past so that I might have a brighter future
Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men
Before You Go!
About the Author
Also by Christopher Patterson
To Kill A Witch
Copyright © 2019 Christopher Patterson. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by nay means without the written permission of the publisher.
Rabbit Hole Publishing
Tucson, Arizona, 85710 USA
Excerpt from the Introduction to The English and the Normans: Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation, and Identity 1066-c.1220 by Hugh M. Thomas, Professor of History, University of Miami
On Christmas Day, 1066, large crowds of English and Normans gathered for the coronation of William the Conqueror. Though William had gained his crown by force, he claimed to be the legitimate successor of Edward the Confessor, and sought to have that claim reinforced and symbolized by a traditional coronation, which included a call for acclamation and assent from the people gathered. The call was duly read out, both in French and English, and both Normans and English responded dutifully. At that point, however, William’s carefully planned propaganda coup met disaster. A nervous guard of Norman knights posted outside Westminster Abbey, unfamiliar with the traditional ceremony and unable to understand what the English were shouting, mistook the ceremonial acclamation for the beginnings of an attack and reacted by setting fire to the houses surrounding the abbey.
William’s coronation was indeed a powerful symbol, but not of the unity he hoped to achieve. Instead, it showed the cultural and linguistic gulf between his Continental followers and English subjects and foreshadowed the renewed hostility and warfare to come. In the years following the coronation revolt followed upon revolt and the Normans countered with savage reprisals, including the deliberate devastation of wide swaths of countryside. Hostility dominated the relationship between the ethnic groups and even shattered the tranquility of monastic life when the new Norman abbot of Glastonbury sought to introduce Continental innovations in the liturgy and his monks reacted forcefully. The abbot sent in troops, and during the resulting massacre, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘blood ran from the altar onto the steps and from the steps onto the floor.’ Peace between the Norman and English aristocrats proved unattainable and within twenty years of the conquest the Normans had slaughtered, exiled, or dispossessed almost all of the most powerful pre-conquest landholders. The bitterness between the English and Normans lingered well into the twelfth century.
I would like to personally thank Dr. Thomas for all of the wonderful research he has done in regards to the Norman Conquest and English-Norman relations during this post-conquest time period. I would also like to thank him for giving me permission to use this short excerpt from his work.
“ALL THOSE FLOWERS, all that green grass. By the time the sun sets, it will be burnt, trampled, and stained with blood.”
Thaddeus Christopoulos sat astride his large, gray horse, staring from his plateau vantage, watching a plain of knee-high, green grass and little purple, white, and yellow flowers.
“That is war,” Gunnar Sigurdsson replied.
“Too much war,” Thaddeus said.
Through a sidelong glance, he saw Gunnar shrug his shoulders.
“Don’t act as if it doesn’t wear on you,” Thaddeus accused.
“What?” Gunnar asked. Thaddeus could hear the insincerity in his voice.
“Don’t act as if all this death doesn’t wear you down like a mail shirt.”
“I don’t feel like my mail weighs me down at all,” Gunnar replied. “Are you getting weak, my friend?”
Thaddeus turned his head and saw Gunnar smiling at him.
“You know what I mean.”
Gunnar’s smile disappeared.
“This is life,” he said, “and we know enough about that.”
“Curse this life,” Thaddeus muttered.
“As the Lord continues to call us to fight evil,” Gunnar added, “we will see even more death. The world seems more open than ever to the depravity of man.”
Thaddeus’s horse snorted.
“Easy Polemistes,” he said, patting the horse’s strong neck.
Each muscle rippled every time the animal shifted its weight from one leg to the other. Those muscles had carried Thaddeus into too many battles to count. Those muscles had carried Thaddeus away from too many battles to count. Those muscles had saved his life.
“This land, the Romans called it Britannia,” Thaddeus said, “reminds me of my home in Laconia. It’s a shame war has ruined it.”
“Aye,” Gunnar agreed. He patted the neck of his own warhorse, Sigurd—named after his father—its fur a golden blond and its hair the white of high, wispy clouds. “I have always found the land of the Anglo-Saxons a beautiful place. Rich soil. Clean water. Fresh air. Good farming. Decent people.”
“That is what drew your people here three hundred years ago,” Thaddeus said.
“People think we Swedes and our cousins, the Danes, came here for gold and silver,” Gunnar replied. “In reality, it was the farmland.”
“The monks of Lindisfarne might disagree with you,” Asaf Segal said.
“They did eventually soften the hearts of we Norsemen,” Gunnar said. “Many of us found Christ in this land.”
Gunnar looked at Asaf slumped in the saddle of his horse, Phillip, and facing away from the field on which they looked. He had looked grumpier than ever, ever since the Lord had called them to England.
“Conquest is always messy,” Gunnar said, “and full of atrocities. If I could take back the things …”
“We all feel the same,” Thaddeus interrupted, shaking his head. “We would all take back our sins if we could.”
“Well, my people were the ones being conquered,” Asaf said, crossing his arms.
“Oh, come now,” Gunnar said. “The Jews and the Hebrews conquered plenty of people. Your people always act as if you are the ones being stepped on.”
“And sitting like that you look like a petulant child, Asaf,” Thaddeus added.
Asaf groaned and shook his head, but he did uncross his arms.
“Tin,” Thaddeus said. “That is why the Romans came. Tin and taxes. I guess our reasoning was less noble. The poor Celts … they never had a chance.”
“The conquered were the conquerors once,” Gunnar said. “That is the way of the world. The Angles and Jutes and Saxons once conquered the Celts and Bretons, and now the Normans have conquered
Thaddeus nodded and again looked out over the field below them.
“This place seems so enchanting,” Thaddeus said. “More mysterious than a land of fairies and dragons.”
Gunnar grunted, and Thaddeus knew his friend had that squinty-eyed, arched eyebrow look he gave when he was amused but irritated at the same time.
“You look ridiculous,” Thaddeus said.
“You don’t even know how I look.”
“I know too well,” Thaddeus replied. “It looks like two huge, yellow worms are crawling across your forehead.”
“My eyebrows look that big?”
Thaddeus couldn’t help laughing as Gunnar touched his brows and felt the bushy, blond hair there. He turned back to the field.
“More exotic than Egypt, Persia, the Valley of the Indus River, and the lands even farther east, the lands of the silkworm. Yet this place is more brutal than the north and more holy than the Holy Land.”
“Have we turned to sacrilege now?” Asaf said, his voice hard. Thaddeus glanced over his shoulder, then back to the field below.
A Saxon force had assembled below—a hundred or so men—all carrying thin spears and round, wooden shields. Most had long swords at their hips, some axes, and a few of them had shirts of iron mail.
“Only six horse,” said Thaddeus, shaking his head. From the corner of his eye, he could see Gunnar nodding.
The sound of marching echoed over the plain, and Thaddeus looked to his left—the south—and within moments, the sun gleamed off the iron, conical helms of two hundred Norman soldiers.
“They don’t march like the north men from whom they descend, do they?” Thaddeus asked.
“No, they certainly don’t,” Gunnar replied, and Thaddeus thought he could hear a smile in the other man’s voice. Gunnar leaned forward, squinting. “I wonder whose coat of arms it is?”
Each one of the Norman’s kite shields bore blue and yellow checkers and interspersed among the troops were long lances bearing a banner with the same yellow and blue checkers.
“I don’t know,” Thaddeus said. “But they have fifty cavalry.”
The marching Normans looked like a single, gleaming mass, with their cloth hauberks studded with iron, their iron helms, and their kite shields.
“God and Christ and all the saints help those poor bastards,” Gunnar said. “This is going to be a slaughter.”
“Aye, that it is,” Thaddeus agreed.
“What are these Saxons thinking?” Gunnar asked. “They’ve lost before they begin.”
“Would you so willingly give up your land?” Thaddeus asked.
“Maybe not,” Gunnar said, “but they have clearly lost. Why throw away your life?”
“It will take another hundred years for these people to relent,” Thaddeus said, and then added, “maybe even longer.”
“Is this why the Lord has called us to England?” Gunnar asked. “To help the Saxons defeat the Normans?”
Thaddeus shook his head.
“No. The vision the Lord gave me was one of a woman—dark-haired and beautiful,” Thaddeus explained. “She held a place of power—a noblewoman maybe. She commanded men. She had someone of importance in chains and, as my dream ended, I saw a road lined with the crucified.”
“I wish the Lord were a little clearer about these missions He sends us on,” Asaf said, turning his horse to stand alongside Thaddeus.
“A bold statement coming from a priest,” Gunnar said with a smile.
“Former priest,” Asaf said with a quick wave of his hand.
“Aren’t you going to say a prayer for these poor Christian men about to die?” Gunnar asked.
“Just you leave me alone,” Asaf replied. His voice sounded hard, angry.
“Is it not your duty, as a priest, to pray for these poor souls and their absolution before they meet our Lord Christ?” Gunnar teased.
Thaddeus could sense the smile spreading across Gunnar’s face.
“They can pray for their own absolution,” Asaf said. “Besides, they don’t give a rat’s fart what I do for them.”
“Now, now, my friend of the cloth.” Gunnar laughed. “You would let good men go to their deaths with uncertain souls?”
“Christ’s bones, would you leave me be? You know I don’t believe they need anything but a silent prayer to the Lord God and a right heart to meet Him in Heaven. And they certainly wouldn’t want a damned defrocked cleric praying for their souls. They’d be better off letting some Moorish turd pray for them.”
“Asaf,” Thaddeus chastised. “You go too far.”
Asaf sighed hard.
“So, do we just sit here and watch?” Gunnar asked.
“Would you have us get involved?” Thaddeus replied. “You wish us to ride down there and join the fight? You believe this is the thing for which the Lord has called us?”
Gunnar shrugged his huge shoulders before he swatted at a fly.
“Why England?” Asaf asked. “Avignon is beautiful this time of the year.
Thaddeus felt the brush of grey-black horsehair as Polemistes flicked his long tail, joining in the fight against the larger-than-normal flies calling Northumbria their home. That was the only battle he would get involved in that day.
“What are the lands like north of here?” Thaddeus asked. “The lands of Scotland. Are they just as enchanting?”
“They’re cold,” Gunnar replied.
“I hear their women are as big as north men.”
Gunnar straightened at that, puffed out his chest.
“I jest my friend.” Thaddeus laughed.
“They are a big folk,” Gunnar conceded, “with pale skin and wild, red hair. And they paint their faces all blue for battle. They look like demons.”
“You know what a demon looks like,” Asaf said, “and they look nothing like it.”
“Oh, so he speaks again, the grumpy turd who won’t say a prayer for doomed men,” teased Gunnar
“If their hearts are right, they’ll be meeting our Lord Christ today. They don’t need me to help them along.”
“Your mouth is insatiable priest,” Thaddeus said. “And you know as well as I do a demon can look like anything.”
Asaf grumbled, and Gunnar laughed.
“Do you think the Scots are helping the Saxons?” Thaddeus asked.
“I would bet on it,” Gunnar replied. “I hear King William II has plans to expand in the north. It’s not that the Saxons and the Scots ever got along, but … well, you know the usual enemy of my enemy situation.”
As Thaddeus waited and watched, Polemistes shifted his weight again, flicking his tail before he snorted.
“So, are we going to just sit here?” Gunnar asked, wafting a hand to clear the air.
Thaddeus eyed his friend, his brother in arms, with a smile that reached his otherwise cold gray eyes. The Swedish warrior rubbed his ruddy forehead with the palm of his callused hand. His wide shoulders slumped, and he sighed with frustration, and his irritation widened Thaddeus’s smile.
“That’s exactly what you mean to do, isn’t it? I know that smile,” Gunnar said, scratching the yellow, bushy beard occupying his chin.
Thaddeus continued to watch as the Northumbrian Saxons eyed the men from Normandy as they gathered across the wide plain.
“No archers today.”
“It doesn’t look like it,” Gunnar replied. “Kind of foolish, if you ask me. This whole thing would be done with a few volleys.”
Thaddeus decided the Saxons looked nervous, and he could not blame them. Their lines swayed and twitched while the Normans looked stoic. Still and confident. They should be. In a matter of a few years, they had completely subdued the Land of the Angles—England—with deadly precision. He had seen many armies that looked like that. He had fought in many armies that looked like that.
It meant nothing, though. Too many times, Thaddeus had seen the outnumbered s
“David and Goliath,” Thaddeus muttered before he shook his head. “Not today.”
The Normans were too good, too powerful. They bore the blood of the north men, as their name indicated. They had conquered the lands around the Holy city of Rome with little effort. The emperors of the Eastern Empire hired them as mercenaries. They were the descendants of the Rus and the Varangians. They fought the Moors in Iberia. They settled and survived in the coldest, hardest places of the Lord’s Creation. Almost thirty years ago now, and it had taken only three months for the Duke William of Normandy—William the Conqueror—to defeat the Saxons.
“What’re you saying?” Gunnar asked.
“Nothing.” Thaddeus shook his head.
“If we were to wager,” Gunnar said, “who would win?”
“You would gamble on the lives of these men?” Asaf asked.
“The outcome is always the decision of the Lord,” Gunnar replied.
“Not since Christ,” Asaf said, “who forbade lot casting. But the Lord would choose the Saxons.”
Gunnar looked to Thaddeus, eyes wide, smile gleaming.
“Oh ho. I have piqued our clerical friend’s interest.”
Thaddeus tried not to laugh.
“You are wagering on dead men, my friend,” Gunnar added.
“You said we weren’t wagering,” Asaf replied. “And besides, I’d rather wager on dead Christians than men who descend from those pagan animals in the north.”
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