SnowSnippets • 24 October 2007 • The SnowBlog
Remember that Fast Show sketch - "You like cheese? You like peas? Well you'll love Cheezy Peas. " I have a similar, although book-related, proposition.
You like the Snowcase? You like Free Things? Well you'll love new SnowSnippets - extracts from our own books. Read this - I bet you a million pounds (well, maybe not a million pounds. I bet you loads) you'll want to buy the book afterwards to read more.
The Needle In The Blood
by Sarah Bower
14th October 1066
The voice doesnt sound like his, though he can feel its vibrations in his throat. It sobs and growls, bellows and screeches like a cacophony of demons. My name is Legion for we are many. Odo is afraid hes lost his reason, but if the rumours are true, and William is dead, it might be better to be out of his mind. If Godwinson finds him.
You said this couldnt happen, he yells, in this voice like a cracked bell. The air is thick with smoke where fire tipped arrows have set the grass smouldering. You were the Wrath of God. How could you die? He has let the reins go, one hand trails the borrowed sword, the other is clasped around the amulet he wears, the Tear of the Virgin, Williams gift. He has lost his shield. Fool. Lost his shield? What sort of soldier is he? Gods soldier, he is Gods soldier.
His horse plunges down the ridge, shouldering its way past crowds of men on foot, stumbling over corpses and hummocks of maram grass, slipping on churned earth, slimy with blood and spilt guts. Disorientated in the pall of dust and smoke, the animal rears to avoid a kneeling peasant trying to prise a severed hand from the hilt of a sword. Norman? Saxon? Which side of the line is he? Doesnt matter. The main thing is to stay in the saddle, clear of the melee of men on foot hacking and pulping one another. Heels down, weight forward, squeeze with the thighs, at one with the animal.
Perhaps he is dead, not William, and the din battering his hearing, the sting of tar and horse sweat and burning fat in his nostrils, the eerie sense of being both in the thick of it yet watching himself from somewhere else, perhaps this is hell. He is a prince of the Church, which is inclined to make a man assume he is immune from hell, but he knows now that he has never truly believed it. Nothing is certain but uncertainty.
His eyes smart, full of tears, or sweat, or blood, he cannot tell. His helmet is a vice, branding the rings of the chain mail hood beneath it into his temples and the tonsured crown of his head. Its possible he has been wounded, he cant remember, but there is such a pain in his heart. Yet it is still beating. He can hear it, feel its rhythmic rush and suck. Arrows drumming against leather shields. Silence. Reload. The whistle of quarrels from bowstrings.
Instinctively he turns the horse broadside to the archers, to shield himself, and ducks behind its neck. Screams of fallen men and horses. Other men and horses. So he is still alive. A voice in his head taunts him. Which is more than this horse will be if you dont move. Horse, shield, what next?
Over to his right he can hear the Saxon war cry: Goddemite, God Almighty. The men in the front line on top of the ridge shake their shields in time with the chanting. The sun is out now, burnishing blood and weapons, gilding the smoke pall. The iron rims and bosses of Saxon shields flash in the corner of his eye. To the left the Norman response, Williams motto: Dex Aie, God aid us.