The Comet, my forthcoming historical set in 1066 England, has been a long work but one close to my heart and I would love to share the prologue with readers. Any comments are welcome. This is the story of a Norman knight and Saxon girl set amidst a violent and history-making era. The war for the conquest of England is hardly more trying for Neel de Jardinier than the one for the heart of Rowena, daughter of a Saxon thegn and his beloved Welsh wife. With both parents dead and her land in flames, Rowena can find safety in Neel’s arms if only she can bring herself to trust him, but he is a conqueror and the ghosts of her dead cry out for vengeance.
Coast of Normandy, August 1066
Above chalk cliffs, two knights sat buffeted by streamers of remorseless wind. They had done serious swordplay and hard riding, and they and their horses were sweated. It was the only reason to be glad of the cooling wind blowing hard onshore.
“We cannot sail,” Gilles said.
Neel de Jardinier glanced sideways at his friend. Even with his hair tonsured, Neel looked like a Viking. His ancestry had bequeathed the wheat-colored hair, blue eyes and fair skin of the Northmen who had settled Normandy. All he needed to pose as an Anglo Saxon was the long hair and mustache many of them wore. But those were the men they would be fighting and he stayed carefully clean-shaven.
“Not yet,” he agreed. “God will deliver the wind when the time is right.”
“And do you get this information from God or Sir Hugo?”
“Hugo, of course.”
“Of course.” Blood counted, no matter how it came. Though he had fostered both of them with equal diligence, Sir Hugo du Flaumier would always share things with Neel, bastard cousin of Duke William of Normandy, that he would not discuss with Gilles, fourth son of a minor noble.
But the two young knights were equal in one regard. Across murky, choppy, wind-driven waters lay fortunes to be made and land to be claimed, and neither could obtain them except through service.
“They say the Papal banner has come,” Gilles ventured.
Neel nodded. “Harold is foresworn. Jesu, how can the man think he can swear on the relics of a saint to support William and then steal the crown of England?”
“Easily. There is not a shred of honor in his entire family.”
“William will make them a better king.” Taking his horse’s reins in one hand, Neel freed the other to check his chain mail shirt at the arm. “I am going to have bruises.”
“It is no time for light practice. Get one of the girls to rub you down. They will fight for the privilege.”
Neel flushed. “I was not complaining.”
“I know. Dreaming of some noble’s virgin daughter, are you?”
“Well, there will be many widows in England.”
Neel reached down to stroke his horse’s neck, smoothing tufts where wet patches were drying in the wind. When it turned, that wind would bear him to England and his fate, and he felt it like a second heartbeat marking the days of his life. “The Saxons have no idea what it is to stand up to a cavalry charge. They will break.” He stared across the gray-green expanse of water as if probing the mind of his Duke’s adversary. “We will break them.”
Look for The Comet from DCL Publications late this year or early next!