In rereading some of the history of King Harold, I found a murdered cousin. How did I miss him? Who is he? How did he die? Somehow I had completely passed over the tragic death of Cousin Beorn. The murder happened about fifteen years before the start of my story, but it is so compelling, I had to include it. I’m still working on how it will fit into the overall tale, but here’s an excerpt from an early draft as told by the old blacksmith who befriends my hapless protagonist:
Earl Beorn Estrithson. What a man he was. Too trusting, though. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him. Earl Harold’s cousin, and some distant relative of mine. In that last battle, he commanded one of Godwine’s ships. Earl Harold did, too. Earl Godwine was Harold’s father and just about rule this land in every way except for the title, at least until he got crosswise with the king. Goodwine was also the father of that pig Swein. A real troublemaker, but Godwine, ever trying to prove what a good Christian he was, never saw anything but redemption in him. If Swein had been one of us, he would have been burned alive, and lots of lives would have been saved and trouble avoided. The man was pure evil.
We sailed out of the port in Sandwich and made our way to Pevensey just down the coast from here. A terrible storm moved in and we watched the rain come down in sheets and listened to the infernal howling of wind for days. Fog, we couldn’t see ten feet, then filled the bay.
I was on watch standing far above the sea on the castle wall when the sun finally broke through. A ship sailed into the bay.
“Esgar,” I yelled down to a fellow mercenary standing guard at the gate, “tell our captain a ship approaches.”
When the captain appeared from the wooden longhouse, he cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled up at me, “Whose ship is it? Can you tell?”
By that time I could see the banner. It was Swein. I wondered what trouble he would start this time. He had been banished from England, his earldom taken away, and had been living in Denmark. Apparently he overstayed his welcome and had returned to get his earldom back.