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Monday, 20 October 2014

Into Battle: a warrior's life in Anglo-Saxon England

Death wasn't just a part of life in Anglo-Saxon England - it was a way of life.

However, that doesn't mean that men ran headlong into battle without a thought about their own mortality. How we define courage is a fascinating theme for any author, and one that seems to be cropping up again and again in the latest novel I'm working on: THE BREAKING DAWN

To illustrate one man's view on battle, here's a conversation between the hero and heroine from THE BREAKING DAWN - Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn (Prince of Powys), and Merwenna, the young Mercian woman who he is reluctantly escorting home.

“What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?”
“To fight in a great battle… were you scared?”
Dylan stifled a groan at that. This line of questioning was even worse than her previous one. He almost wished she would return to interrogating him about her dead lover.
“It’s difficult to describe,” he hedged.
Merwenna did not reply and after a few moments he realized she was still awaiting his response. Eventually, the silence became so ponderous that Dylan threw aside caution and answered her honestly.
“Battle is your whole life, from birth to death, squeezed into one drawn out moment. Everything is sharper, brighter. It assaults your senses, and there’s no escape, except through death. There’s no future, no past, just a nightmare you can’t escape. There’s no time for fear – if you’re afraid you’ll soon be dead. So you fight. You kill. And you keeping killing till it’s over.”
Dylan’s voice trailed off, and he heard Merwenna’s sharply indrawn breath. He felt a pang of regret at that, for he had not meant the words to come out so harshly. He would have usually honeyed them for female ears. Yet, something in Merwenna’s voice had demanded the truth – and so he had given it to her, or at least his version of it.
“It sounds ugly,” she said finally, her voice subdued.
“It is.”

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