n Ælfred’s Days, A Story of the Saga the Dane, Paul Creswick
I picked up this book while on vacation in British Columbia and read it thru while there.
It caught my attention immediately because it is inscribed with the name Winifred Bullock (my mother’s maiden name!)
It’s actually one of the few fiction books I’ve read. For some reason, perhaps that I was reading about Arthur, and also perhaps because it just looked rather familiar to me. There is, so far as I know, no historical basis for the story.
Here is a short synopsis of the beginning of the story:
It is something like the year 1000 and the Danes are invading Britain. The king, Æthelred and his brother Ælfred are reeling from a defeat by the Danes for which they were ill-prepared. They decide to rally their forces and counter-attack the Danes before the Danes can enhance their forces. The numbers definitely favor the Danes. But, due to the superior morale of the British and the superior merit of Æthelred and Ælfred, a victory is achieved and the the Danes are repulsed. In the course of the battle, Æthelred is killed. In his sorrow, Ælfred makes a poor decision…he postpones further attacks against the Danes while his brother is buried with the appropriate honors, a decision that will come to haunt him. Also in the battle, a small boy who seems to know only the single word “Saga” is captured. In reality, he is the son of one of the Danes who is being cared for by a foster-mother named Elsa.
While Ælfred mourns, he and his wife, the new queen, adopt the boy Saga and she becomes attached to him. At the same time, Elsa manages to infiltrate the English camp while disquised as an old woman. Elsa is a bit of a witch and able to rather effectively hide her identity. In time, she also makes her way into the house of the royal family and in due course, manages to escape with Saga. Ælfred and his most trusted friend Cedric set out in pursuit. They fumble about for a while and eventually are captured by the Danes, aided by Elsa’s tricks. They manage to escape by digging a tunnel out of the building they are imprisioned in. In a very scary night, they sleep in trees to escape from wolves.
The story goes on and is rather engaging.