Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Crowning of King Harold

 

Here is a spooky story that comes from my latest novel, Lions Red and Gold, available now in digital and dead tree only on Amazon. I post it here in honor of this Halloween.

 

 

30 December 1065

 

The king of all the Anglo-Saxons slept and waited the  arrival of the Ferryman to take him cross the way which all men go. But Edward the Confessor, breathed he still.

 

King Edward the Confessor, childless and waning, had betook ensorcelled by some dreadful magic, and the Court were powerless to wake him from his shadowed kine. In his long yearfulness did Edward well decline, as all men do, who liveth under God’s unslighting eye.


 



Meanwhile in the City, there a hulking figure turned his piping-hood against the misting rains. He wore he of a ploughman’s kit. He had no special undergarment; plain uncolored linen drawers encovered him to adequate. He wore he hose of linen wode[1] on each his separate legs, ill-fitting, and tied up upon his girdle with the drawstrings knotted on the hips through slits on side of linen drawers. The hose rose up to thigh-length and enclosed his feet entire for the warmth they could provide. Atop, he wore a linen kyrtill, neither bleached nor colored, and full-skirted to provide more warmth and manly dignity. Atop of this, he wore a tunic made from linen and then lined with wool. Its length, down to the knee, was that of any worker’s cut; the legs were then left free for ambulative livery. The shoulder-seam was curved, and at the wrists the sleeve were tapered down. These cuts were the style in the countryside in those cold days, allowing for some mittens to be worn upon the hands without befouling the sleeve.

 

About his waist, he wore a decorated leather belt, for ploughmen at the time, and other laborers as well, would wear this sort of belt to demonstrate their industry: a decorated belt tied gaily ‘bout shewed all who saw it that its bearer made a tidy profit in the year, and spent it lavishly, as noblemen may do. Upon his belt hung knife and purse and strangely, too, an arming sword. This last would mark this man as noble even in a ploughman’s wore.

 

Upon his feet were shoes of plain, brown leather with thin soles as was the custom. Rose they up above his ankle, and then turned they down again, and tied with leather laces in a tidy bow.


His hood was brown and woolen and it covered up the head and neck quite pleasingly. Aback it had a liripipe[2] to tie it to the tunic ‘gainst the wind, or to his belt when not in use. His hat, in brown, bycocketine, and wool, wore to the fore.

 

And finally, he carried on his belt a pair of mittens with articulated fingers dyed with saffron and with wode, belike a ploughman might he own. He didn’t like the pinch and so he left them well alone.

 

This man shewed care out to avoid ensoiling his boot up in the horse manure left upon the street; accreting mud-cake would enow be evidence his London weilke. He turned him up to Moorsgate, never showing out his face to any soul, for were the hour midnight and a witch he meant to call.

 

There near the Moorsgate is a postern passage that you might have seen or known. But at this time, it was a secret way to pass the wall, known only to the man who had it built and they who wrought the thing along. This were that man, this giant, secreting out the London ley.

 

The wintry mist upon his hands wrought red from white, and chilled the bones of present wight. Considered he the mittens naught, for he was used to Thor’s adversity.


The night were blackened up, with sliver of the Moon onrising and some tense, low clouds to block the stars. The New Moon held within its dainty crescent horns the Old Moon there, illuminated but a bit somehow. He kept him to the East and kept his hand along the wall. When he approachethed up the ruined temple to Minerva (and to Freya in her time), he turned him North and walked a mile 'long the Ancient Road called Aldgate, to a wee wic ded he ken up there which held the Devil's bouns.


On past the church and past the well, upon the edge of moor and fen lived Hollace in a hovel made of peat. Nobody ken her years or how her dwelling came to be. She lived alone and made her living hoarding aught the pretty herbs that grow along the wood and in the blackened Earth, in places cloistered up against most men’s good wisdom see. Her manner split the distance twixt Minerva and gay Od; for had she goodly wisdom when not wrought by madness; but with madness were she wrought a’regular.

 

Anon, this hooden-gillie struck her door quite sharply with the pommel of the sword he closely bore. He rapped again. Came then she to the door, the crone, with shawl and nightcap on her. Bent was she with age, the weight all men among us bear. She were a wee thing, dessicated like unto the desert had been through her.




    “Aye, well met, me Lordship,” said the little crone.

“Aye, and well, well met, my faithful friend,” replied the giant, as he ducked to enter there.

 

She had no fittings and no roomware there inside, save just a rocking chair to set, and table wee, just big enow to well suit one, and wobbly. The giant sat upon her floor, unfinished, but quite dry and warm. He then untipped his hood, and did reveal himself to God and every man who woulds’t see him: Harold Godwinson were then apparent seen beneath the shroud.

 

“I’ve ere walked forth from London for to ken the forthshaft[3] as you truly ken. Tell my forthtime and the towardness of ere this island Albion, ye kenful oldwife Hollace.”

 

“Coin.”

 

Well-æthelgedly,[4] Harold then produced the hoard within a gunny and he put it on the table.

 

Hollace held up each the sundry coin to see the emberment of stovelight gleam against it, then emplaced it in her apron. Counted up she thirty shillings; were enow for her to tell the future to this man before her now.

 

She turned her good eye to him and she squinted at his face. This man, this giant of a man, had cheek of ivory, quite fair. His chin were noble too, and boued it forward in perpetual determination made. He wore them clean, his cheek and chin, to shew how manly hath God wrought them both. However, had he broad mustaches, as they were the fashion of the time, in red but with a little white. Here in the gloom and dour mist, his curly hair of red hung down about his collar so, accentuating up his finely-cultured bones. His father, Godwin, famously wore down his hair the same, but Godwin’s hair was brown without the fire of Harold’s mane.

 

Sir Harold, was he tall, perhaps six foot and then a little bit; and had he shoulders broader by a hand perhaps than were his narrow hips. This night he bore no armor, for to travel in disguise; but even aught his case were he to look upon a knight tonight, with sparkling blue eyes.

 

“There is a tide ‘pon this New Universe, and up upon it do we rise and fall, bestruck by fated stars, m’lord,” did Hollace cast, while opening the shutter on her window. Hollace struggled with the latch. “My hands. My hands…” Sir Harold breathed frustration and impatience with the witch. She finally got the latch to spry and peered up into Heaven with her one remaining eye.

 

“The Moon is dark tonight. I scarcely spy its aftlimbs. Darked and blooded.” Hollace turned to him with some alacrity and grasped his wrist within her claw. “Better for to see our stars, my Lord, and hide these secret things, these weirds we say.”

 

“Make weird be plainer, pray,” replied the Lord of Wessex, Edward’s second, backing off the clying crone. He thought to doubt the wisdom of this gallant forth from castle home.

 

She answered thus, “The old King dies. The spell he’s under shall not lift again. Not outright, no.” She poked about her hearth a bit. “The spirits mark his passing right before Epiphany, when Magi from the Orient would come to bring your Savior ‘is.”

 

 “The day before?”

 

“Aye.”

 

“Do the spirits tells’t what’s be time of day he passes?”

 

“Night, as all good things befouled by the baleful dark.”

 

“And when this dark thing dost transpire, would he name an erve? Would he name me ere his erve?”[5]

 

“This up the hand that makes it so, Lord. Whosoever dost this gill last see, will name that man the Anglish King.”

 

“Then that man must be me, wise Hollace! How to make this so? For Fate, that mistress to the meek and to the passive men dost take to men upon the cusp of History. She taken by these men, well fore they take Her to their marriage bed. The small among us are like afterbear:[6] these small in stature and responsibility. These pups are bound to Her by apron-string, and beaten to obedience by that which Fate should bring.

 

“But up among the atheldom, among the haletheeling wiclords, thegns and kings[7], She doth submit to just and ruly strikes, and finds good discipline to us. To me.

 

“I shall bind she to me this Lady Fate, for fair Fortuna woulds’t for me slake.”

 

“What’s that?” Asked Hollace, as she’d lost into the fire. “Oh. Aye. How make it so? The spirits know.”

 

She poked the fire once again and turned to Harold, sharply. “Thirty shillings more. The wortcraft such as spirits shew is never given free.”

 

This angered Harold and he thought to thrash the woman. But he stayed his hand and handed her more coins. She looked again upon the glinting, one by one, before the firelight.

 

“To make you up the king, ye’ll need two pretty gifts to woo this Fate you seem to moon for, Lord.”

 

“What they? Pray, speakest of these gifts.”

 

“The first of these, a brew I sh’ave concocted. Cordial is it in its scent, but gale to do it galder[8] when it’s work be rent. Pour it down the gullet of the king.”

 

“What then?”

 

“He will awake, anon, up from his spirit’s foul abreet[9]. He’ll spy you with his newly-daven eyes. And then, descent again into foreheawen late Eternity. His life’s reward you’ll bring.”

 

“It kills him?”

 

“Aye. It’s this you wish for, Lord, by faith?”

 

Sir Harold stopped to contemplate this thing. He saw the light from Devil’s Moon through cracks within the walls. “This do I beg of Fate.

 

“Now, what the second pretty shall I need to woo this fickle puterelle?”

 

She stood with some distress, and stepped perhaps four steps, and opened up a box upon the floor beside her filthy bed. She made some grunt of satisfaction, and pulled out the brew, and also something like a looking-glass. She straightened up her back again (as well she could in her decrepitude), and came to set again across from Harold.

 

“This, the second afterleen,”[10] she said, “a viewcraft-lens marked up by Jews direct from Orient. Marry, stand before my fire. Hold it up and let the fire-light shone through against the other wall.”

 

Harold did. Upon the wall, an apparition summoned up! T’were summoned, clear as blessed sunlight, thereupon! He gasped and pulled his arms to him. And when he did, the apparition disappeared! “What spiritcraft is this! You witch! You sorceress!”

 

Hollace grinned, and was well pleased. She cackled, and the flecks of spittle went upon the table, and then some upon the nobleman. She held her innards in with both her bony arms, she cackling and on.

 

He smelt upon her newly urine.

 

Hollace caught herself again and told the nobleman, “It is the viewcrafter. It shews the ghostly apparition on the wall when placed before a fireplace or lantern, or a torch! How riotous! How dear!

 

“Make of this a miracle. Shew upon the wall this markup of a ghost. Ye tell the host about this kelpie wraith, and that it did’st appear to you and Edward right before his life were claim’d! Make show of it! A show for all the peoplement of Edward’s home and all these Anglish islands. Tells’t them that  this spirit said for you to take the throne!”

 

“Dissemblement. Aye, dark dissemblement. But for the purposes of England’s light and weal. For th’hand of Fate, I do submit to Devil’s deal,” said Harold with finality.

 

He practiced with the viewcrafter a bit. When he was satisfied, he stood and thanked the crone, and placed the gifts within the pocket of his purse.

 

And when he had departed, Hollace only then recalled and spoke the rest: “Those summoners upon this apparition suffer rhotic yieldback[11] in this cast, as all men do and in all things at last.”

 

***

 

In truth, just as eld Hollace said it would, King Edward was awoken from his sorcelment upon the 5th of January, which we call Eleventh Night. The spirit shone upon the wall; the King announced to all that Harold to protect his kingdom and his wife; and then the poor King died, upon the very early morning of the Twelfth Night, January 6th.

 

Sir Harold grasped the crown and scepter, and made haste unto the Abbey at near-by Westminster. All the nobles of the land and all the higher clergymen were present for the Feast of the Epiphany. The new King was enthroned that very day before the Witan of the realm: The 6th of ’66.



[1] Medium blue.

[2] A long strip of fabric resembling a streamer, usually on a hood or headdress.

[3] Future.

[4] Noble.

[5] Erve – Heir.

[6] Descendants (by analogy to forebear).

[7] Haletheeling… kings -  Nationalistic noblemen.

[8] Gale to do it galder – filled with magic

[9] Abreet: Destroy or exterminate. In this case used to mean waking from sleep, destroying sleep.

[10] Reward.

[11] Rhotic yieldback – poetic justice

 

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