A free sample (about 5000 words or 10% of the novel)
Our Saxon Life book 1
Copyright © 2022 Paul Gresham
All rights reserved.
Angelcynn: English, anyone who is not a Saxon.
Endelîf Eard: End Of Life Earth, or cemetery.
Eilderman/Eildermen: local councillor.
Havensea: an isolated village on the east coast of modern – day England, which was originally a Saxon settlement.
It has now been transformed into a modern Saxon settlement.
Professor Wulfgar: Saxon, created settlement after being badly beaten by students at university because he gave a controversial lecture called Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism.
Gebmund Sutham: Saxon, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws in the settlement
Cassie: young Angelcynn female, discovered settlement with her boyfriend Rob.
Jack Webster: young Angelcynn teacher
Eadyg Duning: 9 year old Saxon girl, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws
Einhard Achby: 12 year old Saxon boy, brutally enforces Wulfgar’s laws.
Godwin Turner: 9 year old Saxon boy, timid, afraid of Wulfgar’s laws.
Chris Sanders: Angelcynn, rebels against Wulfgar’s laws.
Miss Waerburh Deorlaf: Saxon, head teacher, enforces Wulfgar’s laws.
Miss Ethelred Stewart: Saxon, teacher, secretly opposes Wulfgar’s laws.
Eilderman Llanmere: Saxon, local councillor and farmer.
Chris Blake: Angelcynn photojournalist who investigates the settlement
Alice: Angelcynn journalist who investigates the settlement with him.
Thursday 9.00 pm Cassie and Rob arrive in Havensea
I didn’t like the idea of driving the motor home off the main road and turning along a farm track that was in the middle of nowhere.
But my new boyfriend Rob was at the wheel and we had agreed that whoever was driving could decide which road to take; it was his turn to drive, I had finished my turn about an hour earlier.
We were heading towards a place called Havensea, a small seaside village in the East Anglia region of England.
It was my idea to come here, I’d seen on the internet that an extremely low tide was forecast for Havensea, which might reveal an ancient settlement that had long ago been submerged by the sea, and I wanted to see it.
I glanced at the fields of crops on each side of the farm track and wondered why I couldn’t see a farm anywhere, or any tractors in the fields.
The sun was setting, it would be dark in about an hour– at about ten pm, we hadto find a place to park the motor home and spend the night in it before then.
It had been a long hot day, the hottest day of the summer so far, and I was looking forward to taking a shower in the motor home.
“Any idea where we’re going?” I said.
“It’s okay, Cassie, we’ll find a good place to camp pretty soon” he said confidently.
In a way, it was a good idea to drive along the farm track.
If we had kept going into Havensea we would have to drive around looking for somewhere to park,
which isn’t always easy with a twenty – foot long motor home.
I’ve been driving around the country and camping in motor homes for several years, sometimes with boyfriends but often alone.
I don’t automatically sleep with these new boyfriends, I make them sleep in the motor home’s second bedroom while I sleep in the main bedroom. If anything happens after this, it happens, but so far it hadn’t happened.
We’re both from Cornwall, in south western England, he’s a freelance mechanic and I work as a secretary on my dad’s farm, which is why I can take time off from work and travel around the country, whenever I want to do.
I know from experience that the best time to arrive in a strange town or village is early in the morning, before all the parking places have been taken.
In fact it’s often better to avoid parking in towns and villages altogether, and park a couple of miles outside of them.
Ideally this should be somewhere that’s secluded, often hidden among a bunch of trees, where I’m safe from prying eyes.
I use my mountain bike which is locked in its rack at the back of the motor home to bike into these places, although there are two of them now because Rob’s bike is there, as well.
Motor homes are usually a bright white colour which can be seen from miles away, but I had mine sprayed with a dark green colour to merge into the background.
But it was getting too late to look for somewhere secluded that was a couple of miles outside of Havensea, the light was fading fast and it would soon be dark.
That meant we would be driving around with our headlights switched on, which would draw attention to us.
We had planned to arrive now– on a Thursday night, to avoid any weekend holiday traffic that might be heading to Havensea.
We bumped and jolted along the farm track for several miles, passing more fields, which were just dark blobs now that it was almost dark.
But about a mile ahead I could see a low ridge of what looked like sand dunes.
Pretty soon we reached the foot of them and saw that we were at a dead end – except for one thing.
There was a gap in the sand dunes that was just about wide enough to drive the motor home through.
But what was on the other side of it?
“Let’s take a look” Rob said.
He switched the engine off and we walked through the gap, sometimes stumbling in the soft sand.
When we got to the other side I saw that we were looking at a marsh, a wide expanse of mud that was broken only by a few clumps of grass, and sometimes by what looked like tidal creeks.
About a mile to the north the marsh vanished and became what looked like a flat sandy beach, it was difficult to be sure in the darkness, and about a mile further north were the lights of a village which hadto be Havensea.
“That’s a good place!” Rob suddenly said excitedly.
I knew what he was talking about, I had already seen it, it was a causeway – just a grassy track, that was about a quarter of a mile long and led across the marsh towards the sea.
But it was only about ten feet wide, which was only just wide enough for the motor home, and I couldn’t see anywhere at the end of it to turn it around, that meant that we’d have to reverse it all the way back along the track, when it was time to leave.
“Are you sure?” I said doubtfully – then another problem occurred to me.
“What if there’s a high tide, and the sea comes over it?”
“It’ll be perfect” he said confidently.
I looked around at the monotonous fields of crops and decided that maybe he was right, I’d rather look at the sea than look at them.
He engaged the motor home in a very low gear and we slowly drove through the sand in the gap in the sand dunes until we reached the track.
We stayed in low gear and cautiously drove along it using the faint light from the moon to help us avoid accidentally driving off it and plunging into the marsh.
Finally we reached the end of the track, and switched off the engine.
“We’ll be safe enough here” he said confidently.
But I wasn’t so sure.
“Let’s go for a midnight swim” I suddenly said.
I like to do this, whenever I’m campingon the coast, and whenever I have a boyfriend with me.
It’s a bit too risky if I’m on my own because there are sometimes some pretty strange people on the beaches at night.
So far we’ve done it all way up from Essex, through Suffolk, and Norfolk, but we haven’t had a chance to do it in this part of East Anglia yet.
There was just one thing.
I cut my right ankle when we were driving on our way to Havensea, I got out of the motor home in my sandals and slipped on some broken glass.
I washed it with antiseptic and put a stick – on bandage on it but it was still bleeding.
But as we’d be swimming in the open sea I don’t suppose that mattered, it would be different if it was a swimming pool of course.
I put on a one piece bathing suit (chaste, rather than revealing, because so far it’s been that kind of relationship) while Rob turned his back to me and put on his swimming shorts.
We also decided to take a pair of warm wool shirts with us because I know from experience that it can be cold when you come out of the water.
We didn’t take our ‘phones with us, in case someone stole them while we’re in the sea.
There was only one problem.
We had to cross the marsh to reach the beach.
Not the entire marsh, just a short stretch of it that was probably three or four hundred yards wide.
Suddenly I felt something wet on my right foot.
It was blood.
I knew what that meant.
The bleeding from my cut was too profuse for the bandage, it had soaked through it and was dripping from the ankle down to the foot.
I hesitated for a moment and tried to decide whether to change it for another one, but decided not to bother, surely the sea water wouldn’t hurt it.
We decided that I should lead the way, because I’m lighter than he is and if I got stuck in the mud he could maybe pull me out.
But if he got into trouble I could never pull him out.
I was testing the ground with a walking stick, it’s one of those portable ones that you can collapse into a length of about six inches and put it in your pocket.
I use it pretty often, but not for walking, I use it to test the ground when I’m planning to park the motor home there, in case it’s too soft and I can’t drive out of it again when it’s time to move on.
I was too busy studying the ground to look around at the dark marsh, and I sensed that behind me he was doing the same.
We finally crossed the marsh and reached the beach.
We kicked off our sandals and walked into the shallow water.
The tide was out and there were hardly any waves, just ripples that barely covered our ankles, which made me hesitate for a moment.
“At this rate we’ll have to walk out there for half a mile before it’s deep enough to swim in” I said.
“You sure you’re okay with that?” he said.
I didn’t know if he meant because of the long walk or because of the cut on my ankle, maybe it was both.
“I’m fine with it” I said.
“Let’s try to run through it and get to the deep water quicker” he said.
I knew what he meant by ‘tried.’
It’s nearly impossible to run through water, it takes too long to lift one foot out of it, because you’re fighting against the weight of the water.
By the time you’ve managed to overcome that you lose your balance and your entire body lands in the water.
I threw my hands out to balance myself and leaned forwards like a sprinter at the start of a race but he suddenly said something else that made me stop.
“Maybe we’ll reach the ancient settlement.”
“You said we’ll have to walk out to sea for half a mile before the water’s deep enough to swim in, right? Well, the ancient settlement’s about half a mile out at sea, isn’t it?”
“Are you serious? It’s only visible at extremely low tides.”
But maybe he was right, maybe this was an extremely low tide, we had only been here for a couple of days, we had no idea what an extremely low tide was supposed to look like. Not here, anyway, because we weren’t familiar with the tides. If it was Cornwall, where we were familiar with the tides, we would know exactly what one was supposed to look like.
“I’ll race you to it” he laughed, and plunged through the water.
For some strange reason I glanced at an area of the sea that was about half a mile away, instead of the nearest hundred yards or so of it, which is what you usually do when you’re going for a swim.
I thought that I saw a disturbance in the water out there, like a whirlpool, but of course that was impossible.
The Eoten moved around uneasily among the rotting timbers which were submerged under the sea two miles from the modern village of Havensea, and which were all that remained of the ancient Saxon settlement of Hafensee, the Saxon word for the village.
As a sea creature its senses were highly attuned to the tides, and it sensed that they were beginning to change.
It sensed that a new kind of tide was approaching – one that might threaten its existence among the ruins, although it did not have sufficient intelligence to understand exactly how it might threaten it.
A human being, with access to the tidal patterns, would probably realise that the new kind of tide was a particularly low one, which could expose the ruins.
The Saxons were aware of the Eoten’s existence, because it had threatened the settlement for several hundred years.
They also believed that for some reason it was attracted to blood, because all of its previous victims had been suffering from some kind of wound before it took them.
It was suddenly alerted.
It had detected the scent of blood in the water, from somewhere at the place where the water became more shallow, until it finally ended.
It rose from the ruins to the surface.
And moved towards the source of the scent.
Thursday 11.45 pm Saxon woman Ethelred Stewart sees them in sea
Ethelred Stewart walked along the beach and anxiously scanned the sea for any signs of the Eoten.
She had volunteered to check it for two nights each week – including tonight, which was Thursday night, while other volunteers checked it on the other nights.
The system had been organised by Professor Wulfgar, the leader of the Eildermen, the Saxon elders of the village, after the creature had been sighted in the area.
He had warned that the exceptionally low tide which hadbeen forecast sometime in the next few days was responsible for its appearance.
He said that he possessed the complete annals of the settlement, since it was founded by the early Saxons in the 5th century, and the phenomenon was mentioned in the annals.
But for the first time in its history, it had been spotted on the marsh, instead of out at sea.
Eilderman Llanmere, who was patrolling the beach a few days earlier, had walked up to the place where it merged into the marsh, and was emphatic that he had seen it ‘crabbing’ across the marsh in the moonlight, about fifty yards away.
He called it ‘crabbing,’ because it moved like a crab.
“But it was much faster than a crab” he had said.
“It could probably keep up with a man – even if he was running.”
She often stumbled and fell in the soft sand but quickly recovered; at the age of thirty five she was young and fit enough to recover from something like that.
Her long straw coloured hair had got into her face but she quickly put it back into place so that she could see what was happening out at sea.
Suddenly she stopped.
About a mile away, on the marsh, and only just visible in the moonlight, was a strange shape.
She studied it intently for a few moments, trying to work out what it was, until it finally came to her.
It was a motor home!
But how did it get there?
Then she realised – it must have been driven along the causeway that led from the sand dunes across the marsh.
But it was only a few feet above it and could be flooded if there was an exceptionally high tide.
Didn’t the people who had driven it there realise that?
About a quarter of an hour later she saw that there was something on the beach, about a hundred yards away.
It didn’t look like driftwood – like a piece of wood that had been washed in the tide.
As she drew closer she saw that it was two objects, which were piled close together and when she reached them she saw that they were a couple of wool check patterned shirts, and two pairs of sandals.
One pair of sandals looked as if it belonged to the man because it was a pretty basic design, while the other probably belonged to a woman, because it was much smaller and had a pretty pattern on it.
Suddenly she saw that one of the woman’s sandals hadwhat looked like blood on it.
“Oh, Eallwealda!” shemuttered, instinctively using the Saxon word for ‘God.’
Two people were swimming out there!
While the Eoten was in the area!
She stared into the darkness and tried to see the splashes which would reveal how far out at sea they were.
A few seconds later she spotted them; they were about a hundred and fifty yards from the beach, which meant that the water was only about six feet deep.
Who were they?
They weren’t Saxons, because they wouldn’t go swimming at night – or at any other time, in the presence of the Eoten.
If they weren’t Saxons who were they?
They were Angelcynn, of course–English people, but what kind of Angelcynn were they?
Were they harmless motor home travellers?
Or were they spies, that the Angelcynn had sent to spy on the settlement?
Professor Wulfgar constantly warned the Saxons to be aware of this danger, and, as he put it, to ‘take all necessary counter – measures against them.’
That’s why he had ordered road blocks to be set up on the road leading into the settlement.
What would she say to them if they came out of the water?
She could hardly explain that it was too dangerous out there, because of the Eoten, they wouldn’t understand what she meant by that.
She hesitated for a few moments – then finally decided.
She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled out in their direction.
But there was no response – they didn’t yell anything back at her.
Suddenly she had an idea– one that might persuade them to get out of the water without having to explain about the Eoten.
She grabbed hold of their shirts and sandals and held them high up in the air in the hope that they would see them.
If they did see them they would reason that it could only be their shirts that shewas holding because there were no other clothes on the beach.
She waited for a few seconds until she was convinced that they had seen the clothes then yelled again.
“Hey! Do you want these!”
The splashing stopped–they had stopped swimming and were treading water, shedecided.
Suddenly a man’s deep voice yelled back.
“Leave our stuff alone!”
Then the woman yelled something.
But she ignored their pleas and started to run along the beach with the clothes held high in the air.
I must have waded for about a hundred and fifty yards before it was deep enough to swim.
Rob had to wade out even further, because he was a six footer so was at least a foot taller than me.
Suddenly I heard a shout from somewhere behind me – it sounded like a woman’s voice, and quickly stopped swimming and turned around.
Someone’s on the beach!
Rob yelled a warning at her.
“Leave our stuff alone!”
“We have to go back” I said urgently.
Rob began to head back to the beach, half-wading and half-swimming, I did the same and soon caught up with him, I wanted to get out of the water fast, not just because of our missing clothes but also because the cut on my ankle was hurting like hell, the bandage must have come off in the water.
But a few seconds later I watched disbelievingly as she ran off with our clothes into the darkness and disappeared.
Who was she?
And what was shedoing on the beach at midnight?
Ethelred Stewart ran along the beach with their shirts held in her right hand for about a hundred yards then suddenly thought of something, and hesitated.
What if the two Angelcynn didn’t come out of the water?
Could she attract it to her, instead of to them?
The Eoten was attracted to blood, according to Saxon legend.
She suffered from eczema, but luckily the skin condition was confined to her left leg so far.
Although there was no blood the skin was raw, despite the creams that she had put on it.
Would this rawness be enough to attract the Eoten?
Could she somehow attract it to her skin instead of to the blood of the woman in the water?
She glanced behind her to make sure that the man and woman weren’t following her then took off her shoes and jeans, to expose her legs.
She ran into the sea until the water came up to the top of her legs, then splashed around in it.
It was her duty to save the Angelcynn from the Eoten.
But she prayed to Eallwealda that it would not be attracted to her.
I splashed through the shallow water towards the beach next to Rob but pretty soon he overtook me until he was about fifty yards ahead of me.
I felt pretty vulnerable on my own and thought about yelling out to him to slow down and let me catch up with him, but I knew that I would feel stupid if I did.
Suddenly I heard a new kind of splashing sound coming from somewhere behind me and I stopped to turn around, puzzled.
But the sea was calm, apart from the gentle waves, that hardly made any sound at all.
Then I smelled it.
A smell of decay, like rotten meat.
I stifled a scream and tried to reach the beach.
Etheldred Stewart splashed around in the water for a few more minutes until she decided that she had done as much as she could to distract the Eoten from the Angelcynn in the sea.
She got out of the water and put her clothes back on, then began to walk back along the beach towards Havensea, about a mile away.
She thought about the Angelcynn again.
How did they manage to enter Havensea?
Not by the usual route, by driving along the main road, which was the only road that led into Havensea.
Although it wasn’t exactly a main road, it was just a narrow country road – almost a lane, that was riddled with lumps and pot holes.
It was guarded by Saxons by day and by night, and they would have reported any Angelcynn incursions to the Eildermen.
And if they had tried to enter the settlement when the Saxons were holding a special celebration such as the Our Saxon Life day, they risked being killed.
Then she realised.
They must have sneaked into it by using the only another route that was possible, an obscure farm track that led from the main road to the sand dunes, and from there to the causeway.
But how did they get find it?
Or did they already know about it?
If that was the case, they were spies.
And they would have to die.
Rob came out of the water and looked around the beach indecisively, trying to decide out which way the thief had gone.
But the moonlight had vanished behind a cloud and he was surrounded by darkness.
Then he saw what he was looking for.
Shoe prints, just one pair of them, so there was only one person, a woman, because it was a woman’s voice that had yelled out to them.
It looked as if she had come from the direction of Havensea, and had gone back the same way.
A few minutes later Cassie splashed ashore.
“It’s no use, we’ll never find her, let’s go home” he said to her.
I walked back along the beach towards the marsh with Rob by my side, feeling pretty vulnerable with just my bathing suit on.
It’s one thing to wear a bathing suit when you have a choice whether to wear one or not, but it’s another thing when you wear one because you don’t have any other choice.
Correction, I was limping, not walking, because of my cut.
I decided not to mention the strange splashing sound that I had heard, and the disturbance in the water that I had sensed.
At least not at the moment, maybe I would do it later on.
We quickly crossed the marsh and got back in the motor home.
I changed my bandage and put on some warm clothes while Rob made some hot tea to revive us.
I wondered how long the leisure battery would last, it was nearly out of charge, but I couldn’t charge it for a while, because I wasn’t planning to drive anywhere, to charge it up.
I switched on my mobile ‘phone while the water was boiling and he turned around to watch me.
“Any updates on the extremely low tide?” he asked, meaning had I visited the website that had supplied the information.
“No, there’s no internet connection.”
“I swear it” I said tersely.
I couldn’t understand it.
The ‘phone wasn’t the problem, it was working perfectly before we got here – and it could connect to the internet.
I knew that because there was an internet data package on it which I used when I was travelling around, and there was no free internet access available.
“What do you think happened when we were swimming out there?” he suddenly said.
“Someone took our stuff” I shrugged.
I hesitated for a moment, unsure whether to tell him what had happened to me when I was alone in the water.
Would he laugh at me?
Finally, I decided.
“There was something… you know how when you’re swimming you move your arms and legs and you make the water splash.”
He nodded puzzledly.
“Well… at one point I sensed that something else was moving around in the water and making it splash.”
“How can that be?” he said.
I closed my eyes tiredly.
“Why did that woman on the beach yell at us in a foreign language?” I suddenly demanded.
“Maybe she’s foreign” he said dismissively.
“Are you serious? She’d yell out a warning in English, because she’d assume that we were English.”
“You know what it sounded like to me?” he said.
“No idea. What?”
“Well, you might smile at this, but…”
“You promise not to laugh…?”
“Get on with it!”
“It sounded like Old English” he finally said.
“You mean, Anglo Saxon?”
“Same thing, just another description for it.”
“That can’t be right, no-one has spoken Anglo Saxon for…” I had to think for a while, back to my school days, and my history lessons.
Slowly, it came back to me.
Angles, Saxons and Jutes.
They were ancient tribes from… Germany? Denmark? Or both, I couldn’t remember.
They invaded England sometime in… when was it? The year 500? Or did they invade it continually, from AD 500 to AD 1100?
What else did I know about them?
They settled in East Anglia, among other places.
And that’s where Havensea is, of course.
Rob interrupted my thoughts.
“There’s a problem” he said.
“I know what she said– something that sounded like Eoten, but I have no idea what it means.”
“So how do you know if it’s Anglo Saxon?”
“Ah” he said mysteriously.
I sipped my tea while he explained.
I knew that he had been to university, and I knew that he had studied Ancient British History there.
It emerged that during his studies, a visiting professor who was a leading authority on the Anglo Saxon language had given a lecture.
But that wasn’t all.
This professor was so familiar with the language that he could read and speak it fluently, and he had recited the Lord’s Prayer, the centuries old Christian prayer, in Anglo Saxon, to Rob and his fellow students.
That’s why the word Eoten that the woman had yelled at us sounded familiar to him, it was because he had heard words that sounded similar to it.
I knew what he meant.
I speak pretty good French, and I only have to hear a word that’s spoken in French to know that it’s French. I might not always understand what it means, if it’s an obscure word, but I know which language it is.
He went on to explain that the professor had been involved in some kind of incident at his university – something to do with his teaching something that was too controversial, and his contract had been terminated.
Apparently, the controversial topic was called ‘Anglo Saxon Exceptionalism,’ which meant that the Anglo Saxons were special in some way.
This angered some of the students, who claimed that it was ‘racist,’ and they had beaten him up, pretty badly.
But I was hardly listening, I was more interested in which language the woman had been speaking.
“That just leaves one question” I finally said thoughtfully.
“Why does someone living in modern East Anglia speak the ancient language of Anglo Saxon?”