Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army (Conrad Monk 1)
Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it. Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.
By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?
‘If I was being invaded by raping, massacring Vikings, Conrad would be the perfect companion to lighten the mood.’ – Stephen Clarke, author of 1000 Years of Annoying the French and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong.
First Published 20 August 2018 by Endeavour Quill.
“Ride!” I yelled, jabbing my heels as hard as I could into the pony’s flanks.
The beast, exhausted at the end of a day trudging through mud, barely even raised its head, but continued plodding along at exactly the same pace as before.
Brother Odo patted the beast’s neck and looked up at me.
“Don’t worry. They are still far behind. I think we will get to the king’s hall first and have our choice of the warm places by the fire.” I looked down at the monk, now offering some words of encouragement to my beast. It was probably just as well he was looking at the horse, or he would have seen me gibbering with fear.
“D — Danes,” I stuttered.
“What?” said Brother Odo.
“They — they’re Danes,” I repeated.
Brother Odo looked up at me, wide eyed and then, without a single word or glance, he was off, running pell-mell down the track towards Beodricesworth, his habit hitched up to his knees.
“Wait!” I yelled, “wait, God damn it!” while I kicked my pony’s flanks to no effect.
At my shout, Brother Odo stopped, cast an agonised glance over his shoulder, then came running back to me.
“The beast is blown,” I said, getting down from the pony as Brother Odo reached me. “You’ll have to carry me.”
Before Brother Odo could say anything, I’d jumped on his back. His arms had risen to take hold of my legs without thought — a sure indication of many games played with the children of the monastery when Abbot Flory wasn’t watching — and I kicked his flanks with all the vigour of a man trying to escape an oncoming column of Danes.
Obedient to the command, Brother Odo began trotting towards Beodricesworth. Another kick took him to a canter, and a third had him galloping.
But before we had gone more than fifty yards I heard the thump of closing hoof beats.
I looked round, feeling the fear gorge rise up my throat as my back tickled at the prospect of a spear head being plunged into it, and saw my pony galloping up after us. Apparently, seeing its friend Brother Odo galloping away, it had gathered its remaining strength and followed.
For a moment I thought of transferring back to the pony. But Brother Odo was fresher. I stayed on him.
So, running before the storm, we arrived at the hall of Edmund, King of the East Angles.