Oswald: Return of the King (The Northumbrian Thrones 2)
Oswald had found peace. But now he must fight for the throne.
Northumbria lies undefended. Cadwallon and Penda, the kings of Gwynedd and Mercia, ravage the land. Oswald has a rightful claim to the throne, but he is sick of bloodshed, and in his heart he longs to lay down his sword and join the monks of Iona. However, the abbot of Iona does not need another monk; the abbot wants a warrior king to spread the new faith. He must reignite Oswald’s hunger for glory and renown, for gold and power and the homage of men.
But, if he does, will it destroy Oswald?
First Published 15th May 2015 by Lion Fiction.
“How did you find me?”
The young man, dark where his brother was fair but in all other ways his younger image, grumbled as he stumbled towards the landing beach, the sole of Oswald’s foot hurrying him along whenever he lagged. Beside him, and not nearly as abashed as the young ætheling, the fisherman’s daughter walked, rolling her hips and flashing the whites of her eyes at the startled glances of passing monks.
“Bran found you,” said Oswald.
Oswiu looked around, scanning the sky for his accuser. “I hate that bird,” he said.
“Bran does what I tell him.”
“As do we all.”
“You do not.”
Oswiu flashed a grin back at his brother. “Of course I don’t – ow!”
Oswald brandished a birch switch at him. “Hurry up. We have to get her off Iona before the abbot hears you brought a maid ashore.”
“I didn’t bring her – she came herself, didn’t you?”
The fisherman’s daughter smiled sidelong at Oswald, who did his best to ignore her. Aidan, tagging behind, thought it best to lag so that the brothers might sort the matter out between themselves.
“You encouraged her.”
“I wouldn’t say encouraged…”
“No! Of course not.”
“Here, what be you thinking I am?” The fisherman’s daughter stopped fast in her tracks and turned to face Oswald, hands on hips, outrage on her lips. Her hair was black, her skin white and still unstained by wind and sun. The ætheling, forced to stop, looked her in the face, steady and long, and blood flushed the girl’s cheek and she dropped her gaze.
“I think you are beautiful,” said Oswald, “and I know we must get you off this island. Now, hurry.” Taking the lead, Oswald, strode towards the beach, where curraghs lay upon the strand like seals sunning themselves.
The fisherman’s daughter fell in beside Oswiu. “Why didn’t you tell me about your brother?” she whispered, staring after Oswald as he led them on.
Oswiu groaned. “Not you as well.”
“What do you mean?”
“I dived into the sea to speak to you, and your father nearly killed me with that oar, but one smile from him and you’d do anything.” Oswiu stared after his older brother. “How does he do it?”
“God’s grace lies upon him.” Brother Aidan had caught up. “And he gives of it freely and without thought.” The monk too looked after Oswald. “I do not think he even knows it is there – it is as natural to him as breathing is to us.”