Fire and Ice - By J. E. Christer

Chapter 1

Bertone (Barton)


Juliana had been sitting by the side of the beck for some time. It was her favourite place where she could be surrounded by trees and woodland creatures, a place she had visited from childhood to ponder childish things. Now approaching her eighteenth summer she wondered how much longer she could put off the terrible day of reckoning when she would be forced to lie by the side of the hateful Richard de Gant, a Norman knight of the new King William who had taken her home and laid waste to the countryside. She knew she had been fortunate in not being married off to someone of noble birth already, but she had insisted that she should decide when to marry and her father, who could deny her nothing, had agreed. Erik, her childhood friend, had been chosen for her at birth but although she was very fond of him, in her heart she knew there should be more. The bubbling of the beck and the sough of wind through the newly burgeoning trees brought her some comfort but fear always lurked in her stomach reminding her of a debt to be paid. A twig cracked in the distance warning her of someone’s approach so she was relieved when she saw it was Micael, one of the servants. He bowed his head when he saw her and she smiled at his thoughtful gesture. Since the Normans came the servants had been told not to recognise hers or her mother’s nobility but to treat them like any other conquered people, but they were faithful to the memory of her father and treated them with the same respect they would have shown were he still alive.

“My lady, Juliana,” he said hesitantly, “My lord de Gant wishes to speak with you and has sent me to fetch you to him.”

The smile slipped from her face, tugged away by the panic she felt within. She knew she could not send him back with a story that she was not be found or he would be flogged, so she rose to her feet and tried to put on a brave face as she followed him back to the Hall. It was only a short distance through the trees but she tried to compose herself for the forthcoming meeting. She was pleasantly surprised to find de Gant seated on his horse as he had rarely left their home since his arrival a week ago. He watched her approaching and looked down on her to speak, his position giving him the superiority he craved. He still had no idea she could understand his language so he spoke in broken English,

“I go away. I go to Lincoln to settle the peasants under Norman rule. You stay here. I come back in ten days or so. Do not do anything to make me angry. You understand?”

“Yes, Sir Knight. I understand perfectly,” she replied as her heart soared at the thought of his being away.

She looked him in the eye as she spoke trying not to show her joy and he nodded his approval.

“When I back – you be mine!” His last words were not just a threat but a certainty, she knew. Her gaze lowered and he laughed and joked with his men after translating what he had just said to her. They rode away still laughing, but she didn’t laugh. No – she didn’t laugh.

Juliana and her mother lived in a small but prosperous town named Bertone in the shire of Lincoln and in the borough of Lindsey. It had been six months since the great battle on Senlac Hill where her elder brother, Aldred, lost his life fighting for King Harald. They fought bravely for a land free from the Norman pigs that even now imposed their William as their King and conqueror. These people were not welcome in the land and especially so when her father, a great Saxon warrior of noble birth, had died at the point of a Norman sword when they demanded his surrender of his town. He was an intelligent man and listened to their demands until they became so outrageous he drew his sword and threatened them with the deaths they deserved. The rest of the townspeople took up any weapons they could find, from wooden stakes to pitchforks but were quickly overcome and died trying to protect their lord. Juliana could not think of that time without a heart full of tears and a stomach full of bile, but