The Fourth Lost Tale of Mercia: Athelward the Historian
The Fourth Lost Tale of Mercia:
    Athelward the Historian
    Jayden Woods
    Smashwords Edition
    Copyright 2010 Jayden Woods
    Edited by Malcolm Pierce

    “ There, are, indeed, some notices of
antiquity, written in the vernacular tongue after the manner of a
chronicle, and arranged according to the years of our Lord. By
means of these alone, the times succeeding [Bede] have been rescued
from oblivion : for of [Athelward], a noble and illustrious man,
who attempted to arrange these chronicles in Latin, and whose
intention I could applaud if his language did not disgust me, it is
better to be silent.”

    --William of Malmesbury, Chronicle of the
Kings of England , Preface


    Hampshire, Wessex
    993 A.D.

    The intruder entered quietly, but Athelward
recognized the footsteps of his dearest servant right away. The
servant knew better than to interrupt the ealdorman in the middle
of his work, so this must be an emergency. But if this was an
emergency, why didn’t the servant say something? Silent or not, his
presence wreaked irreparable damage. Athelward could not focus on
his writing when someone loomed close enough to see over his
shoulder, nor when such trivial questions plagued his mind as why
the servant entered in the first place. Already, he felt himself
slipping from his own stream of thought: a stream consisting of the
dazzling rapids of history swirling in harmony with the
sophisticated currents of the Latin language.
    Athelward’s quill quivered with his growing
frustration, then at last fell aside. It was too late now; his
focus had been dashed upon the rocks and left to dry. Through
gritted teeth, he said, “What is it?”
    “There is a woman here to see you, my lord.
She seeks your aid.” The Celtic servant, Drustan, seemed entirely
undaunted by his master’s mood. Very little phased Drustan, who had
a smug and rather reckless demeanor for a servant. Despite this, he
almost always seemed to know Athelward’s mind, even without being
told what to do, so Athelward kept him.
    This, however, was not such a fitting
example. Athelward could not believe he had been interrupted for
something so trivial, and without more of an explanation. Because
he was ealdorman of Wessex, thousands of people desired his aid
every day. The fortune of a single woman, when compared to the
importance of completing the great literary work Athelward now
devoted himself to, was so trivial as to be completely
    Athelward closed his eyes and took a deep
breath. The candles around him fluttered as he exhaled, casting
undulating waves of warmth on his face. He did not want to waste
his time with a useless conversation right now, especially with a
servant he would probably expel from his service on the morrow.
Better to simply ignore Drustan’s presence and get back to work.
After a few moments, he felt as if he succeeded. He felt the stream
of Latin words flowing back into his mind, the stream which flowed
to his heart, then through his blood to his fingertips. He brought
his quill back to the parchment.
    “My lord? Her name is Golde. She says she
knows you. She has a child with her, a little boy, and they look
very traumatized.”
    Athelward put down his quill with an angry
smack. He turned slowly around, the wooden chair creaking beneath
him, the bones of his back popping and groaning in harmony with the
furniture. Usually, tearing himself away from his writing was a
smoother and more gradual transition, aided by a long prayer and a
little bit of stretching. This interruption was simply
    Now that he looked upon Drustan directly,
though through a haze of anger, he thought the servant seemed even
smugger than usual. His eyes were twinkling, and his gaunt cheeks
glowed bright pink. His short straw-like hair, meanwhile, was a
total mess upon his head, like a roll of hay that had been rummaged
by a bear. Athelward’s eyes squinted even further, for he now felt
suspicious. “Golde? I don’t recall her. Is she of noble

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