The Lords of the Wind: Coffee Pot Blog Tour
Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master’s longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.
A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.
“The Lords of the Wind” by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader’s Favorite annual international book award.contest.
“If you want to sit down with an extremely well-researched tale involving heroic battles, first loves, and the making of a legend, this book is for you.”
The Historical Novel Society
Our ship maneuvered along the southern branch of the river and docked at the wharf under the bridge. A Frankish man walked the dock to our boat and addressed Eilif in the Frankish language. He had long black hair and a shaved face. To my amazement, Eilif spoke back to him in the foreign tongue and gave him a handful of silver coins. The Frankish man wrote in a leather-bound ledger and walked back up the dock to the city.
“Do you feel strong enough for a walk?” Egill asked.
“Good. Wear this.” He placed in my hand a wooden pendant in the shape of a cross. I stared at it a moment. “Go on, put it on,” he said. “The Franks only allow Christians in the city. If we want to trade, we must look the part.”
I slipped the pendant over my head and around my neck, and I followed Egill off the ship and up a small stone staircase to the bridge where we caught up with Eilif and a few others. Most of the men stayed with Sail Horse where they set about cleaning the deck and inspecting the hull for damage from the storm. Bjorn stayed with them under his blanket, still too weak to join us.
Among the group who ventured into the city, several carried large sacks filled with wares—I assumed the white pelts Eilif had told me about. They also brought some amber and honey, although these were not as valuable as the furs and ivory from the wild North. As we walked, Eilif called me forward to join him at the front of the group. I marveled at the stone archway through which we passed to enter the city, and Eilif took my arm and pulled me in to whisper.
“I want you to keep an eye on everyone who passes us,” he said.
“What?” I did not understand what he had asked of me.
“Do as I say, boy. The city is full of pickpockets. Their hands steal quicker than eyes can catch. Watch my back, and I will watch yours.”
As we walked through the gateway into the city, the air turned putrid and smelled of a mixture of rotten flesh and pig droppings. The stench took me by surprise. Eilif and the others appeared unaffected, while I had to cover my nose and mouth with my tunic.
“Stone walls keep out enemies… and fresh air,” Egill said to me with a chuckle.
The farther we ventured into the city, the more the streets narrowed. Flocks of people filled the space between the buildings, which all stood at least two stories in height and cast the streets in shadow. We bumped and pushed our way through the crowd, and at times it was a battle to keep pace with Eilif. The people there all seemed in a terrible hurry, and none appeared to notice us or consider us of any significance. In fact, many of the people we saw walking the streets of Nantes were not Franks, either. One man had the darkest skin I had ever seen and wore long and colorful robes. Another man I saw wore less lavish clothing but also had darker skin and wore a strange cloth on his head.
Eilif led us through the crowd to a bustling market filled with thin-roofed, open-air stands packed with exotic goods. The market was a sizable open place overshadowed by the most massive stone structure I had ever seen. We had arrived in the evening, and the setting sun’s rays engulfed the building in a majestic golden glow.
“What is that?” I asked.
“It’s a small church,” Egill said.
“Small?” I said in disbelief. For me, at the time, it was the tallest structure I had ever seen. The most impressive building I had seen before then was my father’s great hall, and even the memory of it had mostly faded.
“There’s another one on the other side of the city, twice as big at least,” Egill said.
Eilif marched his way toward a stand filled to the brim with fur pelts. The man in charge wore a simple grey tunic with an auburn hem that covered him to the knees. His hair was a greying blond, brushed straight and held behind his ears by an auburn cap.
As we approached, he was in the middle of bartering with a local on the price of one of his furs. They argued in the Frankish language back and forth until Eilif imposed himself on the two. The Frankish man cowered a little, handed over a sum of coins to the stand’s keeper, and darted into the bustling crowd with a new fur pelt in hand.
“What have I told you about scaring my customers?” the stand’s keeper said. I could not tell if he smiled or frowned through the curls of his beard.
“Save me the lecture, Váli,” Eilif said. He held his arm out to grasp Váli’s and patted him on the shoulder. “I have thirty pelts for you.”
“Not wolves, I hope. Frankland is full of wolves,” Váli said.
“No, white furs from the North,” Eilif said.
Váli clasped his hands in delight. “White fur is what the demoiselles want!” He welcomed us to the back of his stand and had the men unload the pelts behind a stack of other wares. I stood by Eilif with watchful eyes.
“Who’s the boy?” Váli asked.
“A slave I freed from Hagar,” Eilif said.
“Still not trading in slaves?” Váli asked. His smile reminded me of Karl’s sons when they took to mischief.
“No,” Eilif stated. He shot a glance in my direction to see if I was listening. He looked bothered by Váli’s question, as if it aroused memories he would have preferred not to remember.
“You should. There’s money to be made. My cousin Thráinn made three hundred pounds of silver last summer trading slaves.”
“I know,” Eilif said. His eyes wandered as he spoke. After a deep sigh of exasperation, he looked Váli in the eye and said, “I want fifty pounds of silver for the furs and thirty more for the ivory.”
“Should I bother bartering with you?” Váli asked with a smirk.
Eilif chuckled. They grasped each other at the wrist to shake on the exchange. Váli disappeared behind his stand for a short while to count his silver and returned with ten leather satchels, all packed into two wooden holders. Egill ordered two of the men to carry the silver back to the ship while Eilif and I stayed behind to speak with the shopkeeper.
“Have you seen any other Northmen or Danes in these parts of late?” Eilif asked.
“No,” Váli said. “The Franks do not allow new trade with them, not since the raids on Herio and Bouin.”
“Them?” Eilif said with a raised eyebrow.
“I have lived here so long, I forget my place,” Váli said with an embarrassed smile. He reached for an antler comb sitting on the table behind him and ran it through his beard with a few quick strokes. “How did you pass the Frankish defenses on the river? I hear they’ve been sinking Northman ships on sight.”
“They’ll only sink you if you have no silver. For the right price, any ship may pass,” Eilif said. “These Franks are more interested in drowning themselves in their wine than sinking ships. And it’s getting worse.”
“It is true. The best soldiers are fighting in the princes’ rebellion. Thankfully, Nantes has been spared the worst of it, though the count has ridden off for war and left behind an imbecile to govern in his stead. He’s raised merchant taxes three times in the past year!”
“And the Celts? Any news of them?” As Eilif reached for his coin purse, a young girl about my age, dressed in dark unwashed rags, bumped into him. She apologized, then darted off. Eilif felt his belt where his purse should have been, then turned to me and shouted, “Thief!”
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C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as L’Association des Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others.
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