By David Harpham
Amazon Kindle eBook, 2014
The year is 1453 and the English are at war with the French. It is a war that, after over one hundred years, may be coming to a close as English forces, sent to Gascony, are increasingly surrounded, anxiously waiting in Bordeaux for news of French movement. Amongst them is a young archer by the name of Thomas Perkins, who, inexperienced and youthful, has mixed emotions as he prepares for inevitable battle, which is soon joined. However, through the clever machinations of the French leadership and the naivety of the English, the force are led into a trap and Thomas is soon alone, deeply embittered at his situation and fighting for his life in deepest France. Moreover, an act of shocking brutality destroys Thomas’s faith further and drives him into dark thoughts of revenge and murder. With the odds stacked against him, Thomas throws himself into a desperate yet calculating act which puts him on a collision course with the King of France, right back outside the gates of Bordeaux.
Meanwhile back in England, events are moving forward quickly. Rivalries between the Duke of York and the Duke of Somerset, which have risen steadily throughout the 1440s and early 1450s are coming to a head, the Percies and the Nevilles fight in the north, and the King, stricken with illness, is powerless to stop them as the country heads increasingly toward civil war and inevitable conflict.
As England crumbles, so does Thomas as he rails against the world which has snatched life and love away from him so savagely. The end of the 116 year struggle between old foes shall be the making and breaking of a boy yet to develop into a man….
Read an Excerpt: And then the guns began. They started slowly and Thomas did not hear them initially sound, such was the enthusiasm inside him and the distance so great, until one man in front of him was horribly decapitated, his upper half being totally separated from his legs in a blaze of bloody wreckage. The blood flew, splashing Thomas’s face and clothes, but he leapt over the stained and bloody corpse and continued, somehow unscathed from a shot that he knew must have been close.
The guns fired in turn, the culverins starting up first, and the sound and fire swept across the compact line, taking down several Englishmen with every belching blast. It was impossible to count any gaps in time between one gun firing and the next sounding, just one rippling cascade of death sounding constantly. Thomas half tripped, recovered his balance and ducked instinctively as another shot was launched over his head. Other men around him brandished fearsome axes, sharpened poleaxe and short daggers but Thomas concentrated purely on keeping his balance amidst the chaos as the mass of men were shattered by gunfire. The line was becoming a little tighter, more compact, as men following took the place of the inevitable fallen in their desperate charge towards the summit. The guns continued to fire murderously, and soldiers were plucked backwards all around Thomas, having no defence against such a bombardment. All screamed; a sound only punctured by howls of pain as another of their number, or even two or three in one shot went down in a flash of red.
Thomas heard all of this vividly, but he strove forward, eyes transfixed on the prize up ahead of him in the form of the camp. His arms pumped as he sprinted onward, bow thumping into his back. The standard was up ahead, Thomas Evringham and his small party under it, and he followed, terrified, more terrified than ever, but eager to do his duty.
Thomas had to bound over bodies, and one man, mere paces in front of him was thrown backwards by a direct hit, cascading blood over Perkins’ face again, hideously blurring his vision, and he nearly lost his footing as he attempted to wipe this away uncomfortably and with great difficulty. He ducked as he heard a shot up above, and nearly continued his stumble as another man in front was thrown backwards, and he was launched back onto Thomas who shrugged him off uneasily, and then another was hit five paces to Thomas’s left.
Some archers stopped, trying to loose their bows in the maelstrom, attempting to get some relief from the savage horror inflicted by hidden gunmen, but Thomas couldn’t hope to get the weapon out in such tight, manic surroundings. It took the sight of another Englishmen being dismembered next to him, drenching him with blood in wide spurts, to convince him that sanctuary lay with the guns. The closer to the camp they got, the better sight the French had of them and the more deadly was the gunfire, but this is where escape lay; in victory.
Death continued to erupt, exploding all around them. It was impossible to tell how many Englishmen had been lost in the cramped conditions and bloody horror that the English were enveloped by. Thomas, wet through with the blood of others, saw the standard fall up ahead as it was dropped by one of the party just short of the beginning of the parapet, its holder struck with a deadly blow, but Thomas saw Evringham, his face grimaced, defiantly snatch it up with his free left hand and unfurl it proudly once more.
And then Thomas reached his target. Perkins splashed into the shallow moat in front of the parapet amidst the never ending barrage as the hail of assault became almost unbearable. The soil was made slippery by the blood of some of the men who had come before and had met a grisly end, and Thomas struggled initially for grip, his boots, hardly stout, proving no equal to the circumstances. The parapet was not steep but manoeuvring was made increasingly difficult by the circumstances the soldiers found themselves in. Some men tried to turn but the weight of others behind shoved them flailing into the cold muddy water, adding to the chaos in the English ranks.
Crossbowmen were now adding to the barrage already inflicted by the French guns, adding their destructive firepower to the assault from behind the ramparts. The crossbow was an appallingly crude weapon in comparison to the fine and strong English longbow but was ideally suited to the cramped, confined spaces that existed up above. The rate of shot in such circumstance was immense.
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