The image to the left show part of the plot of the first chapter -- the coronation of Pepin as the first Carolingian king and first monarch blessed by the Roman Church.
Why this period? Because I find it fascinating and few novels have been written about it. It was a period of survival. Yes, I'll be writing about it from my perspective and understanding from this century about that century. However, people have not undergone a huge evolutionary change from that period. Human remain the same, feel the same, experience their world through their senses and understanding. The Eighth Century was an amazing and remarkable period well worth visiting
The first book in this (hopefully) series is Constantine's Legacy, will be published this coming August. It is a coming of age story about fifteen year old Leonard and his somewhat estranged father Radulf. Here is an unedited excerpt with Karl who is 9 at the time, and Karl's cousin Nithgard who is 7.
Karl was already pulling his arm. “Come, Leonard, you must come.”
“Me, too!” Nithgard pulled on Karl’s tunic.
“No, you are stupid and will tell everyone.”
“No I will not! I did not tell your mother anything.”
“Let him come, Karl.” Leonard wanted to leave and a touch of curiosity pushed him. He frowned at Nithgard. “Swear to Karl!”
Nithgard’s expression turned solemn as he faced his cousin, and Leonard nearly laughed. He contained himself remembering his own first oath.
“I swear by Jesu’s blood to be loyal to you, and keep all your secrets,” Nithgard spoke his word in earnest tones.
Karl nodded in a suitably regal fashion. “I accept your oath.”
Leonard hid his amusement. The oath was not in any normal form, but it satisfied Karl. He poked a finger into Nithgard’s chest. “Remember, you have given your oath to remain silent.”
Nithgard nodded. His eyes flicked to Karl. “I promise as Leonard has witnessed.”
Karl’s eyes squinted at Leonard. “You will not tell anyone, will you?”
“I give you my oath, also, to always be your loyal man.” His words went far beyond the required, and Karl’s regard showed he knew it. Leonard looked directly into Karl’s clear blue eyes, perceptive enough to realize he might be swearing to his future king, but a flicker of doubt deepened his voice, which promptly cracked into a higher pitch. Both boys laughed. He glared at them through his embarrassment. Their humor at his expense ceased.
Karl’s smile widened further. “Follow me.” He took fast steps toward the main building. Nithgard ran after Karl’s longer stride. Leonard sighed, wondering what trouble he had agreed to.
“You swore to be quiet!” Karl warned as he slid between two wooden portico slats.
“No, I swore not to tell,” Nithgard replied, lowering his shrill child’s voice to a whisper.
What was an adequate space for a large nine year old was a tight squeeze for Leonard. He pulled his body between the wooden slats hiding the understructure of the porch. He ducked low to avoid hitting his head on support beams, swore softly, and followed the boys as they squirmed their way through the debris beneath the porch flooring. The strong scent of earth and human waste assaulted his nose. Karl and Nithgard were quickly far ahead of him down the length of the building. Crawling, he swore again and saw the boys’ shadowed shapes disappear. He hurried forward, sometimes in a hunched-over walk and sometimes in a near crawl using his hands on supports to help pull himself forward. The light from between the slats diminished as he turned the corner where the boys had disappeared. He saw their shadowed movements through the foundation supports of the building. It took his eyes a second to readjust to the near pitch darkness, but some light filtered in from the floor slats overhead. Losing sight of his charges, he followed the whispers ahead of him. A hand pulled him to the side, and he let out a low squeal at the assault.
“Quiet!” Karl hissed in his ear, "It is just a little further.”
They crawled down what seemed a crack in the earth and piled into a small space between support beams. It smelled of dirt, dust, and mold. Leonard flopped down, supporting his back against one of the beams, and saw the boys only as dark outlines except for the dim light’s reflection in their eyes.
“Here,” Karl whispered. “We can listen to the council meet.”
Leo’s heart tripped in fear. How had he let himself be dragged into eavesdropping on his leader’s private conference? If caught, he would be whipped. He could feel the lashes. Although he had never been whipped before, he had seen it done.
It was too late to retreat. Footsteps sounded on the floor planks above their secluded spot. From the sound, he judged several men stood overhead. Hearing the voices above him, he dare not speak. He swallowed in panic, recognizing his father’s voice. Leonard knew he committed an act of treachery. He glared at Karl, who must have seen his look, for he shrank back against the opposite beam.
“I cannot see anything, what...?” As Nithgard’s near normal voice broke their stillness, Leonard quickly grabbed him and put a hand over the child’s mouth. Nithgard did not squirm for release but held deathly still. The enlarged gleam of the boy’s eyes showed his shock. Nithgard faced no punishment for his actions. Perhaps not even Karl faced discipline, but Leonard knew as their guardian, he would suffer the consequence if anyone discovered his charge’s location. If not by Pepin’s order, by his father’s hand, maybe both. With what he hoped was a blood-curdling whisper, he demanded, “Quiet.”
With dismay, Leonard heard Maior palatii Pepin speak. “The first step is complete. I have ordered the scribes to draw up copies for the missi to deliver the news to all the magnati, including those of Austrasia who failed to come.”
This is the map of Europe at the time my story begins in 751.
More to come.