His followers paced along the shore. They watched the pennons, the waves; searched the cloudy sky, saw the gulls flit through the wind currents, dive and flap their wings hard against the gale. The Narrow Sea undulated in big gray-green waves, a restless sea agitated by the recent storm that crashed some of their ships against rocks, casting men and horses, armor and hopes into the deep.
Gold and silver had been raised, hundreds of ships had been built, men had been drawn to this venture from afar. Even the Pope had blessed the endeavor. Nearby horses snorted and stomped, rolled their eyes back, pricked their ears and nipped at each other.
As the waves roared and crashed against the shore, the duke searched for, but did not see, the island 30 miles or so away.
Suddenly the wind shifted. The sun had almost set, the clouds raced by and everyone looked at the duke standing on the rise. He nodded. Horns blasted, called and echoed, startling everyone for a brief moment. Instantly, like a sea of ants, people began to move. Chaos ensued as everyone scrambled to load and board ships tugging against taut ropes. The cacophony of shouting men drowned out the whinnies of horses objecting to the surf, the unsteady ramps, the swaying ships.
Loaded, with no room for rowers, the large square sails alone would carry them forward. No one knew if the wind would continue to blow in their favor. If not, all would be lost.
Years ago, I gave myself a personal challenge to learn something I knew nothing about and something I disliked. From high school, I had disliked history. But I had given myself a year to learn something new, and since I was tired of trying to learn new languages or trigonometry or calculus, I chose the Middle Ages.
A week after making that decision, I found G. G. Coulton’s, Life in the Middle Ages, at a yard sale. This extraordinary book started me on the thrilling path of discovery. I chose a time: roughly a thousand years ago, and narrowed my research to the West during the eleventh century.
I found parallels between our worlds. Today, in the twenty-first century, we teeter at the beginning of a new millennium and wonder if the human species will exist a thousand years hence.
Ancient chroniclers documented that people living 1000 years ago defied predictions that the world would end. They faced a world like our own: social, economic and political upheaval compounded by religious fanaticism, deadly diseases, famine, uncertainty and a prevailing sense of doom—yet they prevailed. Those resilient people hungered for knowledge. They adapted and experimented with new ideas and pursued the unification of powerful princedoms into the precursors of today’s Europe.
How could I not write about them?
Over time, I will publish observations, stories or excerpts from other works in progress. For now, I've recounted a few research adventures and included two short stories.
Photo from: Morguefile.com.
The seventh month of the old Julian Calendar was a propitious time for William, the duke of Normandy. He was born on September 9th, died on September 9th, and one year between those two events, in September, he boarded a ship and launched his destiny.
September 27, 2016, marks the anniversary of that day 950 years ago, when the sun began to set on the shores of Normandy. A typical day to some, but to the thousands of soldiers awaiting a favorable wind, the coming night gave credence to the sailors’ maxim: no favorable wind blows after the autumnal equinox.
On a small knoll beside the bay, William waited. He saw the white caps, felt the ocean spray in his face, and tasted the salty air as the wind blew against him as it had for days.
I am currently editing the third book in a series of novels I call TURNABOUT. The series spans from 1066 to 1070, a time of great turmoil during which my characters participate in the struggle for the English throne.
I am an American who writes historical fiction, contemporary novels and short stories. To me, the story lives in the interstices, the insignificant moments between the big events of our lives: a social slight, the stubbed toe, or a casual glance. These incidents, often fraught with emotional volatility, can trigger the decisions and actions that change lives, lead to war, great loves, or sacrifice.
A. L. Kucherenko
Writer of Historical Fiction and Other Works