I am delighted today to be joining the Coffee Pot Book Club book tour to throw the spotlight on Pagan Warrior, the first book in M J PORTER’s historical action and adventure series, The Seventh Century (Gods and Kings). You can find out more about the book and read an excerpt from it below.
What is Pagan Warrior about?
From bestselling author, MJ Porter, comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.
Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.
Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.
There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.
Read an excerpt
In which Penda and Cadwallon’s plans for an alliance against the Northumbrian king are nearing completion.
Penda of Mercia – Gwynedd
Cadwallon and I stare at each other across the wide piece of wood before us that’s serving as a table. We both wear slightly smug expressions, which worries me a little. We need to be keen and less sure of ourselves if we’re to win the coming battle.
‘King Edwin is trying his hardest to bring together all his allies,’ King Cadwallon offers. We both look meaningfully at the wooden pieces that represent the allies upon which King Edwin can call. On the opposite side, there are tiny representations of our allies. It’s fairly evenly balanced, and that’s not the way I want it to be. I think we need to wait before we attack, although King Cadwallon is eager to get on with it.
‘Next year,’ I offer again, my voice firm. I’ve been saying it for much of the day, but Cadwallon has yet to be convinced. He wants to push for an earlier resolution.
‘Why?’ he demands once more, his keen eyes taking in the vast array of support we have arranged against King Edwin. ‘Why give him another year to prepare?’
‘Because we need to turn more of his supposed allies against him. We need to have him isolated. We want to kill him, remember,’ I say with a growl, and Cadwallon glares at me. ‘We want him unsure of himself. We want him on the defensive.’
‘Once more, Penda, who else can we turn against him? We have one of his sons.’
‘We think we have his son,’ I qualify. Cadwallon waves my concerns aside.
‘We have his son. I know the youth better than you do. He’s made his move; he’s spoken against his father. When the battle comes, he’ll stand with us.’
‘Provided he never discovers that we’ve given the kingdom of Northumbria away twice,’ I offer, and now Cadwallon’s getting angry.
‘Lord Eanfrith can have Bernicia. That’s his home. Lord Osfrith can have Deira. That’s what their families can both rightfully claim through the accident of their births.’
‘I don’t think either of them will be happy with that. We’ll have to kill one of them,’ I say. I’m pragmatic. I can foresee the outcomes of our alliances in the coming years. I don’t want to kill King Edwin just to have more problematic kings in his place.
‘Penda, we can’t kill our ally. And how would we choose anyway?’
This is what I wanted. At last. It’s taken much of the day. To begin with, Cadwallon was totally against my plan to kill one of the cousins during the battle. I admit that killing an ally might send the wrong message to our other allies, but in trying to isolate King Edwin, we’ve ended up with one too many allies with their eye on Northumbria. It’s something we need to acknowledge and work around. If we don’t plan now, everything we hope to do could fall apart, and even worse, it would be our fault! We’d not be able to blame King Edwin for our troubles, and that would be awkward for everyone involved.
‘It’ll have to be done on their abilities,’ I initially say, but then I change my mind because I have an idea that Cadwallon will decry. I’m not about to share it with him yet. I’ll wait for nearer the time. Maybe I’ll even do it without telling him.
‘No, I’ve reconsidered. Leave that decision to me, and that way, you can treat with both men without worrying about it and giving anything away.’
I can see Cadwallon wants to be outraged at my words, but he sees the truth in them and subsides quickly, beckoning for some of his other allies to join us now. Good, this part of the discussion is finally over. Without anyone noticing, I grab the piece of wood that represents Lord Osfrith, son of King Edwin. As much as I want everyone to know of Cadwallon’s coup in securing his support, I also want it to be a secret from everyone but us. It’ll keep Lord Osfrith safe at Edwin’s court until the time of the battle, and that, if I have my way, will be next year, not this.
These men Cadwallon has as his allies aren’t yet my allies. I don’t want them to know of our associate amongst the enemy. Cadwallon has, at last, agreed with my decision on that. I also grab the wooden counter that represents Lord Eanfrith. He’s a secret weapon and one about which the others don’t yet need to know.
‘Penda,’ Cadwallon says congenially, our disagreement forgotten about, ‘I’ll introduce you to the rest of our allies.’
The men are a strange collection, and some of them I’d think were the lad tasked with minding the sheep, not with running a prosperous kingdom. Some look kingly, but others certainly do not. I wonder if they think the same of me when they see me.
The first man is Eiludd, the king of Powys. He’s much the same as Cadwallon in appearance, and I wonder what ancestry they share but know better than to ask about it. If they knew they were related, it would be common knowledge. Still, as they don’t, it must be a secret from many years ago, probably a grandfather who couldn’t help himself, or perhaps even a grandmother desperate to get pregnant and provide an heir. I amuse myself with little scenarios before realising the men are both looking at me.
‘Well met,’ I manage to stumble. I allow half a smile to touch my face because I want to be friendly but not too open. I want the man to trust me but not consider me a friend. I need Cadwallon’s allies to believe me their equal, and then, when I prove myself in battle, I’ll be their master.
‘Well met, Lord Penda,’ Eiludd replies, his yellow teeth flashing in a smile. His eyes alight on the arsenal of weapons I carry around my waist even though I’m an honoured guest at Cadwallon’s court.
‘I’ve heard a lot about you,’ he continues, and I grin more widely. Good, I like it when my reputation precedes me.
‘I wish I could return the compliment,’ I say, seeing if his smile will falter or if he’ll brave his belittling with some aplomb.
‘Well, you’ll have been too busy in the Saxon lands to pay more than a passing glance towards the kingdoms of the Britons. I understand that.’
Good. He’s a player in this charade, and my respect for him grows already.
‘I understand your men already have an issue with King Edwin,’ I press, pleased when his eyes narrow in anger.
‘King Edwin is a traitorous fool,’ he offers in a hiss. ‘And yes, the men of the kingdom of Powys have a score to settle with him. One that’s so big only his death will satisfy their honour.’
‘It would be my honour to help you,’ I say. I place as much force into those words as I can. I mean them. I can imagine what it feels like to have been almost annihilated by an enemy.
Eiludd meets my gaze as though he’s weighing my words, and whatever he finds in my face, he’s satisfied because he nods and walks away decisively.
Cadwallon winks at me, his face crinkling in delight.
‘Well, he likes you. That’s good.’
Pagan Warrior is Book 1 in The Seventh Century (Gods and Kings) series, published by MJ Publishing, and is available as an eBook, in paperback, and in audio.
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Barnes and Noble | Waterstones | Bookshop.org
Audio (narrated by Matt Coles)
About the Author
M J Porter
MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in seventh to eleventh century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.
You can connect with MJ and follow her on Social Media:
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BookBub | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads
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5 thoughts on “M J Porter: Pagan Warrior”
Thank you very much for hosting MJ Porter today, Carolyn, with such an enticing excerpt from Pagan Warrior.
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