By Stewart Binns
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Every year, as the autumn winds rushed around my home, I felt death coming, but it passed me by. With each spring, I began to realize that I was being granted the extra years for a purpose. ’ Godwin spoke quietly, with all the solemnity of his great age, then his eyes brightened a little, as if to ease the tension he had created. ’ ‘I need one of your fine cavalry horses. I can only tell you the story from where I can remember the detail – on the top of my mountain – and I doubt that I can get back up there without the help of a horse.
The priest noticed the arthritic knuckles, the two broken fingers and the patchwork of scars that disappeared beyond the man’s forearm under the sleeve of his smock. The biggest of them was the width of a finger – a pale, jagged gash across a skin wrinkled by age and desiccated by the sun. Even more striking were the scars on his face. His left cheek was sliced from under his eye to the corner of his mouth, and there were several more souvenirs from a long life of mortal combat. Nevertheless, his face retained a rugged dignity which the sun seemed to have cast in bronze.
The ambitious Welsh warlord, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, controlled most of the land west of Hereford and was attempting to unify the Welsh tribes. To the north, Macbeth, King of the Scots, was a shrewd and resourceful leader. The Danes and Norwegians were always looking for opportunities to plunder England’s riches, as they had for centuries. Most significantly of all, the restless Normans lay in wait across the Channel in northern France, on the lookout for an opportunity to strike. The Norman leader was the ferocious William, Duke of Normandy.