Aldonzo—Prince, Fop or…Hero?
Annwyn’s Blood has its share of heroes and villains that you recognize as soon as you see them chew up the scenery. However, one character in particular developed to be far more than we imagined when we began this journey. Aldonzo, the pampered prince from Southern Gaul is not your typical heroic character. Yet, as the story develops, he finds strength within himself to carry on following some horrific events. The following is an excerpt from Annwyn’s Blood, highlighting this fish-out-of-water prince.
“Sail to port!”
Aldonzo didn’t dare look up from scrubbing the deck. Ever since the previous evening, when he had been dragged aboard this miserable tub, his stomach had been turning in continuous knots. But he didn’t dare vomit. He’d seen a very graphic example the previous evening of what could happen if he did.
There had been an old slave aboard who’d suffered badly at the hands of the pirates—battered and bruised, cursed and tormented constantly. The extent of the abuse had been obvious to Aldonzo from the moment he had laid eyes on the wretch. But in the midst of the evening mess the oldster suffered a fit of coughing that ended in a vomit of bright red blood splattered across the Captain’s plate.
Fearful that he suffered from consumption (not to mention outraged at the slave’s audacity to spit up on the captain’s food) the pirates killed him on the spot before he could infect any others in the crew. So Aldonzo fought down the waves of nausea that washed over him. There was no telling what the pirates might think he could have.
He held no illusions why he, alone out of the entire expedition, had been kept alive. All the others had been merely soldiers. Even Kien, stout, dependable Kien, had been nothing more than another trooper to them. Aldonzo, on the other hand, was different—he was ransom material. He was nobility, from a rich, landed family with ties in both Britain and Gaul. The pirates knew well they could expect a healthy reward for his safe return.
Ha, he thought bitterly. Qualify that ‘safe’ return to mean simply in one workable piece. They beat him thoroughly to find out who he might be, and, much to his disgust and shame, he told them. He’d always imagined that in such a situation he would be filled with iron-willed resolve to oppose his foe, who would have to kill him before anything of use could be revealed. Some hero, he thought ruefully. But he had never imagined reality to be so brutal.
His left hand throbbed in its rough bandage where they had severed his finger to remove his ring.
So it was that when the lookout reported the sail of another ship, Aldonzo just kept his head down, his right hand scrubbing despite the splinters and lye, his left cradled against his chest. He fervently hoped the ship approaching would be one of Cynric’s war vessels. But even that hope hung by a thread. The Anglan king possessed little by way of a navy and lacked sufficient skilled sailors to use even what he did have. And even if he had, they seldom ventured this far from land.
He kept at his work, removing the accumulated filth of regular neglect, working his way aft from the stem to the mast and listening to the shouts and orders around him. Yes, it was a trader’s vessel and, yes, it attempted to evade this vessel crawling with unkempt reavers. The other captain probably knew this ship for what it was even before it sailed into smelling distance. Slow and cumbersome, the merchant’s ship would be no match for the faster raiders’ vessel. All around Aldonzo, the brigands prepared themselves for yet another plunder, yet more death.
From his position by the helm, the first mate shouted orders, and the distance between the ships closed. Aldonzo glanced up. The other ship teemed with passengers—Saxon settlers in search of a new life in Britain.
The other sailors hustled women and children below the decks. The crew and male passengers strapped on leather-covered bucklers and hefted weapons, arming for the impending attack.
Aldonzo put his head back down and slowly crept across the deck to the starboard side, away from the other ship. Deck crew cursed and kicked him as they ran past whether he was in the way or not. Others heaved ropes up from the hold and tied on the grappling hooks. Then the brigands clustered so tightly on the port rail that the ship heeled from the weight.
Due to an unfavorable wind, the fleeing ship wallowed a bit, wind spilling from her sail, and the pirates cut through the waves to close the distance. Aldonzo’s stomach churned with apprehension. The helmsman appeared not to be as skilled as he had thought, taking an unfavorable approach, but it only prolonged the gut-wrenching anticipation of the inevitable, and Aldonzo’s innards had had about all they could take.
A great shout broke from the pirates as the grappling hooks sailed through the air to the other ship’s gunwales. Some caught, some didn’t. But enough held to allow the raiders to start hauling the ships together by hand.
The defenders wasted no time hacking at the ropes, but the pirates constantly pitched out more hooks as archers picked off the defenders. Steadily, the ships rocked closer together, and with a great crash and grinding they struck sides. Brigands poured over the bulwarks to the other deck. The Saxons made a fight of it, but Aldonzo, peeking over a coil of rope, clearly saw they would not be the victors of the brutal engagement.
There were only a few experienced seamen on the Saxon ship; most of the rest were only farmers and had no sea legs. Their difficulty in keeping their feet on the pitching deck proved to be fatal. The Saxons briefly rallied near the afterdeck, but the stand was cut short when those pirates occupied with finishing off the Saxons in the fore completed their task and moved rearward to reinforce the aft contingent.
The entire battle lasted only minutes. Then the real killing began.
Mike has wanted to write since he was very young. His earliest memories are of carrying a battered old notebook around full of illustrations and stories. He would often transpose those ideas on his grandmother’s old typewriter. While in college, he was inspired by professors and visiting writers to BYU. Literary classics such as Song of Roland and Inferno were often in his backpack, along with Russian textbooks. Chapter 4 of Annwyn’s Blood was written during this time as a short story.
Mike works in Washington, DC since pursuing graduate studies in Russian History. He focuses in domestic policy issues. Recently, Mike has pursued an interest in writing screenplays for feature films with his first option being a medieval epic, Song of Roland. He continues to focus on a variety of script/movie projects, most recently a horror thriller, Feast of Saint Nicholas, and a political thriller, The Prince. Recently, he founded and launched Filibuster Filmworks with his partners to produce and develop feature films, television and other projects.
He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Lori and his wonderful children. He dreams of one day driving to Alaska in his old Defender with his kids and their dog, Marlin.