Author: David Pilling
Genre: Historical Fiction
A page-turning historical action novel in the tradition of Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow and George MacDonald Fraser, Reiver is an adventure on the war-torn borderlands of 16th century England and Scotland.
‘If Jesus Christ was amongst them, they would deceive him...’
1569 AD. The March lands between England and Scotland are a place of terror, where outlaw bands and broken men rob, pillage and murder in open defiance of the law. Here, deadly blood-feud is a way of life. Families of robbers, known as Border Reivers, live via blackmail and terrorism. No man sleeps safe in his bed, and the sound of hoofbeats on the tops is a herald of death.
Richie Reade, known as Richie O’the Bow, finds himself dragged into this dark and bloody world. One night his village is raided by a gang of Armstrongs, the most dreaded of the reiver families. After he slays two of the gang, Richie is declared a dead man walking: the Armstrongs and their allies will not rest until they have his head. Betrayed by the law, Richie is forced to flee into the wilderness. He and his fellow outlaws begin to forge a reputation as Richie’s Bairns, killing the Armstrongs wherever they find them.
Meanwhile the Border is threatened by war. The rebellious northern earls plan to depose the Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth I, and replace her with the Catholic Mary Stewart. Many of the reiver families rise to join the rebellion, and the earls march south under the Banner of the Five Wounds. Civil war threatens to break out in England, even as fresh murder and conspiracy raise havoc in Scotland.
With the north in turmoil, and the Border in a state of bloody flux, Richie and his outlaws do what they can to survive. As his fame grows, Richie finds himself drawn inexorably into the war for England’s soul. When the final battle looms, above the rushing waters of the Hell Beck, he must choose his fate.
Reiver is the latest novella by David Pilling, author of the Caesar’s Sword trilogy, Leader of Battles, The White Hawk and Soldier of Fortune.
The world holds its breath, he thought, and awaits the storm.
He glanced over his shoulder at Ruth. She was white-faced, clearly scared, but determined not to be left behind. Where he went, she went. Even to the slopes of Hell. She looked almost boyish in her trews, padded jack and steel morion. A pistol and ballock dagger were thrust into her belt, short sword held firmly in her right hand.
She smiled tightly at him. Richie wondered if either of them would live through the day. If their luck held, then he would marry her the very next morning. Or at any rate suggest it.
Stephen touched his forearm. “The heath lies yonder,” whispered the Brampton man, pointing at a ridge some thirty paces ahead, “if the Crookback means to give battle, it will be there, on the flat ground.”
Richie chewed his bottom lip. The drumbeats were louder now, punctuated with trumpet blasts and the noise of men and beasts. A cheer suddenly burst from hundreds of throats. Wordless at first, then resolved into a wild chant, repeated over and over against clashing cymbals and rolling drums.
“Upon them! Upon them! A Dacre, a Dacre! A red bull!”
Despite himself, Richie’s blood thrilled to the famous cry. His ancestors had heard it at Flodden and Solway Moss and other killing grounds. Often witnessed the red bull standard carried forward into battle against the Scots. Spilled their blood alongside old Tom Dacre, the Crookback’s ancestor.
Now the red bull, guardian of England’s frontier, had turned against its masters. Richie thought back to his dreams. Would the bull gore him today, or would he witness it leap across the water?
He paused a moment while the cry faded and rose, faded and rose, encouraged by the Crookback’s officers.
Death waited beyond the ridge. Richie knew that. It would be easy to turn around and leave the contending armies to slaughter each other. Escape. Live. At least for a few more days.
“You were bred of the Border and you’ll die on the Border. Most likely with a sword in your guts or a bit of hemp round your neck. The same goes for all of us.”
These were Davey’s words to Cleave-crown. A few weeks later his prophecy came true, and Cleave-crown lay dead at Eslington with a Scottish broadsword in his chest.
A reiver could run from death or turn to face him, sword in hand. It didn’t matter. Either way, death won. Yet perhaps the gesture counted for something.
Richie hitched up his belt. “Right,” he growled, “let’s go and see what all the bloody noise is about.”
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Reiver-David-Pilling-ebook/dp/B01N0BHY9N
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reiver-David-Pilling-ebook/dp/B01N0BHY9N
I'm a writer and researcher, addicted to history for as long as I can remember. The medieval era has always held a fascination for me, perhaps because I spent much of my childhood exploring the misted ruins of castles in Wales. I also have an interest in the Byzantine Empire, the post-Roman period in Britain and the British & Irish Civil Wars.
I am a prolific author and have written and published a number of series and stand-alone tales. These include my first published novel, Folville’s Law, which chronicled the adventures of Sir John Swale in the last days of the reign of Edward II of England. This was followed by The White Hawk series, set during the Wars of the Roses, a six-part Arthurian series, and many more. I have also co-written two high fantasy novels with my good friend, Martin Bolton.
I am currently working on a book about the Montfortian civil wars in England in the late 13th century, and hope to produce more nonfiction works in the future, as well as continuing to work on fiction.
Most of my books are available as ebooks and paperbacks, and many are in the process of being converted to audio.
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