When Sir John Swale, knight of Cumberland, is sent on a secret mission to the Midlands by his ruthless and corrupt master, little does he suspect that his life, and the future of his country, is about to change forever.
England in 1326 is a land ruled by the corrupt and inept Edward II and his hated favourites, the Despensers. Threatened by invasion from Edward's estranged Queen, Isabella, and her lover Roger Mortimer, they turn to desperate measures to preserve their precarious hold on England. Caught up in the vicious game of war and politics is Sir John Swale, a landless Northern knight with a dark past, who in the course of serving his masters makes a lethal enemy in the shape of the ruthless outlaw, Eustace Folville.
Swale caught the thrust and turned it aside. His opponent was too close to attempt a cut, so he struck out with the cross-guard, feeling the impact as it thumped into the man’s cheek. Howling, the robber stabbed again, missed, and threw his weight against Swale. Strong fingers groped at Swale’s face, trying to gouge his eyes. He caught the robber’s hand, bit his fingers and hacked at his shoulder. The habergeon absorbed the blow, and the robber’s hasty attempt to gut Swale in return failed as his falchion scraped harmlessly against the knight’s breastplate.
Their horses surged apart, whinnying in panic. Swale had the distance now to bring his longer reach into play, and pressed his attack, chopping and slashing with sheer brute strength. His opponent parried, but was tiring, his face wet with sweat and his sword arm shuddering under the impact of each blow. Fierce joy flowed into Swale’s breast as he realised that he was going to win.
Then the shirtless old man appeared from nowhere, lunging and grasping at the robber’s leg with his scrawny dead-white arms. “Strike!” he croaked.
Amazed, Swale’s opponent gaped at the greybeard clinging on to his leg. His guard faltered, and Swale unleashed a vicious backhand cut that bit deep into the robber’s neck, chopping into his throat and half-decapitating him.