Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld: Character Interview and Excerpt

Character Interview with Alda, heroine of The Cross and the Dragon

Alda shares her thoughts with me on the eve of Francia’s invasion of Hispania, even though we have a language barrier. I speak American English; Alda speaks Frankish and Roman.

Why do you prefer Hruodland to Ganelon?

Hruodland is a good husband. Not only is he fond of me; he respects me as well. He doesn’t deny me anything. He likes a woman who understands politics and the importance of good defenses. He was willing to protect me from Ganelon, even before it was his duty.

As for Ganelon, God blessed him with good looks but not a good brain, and his heart is as black and twisted as a spent log in the hearth. If we had wed, I would have been at Ganelon’s mercy, and he has no mercy. The marriage would have cost me my life or made me a murderer.

Are you still afraid of Ganelon?

When the king ruled that my betrothal to Hruodland was valid, Ganelon swore vengeance. My family thinks he has forgotten it. After all, he married another woman of noble blood. He was gracious to my kin at the spring assembly in Paderborn last year and did not give me even a hard look.

But I learned that his wife died. He said the Lord took her after she gave birth to a girl. Something in his manner tells me it’s not the complete truth.

What do you fear?

Losing Hruodland in Hispania. I keep thinking disaster will strike.

Why did King Charles decide to invade Hispania?

At the assembly in Paderborn, three emirs - Islamic noblemen - asked for my king’s aid to overthrow the ruler of Cordoba, even though he is a follower of Muhammad like them. They said he is seeking to expand his realm beyond the Pyrenees and said that his subjects would rather have a godly Christian king than someone from an ungodly and corrupt family. Winning this war would give us access to trade routes as well as more iron for our swords and armor. And we must consider that Church in Hispania is under Islamic rule.

My Uncle Leonhard argued that we shouldn’t get in a fight between Islamic factions. He might be right. I had a bad feeling when I heard them make their request, and I cannot shake it.

Why are you having a premonition?

It goes against all reason. God has granted our king victory against the Aquitainians, the Lombards, and the Saxons. So why would He not grant us victory this time? Hruodland thinks it’s my humors. But he is having nightmares, and I fear they might be an omen.

I gave him my amulet so that he would have the protection of the dragon’s blood in its stone, and I will pray for victory every day and give alms.

Where did the stone come from?

Drachenfels, the mountain where Siegfried slew the dragon. It is across the Rhine from my birthplace.

As he lay on his back in a trench, Siegfried knew he had but one chance to slay the beast. If his blow was not true, he would be sprayed with venom. He stabbed the monster in its underbelly as it passed over him and then bathed in its blood. The magic made him invulnerable. Almost. Except for where a leaf fell on his shoulder.

The mountain’s rocks hold the magic of the dragon’s blood, and I can feel it in my amulet.

A tale of love amid the wars and blood feuds of Charlemagne's reign.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

"The Cross and the Dragon" will entertain multiple audiences. Readers of historical fiction will enjoy the medieval politics and details of daily life—re-created from annals, letters, scholarly books and articles, folk tales, and other resources. The love story will captivate romance readers, and fantasy readers will relish the talisman, the characters’ belief in magic, and sword fights."

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“We, too, are bound by Church law,” the king said, gesturing toward his archchaplain. “Fulrad said this marriage depends on the consent of the bride. While the bishop of Bonn has an interest in whom Lady Alda marries, Fulrad has no stake in this matter. Our judgment is this: the betrothal between Lord Hruodland and Lady Alda is valid.”
Mouth agape, Ganelon stared at the people about him. His baneful gaze fell on Hruodland and Alda. Alda trembled in Hruodland’s arms.
Hruodland remained steady. As the nobles step aside, he handed Alda to Alfihar and stepped into the clear space they had made. He pushed back the sleeve to reveal the scar from the Lombard and crossed his arms.
“Well, Ganelon, what will you do?” He made no attempt to mask his contempt.
“I shall leave this den of wolves,” Ganelon said through clenched teeth. He turned his hate-filled gaze to Alda. “And you, strumpet, you are worthless to any man without your dowry.”
“No one insults my wife,” Hruodland shouted.
He lunged at Ganelon and punched him in the gut. Ganelon returned the blow before a dozen guards separated the two. Alda leaned against Alfihar as Hruodland and Ganelon shouted new obscenities at each other.
When their curses were finally spent, Ganelon called to his servants. “We are leaving post-haste,” he barked. “Anyone who tarries will be flogged.”
Ganelon’s servants, bone-thin and clothed in rags, hurried to do their master’s bidding. Ganelon went out of his way in Alda’s direction. Hruodland raced toward Ganelon.
“I will be avenged,” Ganelon muttered. He turned on his heel and left.

If it weren’t for feminism, Kim Rendfeld would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon and a yet-to-be-published companion novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.

A proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Kim lives in Indiana with her husband and their spoiled cats. The couple has a daughter and three granddaughters.


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