I am now back on track with the planning for the second book. At this stage, the first book is called Cuckold and the second one will be called Sacrifice. Both revolve around real murders.
Cuckold investigated the murder of St Hilda’s father, Hereric, and Sacrifice investigates the murder of King Edwin’s (second) son, Eadfrith. There is no consensus among historians as to who murdered Hereric, but Eadfrith was, according to Bede, murdered by King Penda of Mercia. However, the murder would have required the payment of compensation to Eadfrith’s surviving kin. These include the heroine of Cuckold, his sister Godgifu, and two equally fictional uncles, sons of King Cearl of Mercia. (Eadfrith’s mother, Cwenburgh, was a daughter of Cearl of Mercia). Sacrifice, like Cuckold, therefore sets up a complex web of conflicting family loyalties because if (as I propose and is historically quite likely) Penda’s father Pybba was brother to Cearl, then Eadfrith’s uncles on his mother’s side (his spindlekin) were also Penda’s cousins on his father’s side (his spearkin.)
Historically, we do not know the exact relationship between Penda of Mercia and Eadfrith of Deira because we do not know the exact relationship between Eadfrith’s grandfather, Cearl, and the man who was almost certainly Penda’s father, Pybba. That they were totally unrelated is possible, but highly unlikely. I have made them brothers, which is very likely. Brothers seem to have succeeded each other to the Mercian kingship, or reigned jointly, very commonly. In reality, Penda and Eadfrith were almost certainly related through Eadfrith’s mother, a member of the Mercian ruling family, but exactly how closely, we simply do not know.
Eadfrith passed into the control of Penda after the battle of Haethfeld in 633. He was in theory heir to Deira, if not also Bernicia, when his father and older brother were killed in the battle. The general presumption is that Penda wanted to install him as some sort of client king. But why, given that Cadwallon and Penda were the victors at Haethfeld, did this never happen? Instead Penda killed him, or had him killed. Why?
This is the background to Sacrifice.