Monday, 24 April 2023

Coffee Pot Blog Tours present Pagan Warrior by MJ Porter

Book Title: Pagan Warrior

Series: The Seventh Century

Author: MJ Porter

Publication Date: 25th May 2015 (new cover from January 2022)

Publisher: MJ Publishing

Page Length: 294

Genre: Historical fiction/Action and adventure

Tour Schedule Page

 Pagan Warrior 

MJ Porter 

Audiobook narrated by Matt Coles

From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

Britain. AD632.

Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.

Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.

There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.Excerpt in which Penda and his brother, Eowa, have one of their very enlightening discussions. Two brothers, both desiring the same kingdom to rule.


Chapter 14

AD631 - Eowa of Mercia – The lands of the Hwicce


This is it. My brother watches me with an open expression. By the end of today, we’ll either be enemies or allies. I really don’t know which way the conversation will turn.

We’re within my hall in the kingdom of the Hwicce, and I’m the king here, not him. Not that Penda doesn’t want to be. I know he wants it. I could share it with him, make him my sub-king, a prince of the Hwicce as opposed to its king, but I don’t know if I want to do that. Penda’s a powerful man in his own right. He’s made himself invaluable to King Cadwallon of Gwynedd instead of myself.

I have a fledgling alliance with King Edwin of Northumbria. He’s made it clear to me, by sending his son Osfrith to me, that if I intend to keep the alliance, I have to turn Penda away from Cadwallon. Either that or my brother and I must become enemies. If I weren’t already so unsure of him, I might be offended, but as I’m uneasy about Penda’s intentions, I can understand Edwin’s desires.

Neither is Penda doing himself any favours. He’s swaggered into my hall, filthy and dirty from wherever he’s been, and he’s not instructed his men to leave their weapons at the doorway. Neither has he led by example.

He’s wearing war clothing of byrnie and helm, his weapons belt filled with blades and edges. He stinks of sweat and metal.

Penda bristles with aggression and anger. I could almost laugh at him if he weren’t so bloody dangerous.

I wish I had half his skill in battle.

“Brother, speak your mind to me,” Penda demands, leaning forward and helping himself to a decent piece of beef from the table. I try not to notice that it’s the piece I’d been considering eating. He’s always known to take what I want.

“Brother,” I respond, rolling the word around my mouth.

He meets my eyes, waiting for me to say something further, but I still haven’t decided what I want to say.

“Tell me about King Cadwallon,” I finally mouth, and he quirks a smile at me.

“Tell me about King Edwin,” his immediate response. He’s blunt. His weapons are sharp, his mind is sharp, but he’s blunt. He’s bloody deadly.

“King Edwin is a Christian king, keen to share his experiences.”

Penda roars with laughter at my response. His eyes sparkle with delight.

“Don’t tell me. He did actually try to convert you, didn’t he?”

I feel a grin tugging my lips. And that’s the other thing about Penda. He makes men happy.

“He asked Bishop Paulinus to speak to me. I agreed to listen to his words, but I didn’t take it any further than that,” I respond defensively.

He’s still smirking.

“Is this the great Bishop Paulinus that all new Christians speak about?” His tone is anything but respectful. The use of the word ‘great’ slides from him easily, but it’s not what he means when he says it.

“Yes, it is,” I retort. I wish I could tell him everything about my trip, say to him that King Edwin is as smug as Penda believes, that he does think more of himself than he should, and that his elder sons all hate him and want him dead. But I can’t. My brother is my enemy, not my friend. At least not yet.

“Tell me of him?” Penda demands, but I shake my head.

“No, you tell me of your travels. Rumour has it you’ve been far and wide.”

He chuckles again. He expects me to keep track of him. It’s arrogant of him, and yet I do, so he’s correct.

“I’ve been surveying the land, yes. But not for any great purpose.”

Now it’s my turn to splutter with amusement as I help myself to the second tastiest piece of beef from before us both.

“You need to work on that,” I say, and he growls as he eats. It’s hard to keep secrets from brothers.

I take a mouthful. He does the same. I’m trying to decide what to say next, but he’s first to speak, as always.

“King Cadwallon says that King Edwin isn’t to be trusted. Ever.”

“King Edwin says King Cadwallon’s not to be trusted,” I respond.

“I told King Cadwallon not to trust you,” Penda replies. I arch an eyebrow at him, unsure how to interpret his tone.

“I told King Edwin the same about you.”

“So no one is to trust anyone else, even brothers.” Again, Penda beats me to the heart of the matter.

“No, not even brothers,” I agree, a little sadly. That’s what it comes down to with us. He is my brother. I’d happily split the known world with him if I could, but it’s not just him and I. And we don’t yet govern the world. If I want to get to that point, then I will have to make some difficult decisions first, and they’ll be to the detriment of my brother.

“So we’re not going to call on our family alliance?” he asks. He’s far too accepting of this.

“You don’t seem surprised?” I demand. Did he come to tell me this, or have I forced his hand? Was he thinking along the same lines as me?

“We both want the same thing. We can’t both have it. At some point, we have to acknowledge that and deal with the consequences.”

“And that’s all right with you?” I query. I know we’re no longer close, but I had expected something more from him.

He’s still eating and drinking the food from my table as I watch him suspiciously.

“None of this is acceptable to me, but until you acknowledge that I’m the superior warrior and war leader and that I should be king here, there’s little you or I can do.”

I’m spitting at his audacity. He simply winks and reaches for more of my best beef. I put my hand out to clamp down on his questing fingers. He glares at me with his deep blue eyes. Gods, I’d forgotten how strong he is. Even with all my strength, he’s still able to move forward and claim my beef. I can’t stop him. I hope it’s not a portent of things to come. I don’t want him always to be the tougher one.

I wonder how much of what he says he means. Does he genuinely think that he’s the better man than me? Does he just toy with my nervousness?

“When I leave here tomorrow, we’ll officially be working apart, not enemies, but not allies. We’ll be family, nothing more. We’ll not be honour bound to do anything other than enforce our familial bonds. If King Edwin,” and Penda grins at this showing me his strong, white teeth. “Kills you, then I’ll be able to kill him in retaliation or take your blood price.”

I breathe deeply before I respond. How does he know to get under my skin so quickly?

“Likewise, if King Cadwallon kills you, I’ll be able to do the same.”

Penda chuckles. “You can try. King Cadwallon won’t take too kindly to your accusations.”

“I’m not going to argue about that. The point remains. We won’t be working towards a common goal, but we can still avenge each other, should the need arise.”

My smug brother is still grinning at me. Not for a moment does he think he’ll be dying anytime soon. Clearly, Penda believes I might be.

“What do you want, Penda?” I ask him. I’m curious to uncover what drives him. I’ve always thought that I knew, but now I’m not sure.

“I want everything,” he says, still chuckling. “From one side of the island to the other. I want it to be mine, but for now, I’ll be happy to be King Cadwallon’s ally and see where that takes me. Now, brother, what is it that you want?”

I wish I could downplay my heart’s desire as well as he does.

“I want Mercia,” I say roughly. There, I’ve said it. His eyes dangerously flash as they scan the hall before him. He grew up here. This was his home. Beneath the blackened rafters, we played as children and dreamed of our future together. He’s distanced himself from the place because I’m the older brother. I’m its king and war leader.

“And I want you to have it,” Penda says flatly, his humour fled. I think he does mean it.

I wish I understood my brother better.


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MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to 

Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set.

Website: Twitter:  Facebook: LinkedInInstagram: Pinterest: BookBub: Amazon Author Page: Goodreads: Tiktok:

Narrator, Matt Coles:

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting MJ Porter today, Judith.

    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

  2. Thank you for hosting Pagan Warrior today:)