Happy birthday, Elmer!" These kind words woke Elmer up, but he didn't open his eyes. For a few seconds he laid in his bed and panicked. It had been happening to him every morning since all his family were killed four years ago... in 1066.
Then he remembered: he was safe, in the castle of his uncle, Lord Thorkill of Arden. The only thing that reminded him of his past was a golden ring that he had found in the forest and that he never took off his finger. Elmer believed that the ring had saved him four years ago. The boy's face relaxed. He opened his eyes and smiled at the old man, who was sitting next to his bed.
"Get up, my boy!" Uncle Thorkill said, "We have a very busy day! I'm going to invite some important people: Baron Miles Crispin and his wife, and Duke Robert..."
"What are you saying, uncle! These people are all Normans. How can you invite them to my birthday?"
"You are fourteen today. It's time to think about your future. These people are very rich. One day they'll introduce you to our King William. By the way. how's your French? Have you made any progress?"
"Oh, please, don't ask me about my French. You know I hate the language. Why don't you invite our good neighbours, Lord Saewold and his children. Lord Wolf and Lady Catherine?"
"Stop it, Elmer. These people are nothing. They have lost their lands. And those who still have some land are tenants of Baron Miles Crispin. That's the end of the conversation! This evening you must be in the great hall. And don't be late!"
Lord Thorkill left, and Elmer ran down through the great hall, and out of the house. He needed to talk to his best friend Sigurd. Sigurd helped Lord Thorkill's cook in the kitchen and Elmer could always find him in the back yard of the castle, but not today. When Elmer finally got to his friend. Sigurd was crying.
"What's happened?" Elmer whispered, "Why are you crying, friend?"
"I'll be fine. Don't worry about me. Sir Elmer. You are the nephew of Lord Thorkill of Arden, and I'm his slave. How can we be friends?"
"You are more than a friend, you are like a brother to me, Sigurd. I'll never forget that four years ago you helped me get to safety. Now tell me, what has happened to you?"
"Yesterday I cooked dinner and Lord Thorkill didn't like it. The cow was cold, the swine was hard and I burnt the deer. So when the cook heard about it, he beat me. He often does that, so don't worry about me."
"But that's not true! Dinner yesterday was great. The beef was hot, the pork was nice and soft, and the venison was very good... Don't look away. Sigurd. Talk to me."
"You speak like a Norman! Only the Normans call a cow — beef, a swine — pork, and a deer — venison. We, English don't use these words. What's happened to you, Elmer? Are you forgetting your own language?"
"You're right. Sigurd. It's time to do something and remember the day when the Normans killed our parents."
"But what are we going to do? There are Normans everywhere Your uncle is the only English lord in the country and he doesn't want to fight. All he thinks about is his LAND."
"We must run away. I heard about a wonderful man called Hereward. In 1066 the Normans killed all the family and he started a war against them. All the noblest and bravest of the English who want to fight against King William join Hereward. He has made his camp at the Island of Ely near the old monastery, and the monks are helping him too."
"The Island of Ely. That's far away in the wild land of the fens."
"Are you scared of the fens? I'm not. It'll take us about a week to get there. We have done it once, we can do it again. I'm going today. Are you with me?"
"Of course, I'm with you, Elmer." In the evening when the important guests were gathering in the great hall, the two boys ran away from the manor. They were alone in the forest again like (как) four years before. And again their journey was easy and safe. They didn't meet any Norman soldiers and the wild animals ran away from them. Elmer knew it was the ring that was helping. Every night before he went to bed he touched the ring and whispered "Thank you". On the seventh day the boys reached the Island of Ely. There were soldiers everywhere. A friendly monk put them in his boat and helped them get to Hereward's castle. It was a simple wooden one, and Elmer felt sad. "The Normans are building strong stone castles. It's good that all these people haven't seen them," he whispered to Sigurd. But very soon Elmer and Sigurd forgot all their sad thoughts in their new life. Every day was busy and full of interesting things. Soldiers taught them to fight with a sword, and they even met their leader Hereward, whose nickname was "the Wake". He was clever, brave and lucky. King William tried to attack the island but he couldn't get through the fens, and his army always went back with nothing.
In the end William understood his mistake. He decided to build a big bridge which would carry his army over the fens (по которому его армия преодолеет болота). The Normans came with stones, wood, and animal skins,
but they needed builders too. And there Hereward had a great plan. He and his men dressed up as peasants and helped the Normans build their bridge. The English built the bridge as badly and slowly as they could. In the end they built a tower on the end of the bridge. "Why did the Normans want a tower?" soldiers laughed.
They didn't have to wait long for the answer. When the bridge was ready, all the peasants had to leave. So Hereward and his people knew: the Normans are going to attack and were ready. But nothing in the world could prepare them for what was going to happen. Just before sunset everybody heard an ugly loud voice. "I curse you, Englishmen. I have spoken with the spirits. You'll be dead by the end of this night. All of you!" Elmer looked up. There was a horrible ugly witch on top of the tower. Elmer was afraid of the witches, but suddenly he felt something warm on his finger. It was the ring. And at that moment Elmer was not afraid any more. He looked around and saw the Normans. They were coming, but nobody saw them. All his friends were looking up at the witch and didn't move. "Don't listen to her," Elmer shouted, "It's a trap!
Burn the bridge!" Sigurd, who was waiting under the bridge, heard his words and set the bridge on fire. Soon everybody joined him. The Norman army and their witch fell into the cold water of the fens.
After this victory Hereward and his friends celebrated for days. Only the monks didn't look happy. They were tired of the war, and they didn't like simple food and wine. They wanted to return to their nice, easy life without Hereward and his army. Elmer saw this and tried to warn Hereward, but he just laughed.
And then it happened. One cold winter night the monks led the Norman soldiers through the woods. They moved quickly and silently, and their attack was deadly. When the sun had set, the sky was red with the flames from burning English homes. Many people were dead, many became prisoners, but Hereward. Elmer and Sigurd escaped. "This is where I must say goodbye to you, Elmer," Hereward said. "Go back to your uncle, he loves you." "I won't take anything from him. He is friends with the Normans. He's forgotten his English blood," Elmer replied. "That's not true, my friend, your uncle has been secretly helping me all this time. He has been sending me food and money. He told me about the Norman's plans. And he knew that you, Elmer, were with me. He's old; he has no children so everything he has will be yours. That's a lot of land and money. Take it and be a good master."
One of the richest people in England and the only English landowner a forty-year old Lord Elmer Thorkill of Arden never forgot those last words of Hereward. "Where did Hereward go after that?" he used to ask his friend, Sigurd. "We never heard about his death." "I think he went straight into legend, my lord," Sigurd used to answer.