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By Stewart Binns

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Sample text

Leo recognized immediately that what people said was true: John Comnenus was a man of great charm and humility. ‘Sire, you are more than generous. ‘It is we who should be humble. We are guests in your beautiful meadow. ’ An hour later, over a hundred men sat in the cooling twilight to enjoy their food and wine. Leo said grace, then sat and gazed at the scene before him. Behind John Comnenus stood his equerry and men-at-arms: three tall men in blue tunics with gilded trim, their burgundy cloaks held by heavy bronze clasps of the royal house of Comnenus.

But now he had a new purpose, fired by anger, which seemed to give him superhuman strength and the axe even more malicious power. The scarred trees in the clearing were testament to the many thousands of blows he had hacked into the oaks of the forest. He repeated, over and over again, the killing routines he had seen practised by the King’s housecarls on military training days: thrust and parry, cut and slash, chop and slice. When he could cut and hack no more, he would sit and sharpen his weapons, survey the results of his toil and contemplate the terrible vengeance he would soon exact.

Your father is a great man; it was an honour to serve him. ’ ‘I am afraid he is dying. ’ ‘I am saddened to hear that; it is not a fitting end for a man of valour. ’ Godwin looked at the Prince with a sympathetic smile as their eyes acknowledged one another with genuine warmth. ‘You have brought the Talisman of Truth. ’ ‘My father told me to come here, to give you the Talisman and ask you to tell me a story. ’ Godwin moved uneasily in his chair, as if a great burden had been placed on his old shoulders.

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