Friday 17 December 2010

“She will not be the strangest creature in the kingdom.”

“No, fortunately we have Leofric for that.”

—Egelric and Alred, September 1078, “Alred gets an invitation”

Leofric is one of those people who, in the words of Alred, are “wider than the world.” His character is a Leof-​shaped balloon that just keeps getting bigger and bigger the more chapters I pump into him. We hate him more every time he does something awful, and we love him more every time he does something wonderful; with Leof nothing ever cancels anything out, it just keeps adding up.

This is why I think Leof deserves a Top 10 List of his own, in his own special style. Not every exploit on this list is deserving of commendation, but that’s Leof Power: he couldn’t be so good if he weren’t capable of being so very bad.

10. Leofric comes back from the dead, as told in “Vash asks one question”

Published: February 9, 2007
Chapter Date: December 19, 1084
Synopsis: Vash meets the Dark Lady and is able to ask her why his destiny is not unfolding the way it was supposed to. The answer: Leofric.

Leof wasn’t even one of my founding characters, and yet he turned out to be the character without whom none of this story would be possible. Here’s the Dark Lady telling it:

“And here is the beginning of another tale, but I cannot tell you the end. Eighteen years ago, a raven plucked an arrow from the heart of a man who lay dead on a field of battle, and she set that heart to beating again. The ripples have not yet spread far, but I can tell you this much: four years ago the man Alred who is called Duke was supposed to fall from his horse while hunting and die. Then the man Egelric was supposed to take his daughter Iylaina and go to live in the country of his grandfathers. Because that would have killed one or both of you eventually, you would have gone to the man Sigefrith who is called King, and you would have had the elf Iylaina brought home again, and you would have taken her to you. However, on the day that the man Alred was to die, he was not here in the forest hunting, but on a ship.”

Vash does not know who the resurrected man is, nor how Alred came to be on a ship that fateful day. But we know that Alred was trying to escape his grief over Matilda’s death, and we know that she died giving birth to Leofric’s child. Thus if Leof had died and been buried at Hastings, Matilda would have lived, and Alred would have died. And as the Dark Lady explained, Vash and Iylaine would have gotten together, making the whole “Tangled Braid” storyline rather anticlimactic.

But there’s so much more than that. Without Leof’s return to Lothere, Lady Eadgith and her children would not have come, and Sigefrith would not have married Eadie, and there would have been no Drage to intrigue Myrddin. (Nor any “Makíl,” since Malcolm and Iylaine would not have had a baby.)

If Alred had died six years ago and Egelric had left to live in Scotland, we would have to rewrite every storyline either of those two men have touched ever since.

And without Young Sigefrith in Lothere, Eirik never would have met Sigi, and might never have gotten himself involved with the affairs of Man and the Isles. Leofric’s resurrection has begun to alter the destinies of entire nations, and of course these ripples can only keep spreading.

Of course Leof is blissfully unaware of all this, but as time goes by, all storylines will come to lead back to him. And we can’t be sure that the raven’s purpose was simply to alter the future. She may still have something in store for the old sinner—some reason to keep him alive. ;-) 

9. Leofric tries to save Alred in “Leofric meets his match”

Published: October 6, 2007
Chapter Date: November 161085

Alred has just discovered Hetty and Leof together in the door of Leof’s bedroom. Alred threatens him with a sword, and Leof pleads with him, certain he is about to be killed.

Then we have this:

Leofric was a skilled swordsman himself, and he did not fail to see Alred’s pupils dilate, his cheeks flush, his teeth clench. He knew the sword would rise an instant before it rose, and the raw horror of that instant seemed densely packed with all fifty years and thirteen days of instants that had gone before it.

Nevertheless, it was not time enough.

Nevertheless, it was not time enough. Leofric moved to stop him, but Alred might indeed have been the best English swordsman of his age. He could not miss such an easy target. He could scarcely even have been made to miss.

He did not miss.

He did not miss.

The next chapters are from Cedric’s rather excitable point of view, and we only slowly understand what really happened. In “Cedric sees his father” Cedric is convinced he is seeing his father’s ghost:

His father's face was uglier than Cedric had ever seen it.

But his father was uglier than Cedric had ever seen him: his thick lips were slack and quivering, his nose ran unwiped into his mustache, and his cheeks were smeared with blood and streaked with tears.

The shocking wreck of that noble face captured all of Cedric’s attention, though his friends seemed not to have noticed his father at all.

His father held out his right hand and whispered, “Cedric…” The hand too was hideous—red in the palm, red between the fingers, and shaking so spastically that drops of fresh blood were spattering all over the stones before him. “Come here, Cedric…” he whimpered. “To Papa…“

It is not until “Cedric sees Alred,” when Cedric sees Alred’s bloody body on the floor, that we understand Alred had intended to kill himself, not Leofric.

“Look at me, Cedric,” he pleaded. “Don’t turn away from your Papa now.”

Cedric was only beginning to understand his father was still alive. He was also beginning to understand that his father was a murderer. He had seen a man hanged, from a distance, but he had never looked a murderer in the eye. He wiped his mouth and turned to look.

'I didn't do it, runt.'

“I didn’t do it, runt,” his father whimpered. “I tried to stop him…”

Sigefrith flung up his head and roared, “I told you to keep your damned mouth shut! Only to talk! God damn you! Look where your talking got you!”

Cedric’s father sobbed and collapsed onto the floor, his long legs sprawling and his hands pressed against his ugly face: the hand that was bleeding and the hand that was bloody.

In “Leofric meets his match” and its gory aftermath, the true nature of Alred’s and Leofric’s lifelong friendship is revealed. They despise each other and they envy each other, but they have fought battles together and grown old together, had the same friends and loved the same women, and ultimately neither of them is capable of destroying the other, however convenient it might be if they could.

Did Leofric perform an heroic act, or did he merely act out of reflex? Does Leofric simply have a reflex for heroism? I don’t think we’ll ever know that. By now Leof himself has surely retroactively justified what he did, and is no longer a reliable witness to his own thoughts at that moment.

But whatever may have moved him in that instant, it’s very like Leofric to attempt to stop a sword blade with his bare hand in order to save the life of a suicidal man whose wife he wants to run away with!

8. Leofric brings Leia to visit Lady Eadgith in “Lady Eadgith feels like a birthday girl”

Published: February 24, 2007
Chapter Date: January 191085

Ever since Matilda’s death, Leofric has had the habit of spending the anniversary of the day away from home, alone with their daughter Leia. We already knew that Leof’s skulking behavior caused Lady Eadgith grief. In 1083, in “Eadgith pours oil on troubled waters,” she told Eadie:

“Where do you think he is, Eadie? I don’t know. He took Leia and left before dawn. Don’t you know what day it is?”

“But it is Leia’s birthday…” Eadgith murmured dazedly.

“What else?”

“What do you mean?”

“It is the day Matilda died! That is the day! He did the same last year, and the year before. I thought he would not this year, because you were here, and Drage—but do you see? He loves no one more than Matilda! Not I, not Mae, not you, not Drage, not anything!” she sobbed.

'Oh, Mother...'

It seems he repeated the stunt in 1084. But at the end of that year, Leof was rattled by the sudden death in childbirth of his nephew’s wife Judith, and he gained a new appreciation for his own wife. In “Leofric makes another promise”:

She was forty-​three years old, and he saw that she had become one of the most beautiful women of her generation. It was partly from the simple virtue of having survived forty-​three years, but even Swan-​neck herself—even at thirty-five—had not been so fresh nor so fair. His wife had been a bony, gawky, freckle-​faced thing when he had married her, but age had only softened her and, he thought miserably, made her more dear.

Eadgith only snorted and stared up at him.

Something about the sleepy calm of her face reminded him of his long-​dead mother. Many women had loved him in many different ways, but Eadgith and his mother were the only two who had ever cuddled and coddled him, and they were the only two who had ever loved him when he misbehaved.

“I’m so glad we’re old, my pigeon!” he wailed, overcome.

“What?” she squawked. “Speak for yourself!”

“No! Listen! Because we already have such pretty children, and we shall have more and more grandchildren every year, and so we don’t need any more for ourselves. Do we?”

'Do we?'

She let her head fall back against the headboard. “Oh, Leof,” she sighed.

“I am not as old as you seem to think I am,” she grumbled.



“I’m pregnant.”

“What?” Leofric scrambled up from the bed and then came crawling back into it again.

“You’re not as old as you think you are, either,” she said after a moment. “You don’t need to prove it with any young girls.”

Though he could feel the pout of his lower lip, there must have been something else on his face, for she lifted her hand and gently stroked it over his forehead and down his cheek, as she did her babies when they were ill or troubled.

“I shall be good,” he mumbled. “I promise. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Two.”

“I said I don’t think the Lord pays any attention to you, anyway, Leof,” she sighed. “But I shall be very glad.”

'I shall be very glad.'

Soon thereafter Eadgith goes to stay with young Sigefrith to assist Wynflaed with her approaching confinement. While she’s there the dreaded anniversary comes around again:

It was Leia’s birthday, of course, but also the anniversary of Matilda’s death, and Eadgith was not even at home to see Leofric go off to spend it alone with Matilda’s daughter.

She had made herself sick imagining it: he would not even need to sneak out before she rose, but could breakfast at leisure and ride boldly out across the court and through the gate. He wouldn’t need to come skulking in after dark, carry Leia up to bed, and then go sleep alone in some bed that was not her own. He could come in when he pleased. Perhaps he would not even go out at all, since she was not there to distract him with her un-​Matildaness.

But this year Leofric surprises her:

All at once she felt a hand on her hip, pulling her roughly back against the body of the gentleman behind her.

All at once she felt a hand on her hip.

“Sigefrith!” she wailed and spun around to face him.

It was not Sigefrith, but his father.

“Leofric! Good Lord!”

'Leofric!  Good Lord!'

Little Peleia hooted in derision. “You thought it was Sigefrith!

Leofric scowled with his eyes and chuckled wickedly with his mouth. “A man comes in and puts his paws on your behind, and your first thought is of your son!”

“I… didn’t… know you were here…” Eadgith breathed.

Eadgith laughed dazedly.

Eadgith laughed dazedly. She was beginning to feel as if it were her own birthday. To stave off her rising giddiness she scolded, “What a looby! Tell Wyn to hurry up and have her baby then. And what are you thinking, riding all the way out here in the middle of January with this little girl?”

“It was her idea!” he protested.


'I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday.'

“I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday, and she said she wanted to come here, where, I quote, ‘I can see all the people I like’.”

“What about the people you don’t like, Leia?” Eadgith giggled, foolish in her giddiness.

“They can go hang!” Leia cried.

'They can go hang!'

“Leia!” Eadgith gasped in horror.

Leofric attempted to distract her by kissing her as far around the back of her neck as he could reach from the front.

Eadgith is just getting up from her nap, but Leof is determined to steer her right back into bed, as soon as he can get rid of Leia.

'But you come too!'

“But you come too!”

“I must tuck her in and sing her a song. Scoot now, or I shall toss you out of here so hard your behind will blaze a trail through the woods clear through to Bernwald.”

Leia found this image so amusing that she skipped out merrily, singing, “My behind will blaze a trail! My behind will blaze a trail!” as she went.

'What will you make of the girl?'

“Oh, Leof,” Eadgith groaned, trying not to laugh. “What will you make of the girl?”

“You will surely save her from utter depravity, my pretty pigeon. As you have so often saved me.”

You will surely save her from utter depravity, my pretty pigeon.

Of course, all this happens before Leof falls for Hetty, so this chapter does not mark any sort of happily-​ever-​after for Leofric and Eadgith. Leof will always be Leof, and Eadgith will always be… there for him anyway.

In the past we have debated whether Lady Eadgith is a weak or pitiful character for putting up with Leof, but my opinion is that she is not. She knows what he is. She knows that he doesn’t love her the way he did Matilda or any of his mistresses, but she also knows that he loves no other woman as he loves her.

Leof can seem cruel and callous, but in chapters like this we are reminded that he loves his wife, in spite of all his selfishness and childishness, and he doesn’t take her for granted. After all, she and his mother are the only women who have loved him when he misbehaves.

7. Leofric saves Kraaia from Andronikos in “Kraaia meets a man strong enough”

Published: June 15, 2007
Chapter Date: September 281085

Kraaia has always known how to flee from unwanted male attention, but on this night the eunuch Andronikos catches her and attacks her. He slams her against the wall and grips her so tightly by the ear that she fears he will rip it off, all the while shouting questions at her that make no sense.

Kraaia could no longer speak. She could no longer see. Her hands pawed helplessly over the silk of his robe, no longer struggling but only pleading.

Kraaia could no longer speak.


Suddenly, miraculously, the burning in her ear was relieved, and she fell away from him. For an instant she was alone in her tiny universe of throbbing pain and fear, but then she became aware of terrible sounds above her head: dull blows and gasps and grunts.

Then she became aware of terrible sounds above her head.

It was Leofric, but she knew it only by the height and the bulk of him, for his face was unrecognizable. It was not even Leofric-​colored: it was so red as to almost match the maroon of his tunic, and it was twisted and ugly as she had never seen it.

He stopped beating Andronikos's face.

He soon stopped beating Andronikos’s face, but only to grab his throat with his left hand and bring a long knife up to it with the right.

“I thought you were a eunuch,” he growled.

Was this the same Papa Leofric?

Kraaia had never heard such a voice, either. Was this the same Papa Leofric who let her braid pink ribbons in his mane and who called her his baby?

Andronikos said nothing and only gingerly lifted his hands away from his face. Kraaia saw blood smeared on hands and face both.

Leofric slowly lowered his right hand.

Leofric slowly lowered his right hand, snagging the point of the knife in the golden silk and tearing a long slit down the front of it.

“If you’re not yet, you’re about to be,” he snarled through clenched and grinning teeth, like a vicious dog.

'If you're not yet, you're about to be.'

Suddenly Kraaia had some idea of what a eunuch might be. She peeked out from behind her hands and whimpered, “Papa Leofric…”

“Son of a serpent!” he roared. “Get out of here, idiot girl!“

It takes a lot to impress Kraaia, but even she is astounded by this unbridled display of Leof Power. :-) 

6. Leofric stands up to Hetty in “Leofric issues his command”

Published: September 28, 2007
Chapter Date: November 161085

Being kidnapped by Leof is really hot:

He drove her along ahead of him, not by shoving her, but by looming over her. Though he was behind her, she was not fleeing but following.

“Leof!” she squeaked as she ran. “Leof! Leof!”

She was not fleeing but following.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he whispered.

Before that moment she, a foreigner, had never heard in his English name the word it meant: Love, Love, Love.

So this was how it felt to be kidnapped, she thought. He would have horses waiting—or perhaps but the one, and he would take her up before him, and seat her between his legs, and he would hold her fast with one powerful arm until she gave up struggling and fainted away against his chest—dead away, dead away.

So is being comforted by Leof:

She clutched his tunic in both hands and shook it, though her frail arms could not hope to move his heavy body. “He wrote it for her! For her!” she babbled. “And all that time…! And so not to tell me my mistake, he married me! It was a lie! He told me so!”

He was holding his breath again.

He was holding his breath again, but now she could also feel the trembling in his body. Unlike the trembling in hers, it was not weakness but tightly bound, passionate strength.

“I was so happy!” she sobbed. “I thought—one man! One man loves me better than Lili. I only wanted one!”

“You have one.” His voice was low, but she had never dreamt how it would rumble in his chest until she pressed her face against it.

“No!” she wailed, rubbing one cheek and the other over the smooth cloth. “No! He loved Lili too—like all, all…”

He slid his arm up between their bodies and laid his hand on her chin. Now it was she who stopped, who held her breath, terrified of nothing she could name.

He slid his arm up between their bodies and laid his hand on her chin.

But Leofric did not even tip back her head; he simply held her childlike face in his big hand, with the tip of his broad thumb nestling in the hollow beneath her lower lip, and his fingers slowly stroking her neck and chin.

“You have your one man, Hetty,” he whispered.

'You have your one man, Hetty.'

Watching him rant about Alred is awesome too:

“God damn him!” he snarled, pacing from halfway to the window to halfway to the door. “I got more sympathy out of him when my arrogant ass of a brother died than you’ve had for poor Lili!”

'God damn him!'


“Does he do anything for you? The last I saw him, instead of spending the evening with you, he was shut up in his study, drinking and writing poetry for your dead sister!“

But in my opinion, the moment of Ultimate Leof Power in this chapter is when he tells it like it is to Hetty herself:

“Why aren’t you at home in bed?” he growled. “Why aren’t you resting?”

'Why aren't you at home in bed?'

“It is… the old man’s birthday…” she whispered, stunned to be scolded so for her self-​sacrifice and her generosity.

“I know what day it is, and I know why we’re all here. I want to know why you are. Eadie did this so you could rest. Is there not one person in that castle of yours who has noticed you’re hurting?”

“But… I am well enough…”


Hetty gasped in shock. In “that castle of hers”, gentlemen did not speak so to ladies.

One of my favorite things about Leof is that he sometimes seems to be the only person in Lothere who can see through everyone’s bullshit. And he’s not afraid to call them on it.

In this scene, Leof has narrowed in on Hetty’s greatest flaw—which, like Leof’s greatest flaws, is also the downside of her greatest strength. Hetty is too generous and self-​sacrificing, and it has come to the point that she is resentful of others for allowing her to be—all while claiming that she is “well enough.”

Sadly Leof is probably not the best person to help Alred and Hetty solve their marital difficulties. (Then again, maybe…) But I am glad he told her this. I hope the idea has taken root.

5. Leofric lectures Eadie in “Eadgith’s priorities are rearranged”

Published: November 10, 2006
Chapter Date: May 191083

Unable to bear any more of Eadie’s prudishness, Sigefrith has taken a short vacation to Raegiming so that he can drink and swear and sin with impunity. But he talks Leofric into going hunting in the evening while drunk, and Sigefrith falls from his horse and strikes his head. All through the night he is unconscious, and back at home, a heavily pregnant Eadie fears for his life.

Leof comes to give Eadie the good news about Sigefrith’s awakening, but he also gives her a lecture about how to treat her husband. His speech is blunt and vulgar—so unlike some of the exquisitely sensitive speeches we’ve seen from Sigefrith himself, but utterly like Leof.

This chapter is one of the highlights of Leofric’s early career as the patriarch of the family. The whole speech—interspersed with fart jokes and blasphemy—is better read in its entirety than quoted, but here is my favorite part:

“Let me tell you something else, Eadie. I have known your husband since I was a snotty-​nosed page in his father’s castle. I knew him when he was a tiny baby, and Lady Hwala used to let me hold him, so long as I promised I would be careful with his little head. And last night I was kneeling in the woods beside him, waiting for the men to come with a litter, and I found myself holding his head as his blessed mother showed me. But I realized I had not been careful with it, as I had promised her. If he had died…”

'If he had died...'

Eadgith was dazed by this sudden reminder that her husband had once been a tiny baby, too weak even to hold up his head—that he had once had a mother who must have loved him as she loved Drage—

“When he said those things to me yesterday,” her father continued, “I should have hopped up on my horse and come here to tell you everything I just told you now. Instead I let him talk me into doing something stupid, and it almost got him killed. But he never would have wanted to do the stupid thing if he had been allowed to swear at a few cats or occasionally clean his sword on a Sunday. Do you hear me? He will deny it, but I’m telling you it’s true.”

“I hear you,” she murmured.

'I hear you.'

“Now then, my girl, you womenfolk are always saying what babies we men are. I shall, exceptionally, admit it’s the truth. Your husband is in your care. You must remember to be careful with his head.“

4. Leofric writes a poem to Hetty in “Hetty reads the one word”

Published: April 22, 2008
Chapter Date: December 121085

Hetty’s husband claims to have forgiven her for her apparent infidelity—which, on Hetty’s side, had never even been serious, in deed or feeling. But weeks later Alred is friendly but utterly unaffectionate with her, and Hetty’s heart is aching. And it is in this state that she picks up her Psalter in search of comfort or distraction.

Like a little miracle, it fell open to reveal a creased parchment. She blinked at it, disbelieving, though she quickly saw it was not the same. Then her mind began to whir.

She blinked at it, disbelieving.

It might have seemed cruel to leave it there—if she had been certain he even remembered where she had once kept it—but it could also have been evidence of thoughtful, thorough love. It could have been an attempt to make up for past errors: an attempt to start over again, by writing her the poem he ought to have written then.

Hetty balanced the open book in her palm and carefully lifted the edge of the parchment in the other.

She saw at once that it was not written in Alred’s extravagant hand. The letters were blocky and black and stiffly arrayed, like rows of awkward little boys unaccustomed to having clean tunics and scrubbed faces and being herded into line.

It was not the hand of a child, but of a grown man writing with childish concentration—of a crude man, with his head bowed deeply over the parchment, fingers tense around the new quill, trying to write in a manner he believed fine.

It was not the hand of a child.

It was not the work of a poet, nor even a poetic child; it was a poem only in the most technical sense—it followed every rule of syllable, alliteration, and rhyme—but as a work of art, it was laughably, lamentably absurd. The metaphor of a lock and missing key for a lady’s unattainable love was so old and so overdone, it must have already seemed cliché when the pharaohs were locking up their tombs. And the florid, unfamiliar words chosen to express it seemed both strained and spilled together; he might have found them by squeezing a book of poetry between his big hands until the words dripped out like blood.

Only one word flowed naturally from his pen, and the curling, unaffected vivacity of the letters made it stand out from the others all over the page. It was the one word he wrote more often than any other, for it was his very name—the one word that was real and true: Leof, Leof, Leof… Love, Love, Love…

It was the one word that was real and true.

Of course it was a dreadful poem. That’s what makes it so beeyootiful. Alred risks little when he writes poetry, for it comes so naturally to him, and he is sure the poem will be appreciated even if the sentiment is not returned. But Leof had to humble himself and lay himself bare for this. Has Alred ever loved anyone enough to do that?

3. Leofric has a talk with Hilda in “Leofric does something”

Published: September 15, 2006
Chapter Date: September 31081

Leofric’s grandson Haakon has asked him to “do something” about his mother’s cruel treatment of his father. Leof stumbles in one night, drunk and merry, while young Sigefrith is out. He meets Hilda and initially jokes with her, but when she takes to insulting Sigefrith, Leof remembers his promise to Haakon and hauls her off to a storeroom to have a word with her.

The conversation begins awkwardly, but Hilda quickly goads Leof into becoming violent.

She sat, and he lit the little lamp and blew out the burning rush. He watched the smoke curl up from his hand for a moment before speaking. Now that he had her here, he did not know what to say.

“I have been meaning to speak to you for some time,” he began. “My grandson has told me a few things about the way you treat his father, and—”

'I have been meaning to speak to you for some time.'

“Oh!” she laughed. “I like that! What a man he is! He gets his five-​year-​old son and his fifty-​year-​old father to fight his battles for him!”

He abruptly silenced her laughter with a slap that stung his own palm and nearly knocked her from her perch.

She gaped at him for a moment with her hand upon her cheek, and then her eyes narrowed and she hissed, “How dare you?”

'How dare you?'

“It is something Sigefrith should have done long ago!”

“It is as I said! He’s not man enough to fight his own battles!”

Leofric slapped her again, though less brutally. He had forgotten just how hard he could hit a woman. It had been so long, and it was so difficult to temper his strength when he was drunk.

He had forgotten just how hard he could hit a woman.

“At least he has the sense to send a real man to do it for him,” she sneered.

She was still holding her cheek, so he smacked the other with the back of his hand.

Leof, it seems, had no idea what he was getting into with Hilda. He is ever more violent and threatening, shoving her and smacking her, but she is ever more sneering and vicious. Nothing seems to work against her.

Finally he hits upon another idea:

She wailed as he twisted her arm back behind her.

“I tell you,” he said softly, “you have a real man. A gentleman, my dear. I think you are only a little confused about what you truly want.”

“A real man,” she growled through her pain. She was remarkably strong, remarkably resistant, he thought, for a woman. But she was still a woman.

“You want a real man?” he chuckled grimly.

“Yes!” Her eyes were defiant despite her pain, and all the more so once he released the arm he had been twisting behind her back—until she realized that he had only let go of her arm so that he could use that hand to unbuckle his belt.

“What are you doing?” she shuddered.

'What are you doing?'

“If you were my wife, I would beat you with it. But a belt leaves nasty marks.”

“Then what are you doing?”

“Getting undressed.”

“You wouldn’t!” she quavered. Oh, she was frightened! She was only a woman after all. “Sigefrith!” she cried desperately.

Leof claps his hand over her mouth, pins her against the well, pulls up her skirt, and speaks to her with a chilling calm, threatening her with the idea she’s about to be raped, since nothing else worked. He even threatens murder:

'Now listen here!'

“Now listen here! My son doesn’t treat you as he should because he knows what I did to his mother, and he is afraid of turning into me. Though God knows his mother was a saint beside the likes of you! But I’m already damned, and I’m watching you. You don’t have to love my son, but you shall treat him with the respect a wife owes her husband. And if you ever—ever—ever lift your hand or your voice against my grandchildren, I won’t mind damning myself utterly for their sake. I know how to kill a woman so it won’t show how she died!“

He thinks he has her beaten then, and he removes his hand from her mouth and steps away.

Her blue eyes were no longer like anything he had ever seen on his wife. He had never seen such hatred in a woman before. He immediately resolved to return to the castle to sleep, even if it meant risking a meeting with Alred in the morning.

'I knew you wouldn't do it.'

“I knew you wouldn’t do it,” she said with an ugly, trembling laugh. “I doubt you even could. You’re nothing but a pitiful old drunk who hasn’t been a real man in years.“

And then we have one of the ugliest but most stunning moments of Leof Power, wherein Leof teaches Hilda not to insult his manhood by introducing her to his manhood:

His left hand shot out and pinned her head against the wall by her neck.

His left hand shot out and pinned her head against the wall by her neck. The right he sent fumbling around her skirts in pursuit of her own hand. “Give me your hand, Hilda,” he growled. “Give me your hand and I shall show you your wouldn’t and your couldn’t.”

She made a choking sound in her throat, and he knew she would suffocate if he held her thus much longer. But he found her hand and thrust it up underneath his tunic.

'Still think I couldn't, my dear?'

“Still think I couldn’t, my dear?” he said with an uglier laugh than her own. “There’s your real man for you. Still want him?”

He waited until her face had gone from red to purple, and then he released her.

“And don’t think it’s because I have any great desire for you. It is simply what real men like. I could and I would. Don’t make me say it again.”

Her blue eyes were wet with tears of pain and fright.

Leof’s grin alone is stomach-​turning. :shock: 

It’s not a proud moment, but it’s a powerful one, and I’m glad we have a character like Leof who is capable of going into these dark places. We have young Sigefrith to be our collective conscience when he later regrets what his father did to Hilda. But we’re so sick of her by this point that we’re like a little cartoon devil sitting on Leof’s shoulder and rooting him on.

2. Leofric and his niece trick the Count Regent of Flanders in “Robert is cowed by the clan”

Published: May 3, 2010
Chapter Date: February 131086

This chapter was an instant classic. Leof and his niece Gunnora have hit upon a plan to trick the young Count Regent of Flanders into helping Nora avoid an undesired marriage. But since the chapter is told from Robert’s point of view, it’s only gradually that we see their boisterous eccentricities jell into a devious scheme.

Leof is in fine feather after those dark weeks following Alred’s suicide attempt, and Nora is the perfect partner for him. She’s a female Leof to a shade—more Leof-​like than any of his own children. They’re brilliant together, and it’s fun to watch. Here’s Leof with the reveal:

“Hmm… That’s true…” Leofric said. “We wouldn’t. Indeed, we have no desire to spend much time in Flanders at all. We have friends awaiting us in Tournai who hope to be moving on. But if I must go to La Bassée and wait months—nay, even years—for Britmar to return and come to his sister’s aid, then I must.” He lifted his hands helplessly. “Sacred law says I must.”

Robert said, “I see. I see what you are doing here, Hingwar. Do not think I don’t.”

Leofric patted his shoulder. “I reckon you might, runt. You always did seem a clever boy. But all the brains in the world won’t help you when a man has you by the balls.”

'I see what you are doing here, Hingwar.'

Gunnora laughed. Robert’s cheeks burned with humiliation.

“If I help your niece,” he said, “I expect you to sign away your right to every inch of land at La Bassée, and every penny it might have earned you in the last twenty years.”

Leofric said, “Naturally. I can be a gentleman when I get my way. Don’t be sore, runt. It doesn’t cost you much. Only a little farm somewhere in Flanders, though I do insist that the cottage be pretty. Anything less would be unworthy of this beauty here. Or, if you have the balls to write to England and refuse on grounds of severe personal displeasure, it won’t cost you anything but a diplomatic point or two. It’s up to you.”

Robert huffed in exasperation. “Tell me, do you often speak of—balls before your niece?”

Leofric shrugged. “Fairly often. But she’s usually the one who brings it up.”

'But she's usually the one who brings it up.'

Teehee! >8) 

1. Leofric has a heart-​to-​heart with Cedric in “Cedric learns what matters”

Published: August 11, 2008
Chapter Date: December 141085

This chapter takes the #1 spot because it’s truly the “Best Of” Leof at his best. His late experiences with Hetty and Alred have shaken him and almost destroyed him, but having survived, he has learned a few things about the meaning of love. In this chapter he is papa, patriarch, lover, and Christian all together.

Leof had wanted to say goodbye before departing on a pilgrimage, but he begins by patiently listening to Cedric bemoaning his problems with girls, and gives him some plain-​spoken but useful father-​son advice.

Then he takes his boy on his lap, cuddles him, and gives him the “real” advice: everything Cedric will ever need to know about love.

Drowsily Cedric decided to ask, “What did you want to talk to me about?”

'What did you want to talk to me about?'

His father chuckled softly and squeezed him. “It doesn’t matter either, Cedric. Some nonsense about how proud I am of you, and how you must behave for Sigefrith and take care of your sisters and so on. But that doesn’t matter. This is all that matters.” His father squeezed him again, and they rocked together like a boat riding out a tall wave.

“Family?” Cedric guessed.

“That, and… the rest,” he said thoughtfully. “Love, I suppose I mean. Listen here.”

His father pulled him upright, but he held him too close for Cedric to look up into his face. He felt his father’s words blowing warmly over his hair.

He felt his father's words blowing warmly over his hair.

“Now, I’ve lived fifty years upon this earth, and I died once and was certain I was about to die another time, so I know a few things even Cubby doesn’t know.”

Cedric giggled.

“And I’m telling you, runt, the only thing that matters is love. That’s the only thing you can take with you when you die. Not your body, not your gold, not your cattle, not your country. Love is the only thing. And not the love you get, but the love you give in this life. It’s strange how that is, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter whether you’re loved in return—if you love, that love is yours. On earth as it is in Heaven.”

Cedric closed his eyes and shivered. His father’s body was warm all around him, but some part of him was cold, in the remotest regions of his own Inside.

“Don’t go, Papa,” he whispered.

“I’m bound to go someday, runt,” his father grumbled, “and not just to Winchester. But that doesn’t matter, because you have me inside of you.”

'But I shall miss you.'

“But I shall miss you,” Cedric whimpered. Like a cat he rubbed his face against the scratchy wool of his father’s tunic, letting the tears soak in. It was a deliciously melancholy luxury, missing his father before his father was even gone.

“So here’s what you shall do on those days,” his father said. “You shall take your own favorite runt onto your lap like this, and squeeze him till he squeaks, and tell him what I just told you.”

“Young Leofric,” Cedric sighed dreamily.

“Young Leofric,” his father chuckled. “Tell Young Leofric what matters, and tell him not to worry so much about what doesn’t. And tell him to do the same thing to his own runts, and so on forever. And if you do that, by God’s name, wherever I am—in Heaven or in Hell as I am on earth—I shall be the happiest soul there.”

'I shall be the happiest soul there.'

Hard to believe this is the same man who stuffed his daughter-in-law’s hand down his pants only four years before. But that’s Leof: he’s so wide, there’s room for all of that in there—the good and the bad. And he just keeps growing.

Recap of the Top 10

  1. Leofric has a heart-​to-​heart with Cedric in “Cedric learns what matters”
  2. Leofric and his niece trick the Count Regent of Flanders in “Robert is cowed by the clan”
  3. Leofric has a talk with Hilda in “Leofric does something”
  4. Leofric writes a poem to Hetty in “Hetty reads the one word”
  5. Leofric lectures Eadie in “Eadgith’s priorities are rearranged”
  6. Leofric stands up to Hetty in “Leofric issues his command”
  7. Leofric saves Kraaia from Andronikos in “Kraaia meets a man strong enough”
  8. Leofric brings Leia to visit Lady Eadgith in “Lady Eadgith feels like a birthday girl”
  9. Leofric tries to save Alred in “Leofric meets his match”
  10. Leofric comes back from the dead, as told in “Vash asks one question”

Some runners-​up

How do you feel about Leof? He’s one of my most controversial characters, as evidenced by quotable quotes like this:

“Leofric — I didn’t like him at first, but affairs with Matilda change everything.”


and this:

“I can’t hate him, he has his moments, but I can greatly dislike him!”



As for me, I believe I would love him less if he weren’t so awful at times. But even if you can’t stand him, I think everyone would agree that he’s a powerful character. Lothere wouldn’t be the same without him, and not only because most of these storylines wouldn’t have happened. ;-) 

Finally, I couldn’t talk about Leof Power without showing you this:

Leofric + Mirror = Phwoar!