Pilgrim of Death: The Janna Chronicles 4
As the small band of pilgrims passed through Wiltune, Janna saw a crowd gathered into a shouting, gesticulating knot outside a cottage ahead. At their center was a cowering wretch who groaned and howled in pain. Those standing close enough kicked out at him or stretched to pull out tufts of his hair. Dogs barked in excitement and pushed past legs to get closer, slavering over the scent of fresh blood.
Ever soft-hearted for someone in trouble, Janna quickened her steps to come to the man’s aid, but was stopped by a firm hand on her arm. “Leave him be, lass,” a gravelly voice advised. “There’s nowt you can do for him now.”
“Who is he? What’s he done to deserve such treatment?” Janna strained against the pilgrim’s grasp. She was angry that he seemed so lacking in compassion, but was even more furious that he had taken it upon himself to tell her what to do.
“’Tis the moneyer.” The pilgrim gave a grimace of distaste. “I heard talk among the guests at the abbey about him. He’s been issuing base coins, adding lead to silver to make up the weight. But he’s been found out and has paid the penalty for his crime.” The pilgrim looked from Janna to the fracas. “Punished, aye, but it seems his fellow countrymen will also vent their grievances, for he must have short-changed all of ’em in his time. Leave him be, lass. There’s nowt you can do to help him.”
Janna nodded in understanding, although she felt helpless in the face of the moneyer’s pain. She knew that the penalty for moneyers who shaved coins or made them short-weight was dreadful indeed; knew also that with her knowledge of herbs and healing she might well have been able to ease his hurt. The problem was, she had neither the herbs nor the means to make up any potions or healing salves. She tried to reassure her uneasy conscience with the thought that there were others from whom the moneyer could seek help, like Sister Anne at Wiltune Abbey. The infirmarian was near at hand, and had medicaments already prepared for use.
Janna stopped struggling against the pilgrim’s restraint. At once he removed his hand from her arm, and gave her a friendly smile. Like the other pilgrims she was now in company with, he was wearing a broad-brimmed hat with a tin scallop shell pinned to its brim, a sign of their pilgrimage across the ocean to the shrine of St James. He was a goblin of a man, grey-haired and hunch-shouldered under the weight of the pack he carried. She wondered why he struggled with such a burden when most of the pilgrims carried only a light pack and a walking staff.
He in turn was studying her closely. “Allow me to introduce myself properly, mistress. My name is Ulf,” he said, and bobbed his head in greeting.
“And my name’s Johanna, but I’m usually called Janna.” Made somewhat uncomfortable by his intent gaze, Janna turned away. She was not used to being called “mistress,” but she realized Ulf had been fooled by the costly gown she wore. It seemed the new apparel given to her by the nuns when she left the abbey had conferred on her a higher status that was unexpected but not necessarily unwelcome.
Ulf hesitated for a moment, as if hoping to engage her in further conversation. But Janna hung back, reluctant to pursue their acquaintance until she’d had time to decide whether or not to reveal her true identity and, with it, her own low place in society. Reason argued against it: she was now a threat to several people who had already taken steps to try to bring about her death. If traveling under the guise of a wealthy young woman could keep her safe, it was certainly worth consideration.
She lagged behind Ulf, hoping he would walk on without her. After a disappointed glance, he strode ahead, giving a series of ear-piercing whistles as he went. A huge, pale hound emerged from among the tight knot of angry townsfolk and loped obediently to its master’s side. It had a smooth, short-haired coat, small pricked ears and a long tail. Noting its ferocious expression, Janna resolved to keep well away from it in the future. But Ulf seemed unafraid as he walked on, the dog pacing beside him.
Janna lingered as they moved beyond the confines of Wiltune and out across the downs, looking back for one last glimpse of the town and the abbey that had sheltered her and been her home for the past year. It was almost noon, and the sisters would be sitting down for dinner in the refectory, signing to each other to pass the fish, the salt, the butter, or whatever else was needed. Janna wondered if she’d ever see any of them again. There was great sadness in the thought.
She could no longer hear the bells, even though she strained to catch one last sound. Their constant jangle had dominated her life: the great bell that summoned everyone to prayers during the day and through the night, and the smaller bell that had regulated their lives: waking, eating and sleeping. Janna had thought she’d never get used to their sound, but in time the bells had ceased to disturb her other than as a reminder of where to go and what to do next. In their absence, the silence seemed oppressive.
She quickened her pace to catch up with the pilgrims. They were seven in number, and they all traveled on foot. Just as well, Janna thought, for she would not have been able to keep up with them had they been mounted. But their leader, a bluff and kindly man called Bernard, had welcomed her into the group, along with a girl some years younger, and had warned them that they traveled slowly to accommodate his elderly mother.
Janna hoped they would not take too long about their journey. She was on fire with impatience to reach Ambresberie, for there she would leave the pilgrims and go to the abbey to enquire after Sister Emanuelle, who was once the infirmarian there. Sister Emanuelle, whom Janna had known for most of her life only as her mother Eadgyth, the wortwyf who had used her knowledge to heal and care for all who came her way, and who had died because of it.
Turning her back on the life she had once known, Janna whispered a quiet goodbye to those she’d come to know and love during her stay at Wiltune Abbey, and also those outside it, like Godric, and the lord Hugh. She looked down at the fine blue dress she was wearing, and stroked the silky wool with careful fingers before raising her hand to her hair and the gauzy veil that covered it. It amused her to think that, if she met Hugh now, he would think she was a lady and worthy of his respect. She’d read the admiration in his eyes while, dressed as a lay sister, she had tended his injuries at the abbey. She was sure that, if he believed she came from a wealthy family and had a dowry to match, he would have courted her, for his fortune depended on a prestigious marriage. There was no future for him with the daughter of a lowly wortwyf.
The scarring memory of the last time she’d seen Godric flashed into Janna’s mind. He’d been in the marketplace with Cecily, playing with Hamo. Their laughter had brightened the afternoon, but had struck a deep chill in her heart. She reminded herself once more that Godric was her friend, no more than that. If he’d found happiness with Cecily then she could only wish them a long and happy life together; it was the future that mattered to Janna now, not the past.
“I heard tell you come from Wiltune Abbey, mistress?” A voice at Janna’s side dragged her back to the present. She turned to the girl who now kept pace with her.
“Yes, I’ve been at Wiltune for the past year,” Janna confirmed, speaking in the language of the English, for that was how she’d been addressed. She struggled to remember the girl’s name from Bernard’s introduction. Winifred?
“What’s it like, life in the abbey?” She stared at Janna with an intent expression.
“Difficult.” Janna considered for a moment, wondering if she’d been unfair. “But not if you have a vocation,” she amended.
“I have a vocation.” There was no doubt in the girl’s voice.
“Then you’re going the wrong way for Wiltune.”
“I’m not bound for Wiltune. My destiny lies elsewhere.” Winifred was silent a moment. “Do you travel all the way to Oxeneford with us, mistress?” She cast a disparaging glance at Janna’s blue gown and soft leather slippers.
“No, I go only to Ambresberie.”
“To the abbey?”
“Yes. But not to stay.”
The girl shot a swift look over her shoulder at the path behind them. She turned back to Janna. “I wish to know all there is about the life of a religious. Will you tell me how it is to live a life devoted to God?”
Intrigued, Janna cocked her head to study her companion more carefully. She was dressed in what Janna felt sure was her best gown, bound at the waist with a shabby cord from which dangled a worn purse made from coarse leather. Her gown was such as a villein might wear, long sleeved and hanging loose; although clean, it was patched and definitely homespun. How could such a girl afford the dowry to give her entry into an abbey? It seemed rude to ask.
“Do you go to an abbey in Oxeneford? Why not stay closer to your home?” she asked.
“There is nothing and no-one to keep me here,” Winifred said, and glanced once more over her shoulder.
Janna wondered why she seemed so tense—and also why she’d avoided answering the question. “Which abbey do you go to? Do you have a place saved for you?” she tried again.
“No, I don’t.” Winifred’s lips curved into a sly smile. “But the abbey will welcome me once they see what I have.”
“And what is that?” But the girl’s lips tightened on her secret, and again she checked the track behind them. Janna wondered if, in spite of her brave words, she was having second thoughts about her chosen path. Or had she run away from home to follow her vocation? Did she now fear pursuit? Having been forced to flee from her own home, Janna felt a spark of fellow feeling for the girl.
“Have you visited Oxeneford in the past? Is that why you wish to go there now?”
“No, I have never traveled beyond my home before. But once I’m accepted into the convent, I intend to stay. Unlike you, mistress. How is it that you have left such an important abbey as Wiltune to take to the road?”
Janna shrugged. She, too, wanted to keep her secrets close to her chest. “I found I had no vocation,” she said, sticking to a small truth.
“Then why do you go to Ambresberie?”
Janna debated how best to satisfy the girl’s curiosity. “I go to enquire after my mother,” she said at last.
“Your mother is at Ambresberie?”
“No.” Janna hesitated. “My mother is dead.” A sudden rush of misery brought hot, pricking tears. She blinked them away.”There is no need to call me ‘mistress,’” she said, anxious to change the subject. “My name is Janna, short for Johanna. And you are Winifred?”
“Yes, but not for too much longer. I shall ask to be called Sister Edith once I’m at the abbey.” A sudden gleam of humor lit the girl’s intense expression and softened the firm line of her jaw. “I’m so glad to find someone young in this company. They’re all so old! And we walk so slowly.”
The Sin of Pride? Or was that the Sin of Judgment? Janna couldn’t be sure, and wished that Agnes was present to tell her. Agnes was always signaling sins, imaginary or otherwise. She would miss Agnes and her sense of fun. But there was no point in showing disapproval. The nuns would soon discipline Winifred for her lack of charity! She contented herself with saying instead: “You’d walk slowly too, if you’d traveled across land and sea to the shrine of St James at Compostela, and now had to go all the way home again.”
“Is that where they’ve been? All the way to Compostela! Oh, how I would love to make that pilgrimage.” Winifred’s face was luminous with wonder.
“Did I hear someone mention the shrine of our most beloved saint?” Ulf bobbed up once more. He grinned at Janna. She saw that he was still accompanied by the huge hound, and took several steps away from it, just in case. The animal had something clamped in its mouth. Janna hoped that whatever it guarded so carefully might discourage it from wanting to take a bite out of either her or Winifred.
“Have you visited the saint’s shrine? Were you there too?” Winifred peeked out from her refuge behind Janna, glancing nervously at the dog as she did so.
“Indeed I was. We all made the pilgrimage, except for you two young women, of course.” The pilgrim sketched a quick bow in Winifred’s direction. “My name is Ulf,” he introduced himself, and patted his pack. “When next we stop, I shall show you some of the wonders I was fortunate enough to procure while we were there, some of ’em even from our beloved saint himself.”
He’d turned to address his last remark to Janna, who was a little confused by his determination to interest her in his wares until she realized that he must think, because of the fine clothes she wore, that he could tempt her into buying something. She tried hard not to smile, lest she encourage him. She had once been duped by a relic seller, but had learned her lesson from it and would not be tricked again. Winifred, however, didn’t hesitate.
“Oh, I’d be most honored if you would show me your sacred relics,” she breathed eagerly.
Ulf ignored her. “I have a lock of hair from the head of our blessed saint, who was a most beloved disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he told Janna. “I even have a scrap of fabric from our Lady’s own gown.”
Janna nodded, unimpressed.
“Of course, the saint’s hand now rests at Wiltune Abbey.” Ulf jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the town they’d just left. “Having been to Compostela to view the shrine of St James, we decided we couldn’t return home without visiting his hand as well. ’Tis fortunate we heard of the empress’s generous gift to the abbey or we’d have gone on to Radinges in the hope of seeing it there.”
“The saint’s relic is not a gift, it’s a loan, and only until the abbey church at Radinges is completed,” Janna corrected Ulf. “With all the unrest in the country, the empress feared for its safety—that’s why she brought the hand to Wiltune.”
“And I was awestruck at the sight of it,” said Ulf, patting his pack again. “But I warrant I have other relics that will astound and amaze you.”
“Yet you’re prepared to part with them—at a price?”
Ulf had the grace to look slightly abashed. “An offering! They’re not for sale,” he protested, adding, “and I will suffer sorely to see ’em go.”
“I have no coin to make an offering, but I would love to see them,” Winifred said eagerly. “Where did you come by such wonders?”
“Oh, here and there, from pilgrims and from…er…merchants.” Ulf reddened as he noticed the twinkle in Janna’s eye. “They’re all absolutely genuine!” he blustered.
“We’ll look at them later, when we stop for a rest.” Janna meant to keep her promise. Even though she didn’t believe a word of it, Ulf seemed a likable rogue and she was interested to see what outlandish objects he might produce.
She surveyed the group that walked ahead, strangers now but in time she would come to know them. As well as those to whom she’d already spoken, there were Morcar and his wife, Golde. Janna wasn’t sure if that was her real name or just a description of her reddish-gold hair. She was somewhat younger than her portly husband, closer in age to Janna and Winifred than the rest of the group, although she’d adopted the staid, rather matronly air of the comfortably married. There was also Adam, who seemed to wear a permanent scowl, especially when he brushed up against Bernard. They were talking together now, and although Bernard had his hand on the pilgrim’s shoulder, everything about Adam shouted that this show of friendship was unwelcome. Janna wondered what had happened between them to cause such hostility. His pilgrimage seemed to have done little to improve Adam’s disposition, but perhaps it was more that he preferred his own company and the long journey in close proximity with others had proved too abrasive and wearying.
Janna studied them all carefully. They were a disparate group. Bernard and Morcar were in their middle-age, while Adam looked somewhat older, as did Ulf. Juliana, Bernard’s mother, was by far the oldest and the slowest, but all matched their pace to hers, never walking too far ahead. The fact that they could afford to go on a pilgrimage and that they spoke the language of the Normans suggested they came from a far higher level of society than Winifred, although they, too, were dressed in plain, serviceable garments suitable for a hard life on the road. Where had they slept along the way? What had they eaten? More importantly: where would Janna sleep and what would she eat along this journey?
She touched the purse concealed beneath her gown; it contained information salvaged from the burnt wreckage of her home, along with Emma’s generous reward for the part Janna had played in saving her betrothed from the gallows. She now had coins enough to pay her way and was grateful for it. The pilgrims had stayed at the guest hall at Wiltune Abbey and she knew they would have made a donation for the privilege. Even though they might try to beg shelter and food along their journey, chances were they would have to pay for it, as would she. Janna hoped they might stop soon; the thought of the nuns at their dinner had set her stomach rumbling with hunger.
She had known hunger and hardship, but not in the abbey. She gave a rueful smile as she recalled her early life with her mother, when everything they grew was either eaten or traded along with her mother’s potions and her skill in healing. Even so, they’d often been forced to roam the forest, risking discovery from the king’s forester while they hunted for nuts, berries and mushrooms, and the eggs from birds’ nests. Small creatures were trapped, and nettles, weeds and the wild seeds from hedgerows were gathered; anything edible to sustain them through the lean and hungry times. Now she might have to get used to that fare all over again.
Grimacing at the thought, Janna hurried to catch up with the others. Winifred matched her steps, seeming determined to keep her company along the way. Janna looked sidelong at her companion, wondering what Winifred could own that she was so sure would guarantee her a place at Oxeneford—or elsewhere perhaps, for Winifred still hadn’t answered Janna’s question about her destination. Certes she must realize there would be no place for her at any abbey if she had no dowry to offer in return. She must have left—or run away from—her home with something of substance.
From the position of the sun, Janna judged they were walking northeast, following a straight track across the downs. It was scorching hot, she could feel sweat pooling in her armpits, and wished she owned a broad-brimmed hat like the pilgrims. She longed to stop under a shady tree, preferably beside a river, for her throat felt parched and scratchy. Her new shoes were beginning to rub her heels and pinch her toes. Janna debated taking them off and walking barefoot, as once she used to do. But her year in the abbey, wearing either boots or sandals, had softened her feet. She decided to persevere for a little while longer.
Having caught up with the group, she slowed down, letting Winifred walk ahead while she dropped back to keep company with Juliana. Master Bernard’s mother appeared to be walking with some difficulty. Janna had observed such a gait before, and knew it was caused by a stiffness of the hips that would become progressively more crippling. But the woman applied her long staff with vigor, using it to support her weight. It seemed a handy aid, and Janna decided to take time out at the next clump of bushes to cut a staff of her own.
“God be with you, my lady,” she said. “My name is Johanna, but I am called Janna by all who know me.” She spoke once more in the Norman tongue taught to her by her mother.
“I am Dame Juliana.” The woman surveyed Janna, taking good note of her appearance. “Those shoes will never take you all the way to Oxeneford,” she observed.
“But I go only to the abbey at Ambresberie.”
“Just as well.” Juliana turned her nose up and gave the air a contemptuous sniff. “A highborn lady traveling with no mount, and only the clothes you stand up in,” she muttered. “Why are you keeping company with us? Surely you have your own servants to escort you?”
Janna felt a wry amusement that her clothes had so deceived the pilgrim band. “No, my lady, I have no servants,” she answered. “And I value your company for otherwise I would have to make the journey alone.”
The old woman gave her a sidelong glance. “Hmph.”
“You have come a long way,” Janna observed. “Did you find the journey very hard?”
Juliana was silent. Janna wondered if she hadn’t heard the question. Unless she’d done something to offend the old woman? Her wrinkled face had clamped into a wary suspicion that left no room for friendliness. Janna was about to walk on when Juliana said, “We’ve been gone many moons, ’tis true, journeying by both land and sea. A merchant ship took us to the shores of Galicia and from there we walked the Camino, following the path of stars with other pilgrims.”
“The path of stars?”
Juliana pointed the tip of her staff upward. “The Camino is named for that path of stars that blazes its glittering trail across heaven every night. We followed it, as all pilgrims follow it, for it shows the way to the shrine of St James. ‘Santiago’ they call him over there, ‘Santiago of Compostela.’ But the correct name of the place where the saint lies buried is ‘campus de la stella.’ It means ‘the field of stars.’”
Janna remembered some of her earlier concerns. “Where did you stay along the journey?” she asked. “Did you sleep in fields or find shelter at monasteries?”
“Both.” Juliana’s mouth twitched into a malicious smile as she surveyed Janna’s finery. “If we found a monastery along the route we sought shelter there, but there were many times when we were forced to rest overnight in a barn, a cave, or a field. We have known hunger, thirst and great hardship along the way.” She gave Janna a disdainful glance. “It’s not a life you are used to, or that you will find comfortable, mistress.”
Janna chuckled. “Do not let these fine clothes deceive you,” she said. “I have known more hardship than you can ever imagine.” She was about to ask the old woman if she considered her pilgrimage had been worthwhile, but decided her question might be considered impertinent. “Was it very wonderful, the shrine of St James?” she asked instead.
“Truly wonderful.” Juliana’s face glowed in rapturous reminiscence. “A cathedral has been built to house his remains, which lie in the crypt below. Marble steps lead down to his tomb, which is a silver coffer, richly embossed. In truth, I was so crippled by the journey, and so exhausted when first we arrived there, I feared I had no strength left for our return. But I prayed to the saint to make me well, strong enough to undertake our journey home, for I fear that great ill will befall us, befall my son.” Juliana paused to cross herself. “We should look to our own souls, and leave justice to God,” she said, her voice so low that Janna could scarcely hear her.
Janna frowned in bewilderment. Juliana’s words had the ring of prophecy, yet the countryside around seemed utterly peaceful, while the purpose of the pilgrims’ journey must surely put them on the side of the angels. Yet Janna had heard enough news from visitors to the abbey to know that peace was an illusion in this year of our Lord, 1141. Following the disastrous battle at Lincoln, England’s King Stephen was now incarcerated at Bristou castle. His cousin, the Empress Matilda, had gathered her supporters together and had marched to London to claim his crown, but it was rumored that she’d been put to flight by a horde of angry citizens led by an army of Flemish mercenaries who answered only to Stephen’s queen, Matilda of Boulogne. Despite this setback, it was widely thought that the king’s cause was hopeless and that this check to the empress’s ambition was merely temporary.
“Think you that the civil war is not yet over, my lady?” Janna asked. “Do you fear that more fighting will come our way to upset our journey?”
The old woman shot her a sharp look. “I know naught of that,” she muttered. “I listen only to a mother’s heart.” She bowed her head, looking old, tired, and suddenly vulnerable.
Janna frowned, puzzled by the unexpected change in her companion’s demeanor. “Is it not possible for you to travel on horseback so that the journey will pass more quickly and easily?” she ventured.
Juliana pursed her lips, then intoned:
“Stand at the crossroads and look,
Ask for the ancient paths,
Ask where the good way is,
And walk in it,
And you will find rest for your souls.”
Janna wondered if the words were her own, or had come from a book of God such as she had seen in the abbey. She didn’t like to show her ignorance by asking. It seemed clear that the text had sustained Juliana on her journey, and she wondered what the old woman had done in the past that she needed to find rest for her soul at the cost of such discomfort.
“You look tired. May I help you in some way?” she tried.
Juliana shook her head. Although the woman was looking at her, Janna had the feeling she couldn’t see her, for her eyes looked through and beyond her to something far away.
Whatever Juliana saw there did not please her, for her lips thinned into a grim line. “You should not be here,” she said, “for death follows you. You, and my son.”
“Death?” Alarm sharpened Janna’s voice. “What do you mean?” But Juliana bent her head and would not answer.
Janna walked beside her for a while longer, wincing as blisters rubbed deeper, stinging her feet. She became aware that Juliana was observing her once more, watching her limp along in her new shoes. She hoped the old woman didn’t think she was mocking her own gait. She quickened her pace, feeling too uncomfortable now to linger in the old lady’s presence. She crested a small hill, and caught sight of a thin ribbon of water coiling like a silver snake through green trees below. She swallowed hard over her dry throat, anticipating the pleasures of a long, cool drink.
A sudden shout jerked her to a standstill. It was Bernard, hurrying back to the stragglers and gesturing urgently to one side. Janna noticed that the pilgrims ahead of her had already turned off the path, moving toward the river with its sheltering screen of trees. As Bernard came closer, she understood the reason why.
“Riders ahead,” he panted. “Get off the road. Hurry now!” He caught hold of his mother’s arm and half dragged, half carried her along, hastily explaining his actions to Janna as she kept pace with them. “We live in uncertain times. Even the barons who are supposed to protect us are known to cut down anyone who stands between them and their lust for new land and castles. And their subjects follow their example, knowing they will not be called to account for their actions. We’ve heard several tales of travelers robbed and left for dead, so any bands encountered on the road are a source of concern. Come quickly if you value your life.”
Catching his alarm, Janna quickened her footsteps. Once safe within their bushy cover, the pilgrims stood motionless, listening to the muted thunder of the horses’ hooves and waiting for the danger to pass. At last, when all was quiet, Bernard gave the signal to move on. Janna forged ahead, pushing her way through weeds and reedy grass, keen to slake her thirst as soon as possible.
“You’re in a great hurry, Johanna,” Bernard observed as he caught up to her.
“I’m hot and thirsty, Master Bernard.” Janna quickly wiped a strand of damp hair from her forehead and tucked it under her veil. She remembered then that she was no longer in the abbey and didn’t have to hide her hair. In fact, she didn’t have to wear a veil at all if she didn’t want to, but at least it gave her a small amount of protection from the sun. “Where are we?” she asked.
“We’ve come off an ancient road that people hereabouts call the theod herepath.” Janna nodded, understanding that he meant the “people’s way.” “Ahead of us is the River Avon,” Bernard continued. Janna could not see the river now, but she could hear the cool sound of running water in the distance. She licked her dry lips in thirsty anticipation as she listened to Bernard.
“Sarum, that the Normans call Sarisberie, is to the right of us. Once we’ve had a rest, we’ll follow the path of the river until we come to Ambresberie. That’s probably the safest way for us to travel now.”
“How far is it to Ambresberie?”
“Some days away. My mother tires quickly, and we’ll also travel more slowly now that we’ve left the road.” Bernard gave Janna a worried glance. “I fear you are not clad for rough living, mistress. We may have to beg several nights’ shelter in a farmer’s barn, or even sleep under a hedge if naught else comes our way.”
“I have slept in far rougher places, I assure you.”
Bernard nodded, although Janna could see he didn’t believe her. “We’ll make a stop once we come to the river. You can have a drink there, and something to eat.” The worried frown came back as he surveyed Janna’s empty hands. “You have no pack? And no cloak for protection against the cool of the evening?”
“No. And nothing to eat, either.” Janna hoped that, if they did stop at a barn for the night, the farmer might be persuaded to provide them with some bread and ale, or perhaps even some warm milk from a cow.
“The abbey gave us some provisions for the road, and what we have, we share,” Bernard promised. He turned to address the pilgrims. “There seems to be a gap in the undergrowth over there,” he said, and pointed with his staff. “Wait here while I look for access to the river.”
He set off, full of purpose. Janna hurried after him, determined to waste no time in slaking her thirst. She had almost reached the river’s edge when she noticed Bernard check abruptly, and stoop down to scrutinize a long, dark log that lay nestled deep in thick grass. He made the sign of a cross and sank to his knees. Intrigued, she came to his side, wondering what it was that smelled so putrid. As Bernard reached out a shaking hand, a swarm of flies buzzed up around his face. With an oath, he swiped them away.
A sickening jolt brought Janna to her knees. It wasn’t a fallen log that Bernard was touching so reluctantly. It was the body of a man.
Love, revenge, secrets – and murder – in a medieval kingdom at war.
Spies, treachery, a dangerously attractive pilgrim and a murder at Stonehenge test Janna’s courage and ingenuity to the limit as she continues the search for her father in the company of pilgrims and jongleurs. She learns the meaning of betrayal, treachery and heartbreak, while her quest brings her ever closer to the royal court and the dangers of the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda.
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Felicity Pulman is the award-winning author of numerous novels for children and teenagers, including A Ring Through Time, the Shalott trilogy, and Ghost Boy, which is now in pre-production for a movie. I, Morgana was her first novel for adults, inspired by her early research into Arthurian legend and her journey to the UK and France to ‘walk in the footsteps of her characters’ before writing the Shalott trilogy – something she loves to do. Her interest in crime and …