Read Duncton Tales Online

Authors: William Horwood

Tags: #Fantasy

Duncton Tales



Volume One of






An Imprint of

First published in 1991

by HarperCollins

77-85 Fulham Palace Road,

Hammersmith, London W6 8JB


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Copyright © William Horwood 1991

ePub, Mobi 
and LIT 
editions v1.0 by Dead^Man May 2011

v1.1 Sept, 2011


The Author asserts the moral right to be

identified as the author of this work


catalogue record for this book is available

from the British Library


ISBN 0 00 223676 1


Typeset in Linotron Caledonia by

Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


Printed and bound in Great Britain by

HarperCollins Book Manufacturing, Glasgow






Part I

A Pilgrim in Winter


Part II

Darkness Newborn


Part III



Part IV

The Sound of Silence




Based on Mayweed’s map found in Seven Barrows






Greetings mole, and welcome.

Today, when moledom has its liberty, and all systems allow moles to speak their minds without fear of retribution or attack, and to worship as they will, only pilgrims like yourself visit sleepy Duncton Wood.

Moles reared to a sense of history, who can never quite forget that their present freedoms were won by Duncton moles, and who, if only once in their lives, wish to visit this old place of ours, and see the tunnels and trek the surface where our great forebears lived.

All moledom knows that it was they who a century ago, in those dark days when disciples of the cruel Word spread down from the north with their tyranny of dogma and destruction, had the courage to raise their talons in defence of faith in the Stone, and risked

and sometimes lost

their lives that future generations might be free.

The inspiring story of that generation of Duncton moles has often been told, most notably by Woodruff of Arbor Low, whose Duncton Chronicles is as good and true account of the war of Word on Stone as is ever likely to be scribed.

Yet you have asked for a different tale, which makes you rare, and doubly welcome. You’ve asked to be told the subsequent history of Duncton Wood, from the time of the arrival of a certain female scribe called Privet, and a modest little text she brought which is generally called the Book of Tales.

How very interesting! What an acute mole you are! Most moles who come here as you have done, with the look of the hungry scholar in their eyes and their scribing paw at the ready, are not in the slightest bit interested in the Book of Tales. Oh no, they hurry old tale-tellers like me past such things, and try to get us to tell them about the lost Book of Silence, which is the greatest of the Seven Books of Moledom.

But not you! You keep asking about Privet and the Book of Tales, and you evidently know something about it too, because you’ve been seeking information about certain other moles, like Cobbett and Husk, whose names are, to those who know about such things, also associated with Tales.

So they’ve sent you to me, for they know I’m one of the last of the generation whose kin were living at the time and remember something of the facts, even though they know I vowed I’d never talk about such things again.

But old moles can change their minds, and there’s something about you I recognize in myself when I was young, and, like you, just a little bit too earnest. But your heart’s in the right place, and you’ve understood something which few others have ever seemed to: there would have been no Book of Silence, no saving and redemption of moledom, without the ‘little matter of Tales’ (to quote one of your more impatient predecessors on the scholarly trail) in the first place. Aye, in its beginning is its ending, in its ending is its beginning.

Mole, I’ll talk to you because you’re willing to listen to things others deem unimportant and you’re willing to indulge an old mole to get at the truth.

Now, you’ve asked if you might scribe my words down, and so you may. But I’ve brought you here to the Stone Clearing in the High Wood so that if exaggeration or romance or an untoward love of horror, drama, thrills or even sensuality should begin to affect your scribing paw, you may glance up at the Stone and be reminded to scribe only as truly as I shall seek to tell …

No, no, tell me not your name. It is easier if I know it not until I have done, for I’ve a feeling this is the last time I shall ever tell this tale, and I have an old mole’s fancy to tell it, as it were, to allmole, not just one. And anyway, as you’ll see, there’s subtlety in Duncton Wood and subtlety in this: anonymity is of the very essence of what I have to say.

As for your questions, there was a time in the decades after the conclusion of the war of Word upon Stone when many moles asked as you have also done: ‘What of the Book of Silence? Where is it? What is its significance?”

To which the answers were once many and the controversies varied, but it may be said that most moles at that time believed that this last Book had not been scribed
and would never be
. Its nature, even wise moles said, was unscribable. Yet in all generations there rise up a few exceptional moles who question, and who doubt, and in whom the spirit of enquiry and desire for truth is so powerful that they sacrifice much to wander moledom all their “lives in a search for satisfaction of it.

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