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Authors: Stephen R. Lawhead

Tuck

OTHER BOOKS BY STEPHEN R. LAWHEAD

KING RAVEN TRILOGY:

Hood

Scarlet

Tuck

Patrick, Son of Ireland

THE CELTIC CRUSADES:

The Iron Lance

The Black Rood

The Mystic Rose

Byzantium

SONG OF ALBION:

The Paradise War

The Silver Hand

The Endless Knot

THE PENDRAGON CYCLE:

Taliesin

Merlin

Arthur

Pendragon

Grail

Avalon

Empyrion I: The Search for Fierra

Empyrion II: The Siege of Dome

Dream Thief

THE DRAGON KING TRILOGY:

In the Hall of the Dragon King

The Warlords of Nin

The Sword and the Flame

KING RAVEN: BOOK 3

STEPHEN R.
LAWHEAD

© 2009 by Stephen R. Lawhead

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

“The Ballad of Rhi Bran” © 2008 by Ross Lawhead. Poem written by Ross Lawhead and based on an idea by Alice Lawhead.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail [email protected]

Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lawhead, Steve.

               Tuck / by Stephen R. Lawhead.

                         p. cm. — (King Raven ; bk. 3)

               ISBN 978-1-59554-087-4

               1. Robin Hood (Legendary character)—Fiction. 2. Great Britain—History—Norman period, 1066-1154—Fiction. 3. Wales—History—1063-1284—Fiction. I. Title.

               PS3562.A865T83 2009

               813'.54—dc22

2008043949

Printed in the United States of America

09 10 11 12 QW 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Dedicated to

The Outlaw Tony Wales

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

Many of the old Celtic words and names are strange to modern eyes, but they are not as difficult to pronounce as they might seem at first glance. A little effort—and the following rough guide—will help you enjoy the sound of these ancient words.

Consonants
– As in English, but with the following exceptions:

c:    hard – as in
c
at (never soft, as in
cent
)

ch:  hard – as in Ba
ch
(never soft, as in
church
)

dd:  a hard
th
sound, as in
th
en

f:    a hard
v
sound, as in o
f

ff:    a soft
f
sound, as in o
ff

g:    hard – as in
g
irl (never soft, as in
George
)

ll:   a Gaelic distinctive, sounded as
tl
or
hl
on the sides of the tongue

r:  rolled or slightly trilled, especially at the beginning of a word

rh: breathed out as if
h-r
and heavy on the
h
sound

s: soft – as in
s
in (never hard, as in
his
); when followed by a vowel it takes on the
sh
sound

th:  soft – as in
th
istle (never hard, as in
then
)

Vowels
– As in English, but generally with the lightness of short vowel sounds:

a:    short, as in c
a
n

á:    slightly softer than above, as in
a
we

e:    usually short, as in m
e
t

é:    long
a
sound, as in h
e
y

i:     usually short, as in p
i
n

í:     long
e
sound, as in s
ee

o:    usually short, as in h
o
t

ó:    long
o
sound, as in w
o
e

ô:    long
o
sound, as in g
o

u:    usually sounded as a short
i
, as in p
i
n

ú:    long
u
sound, as in s
u
e

ù:    short
u
sound, as in m
u
ck

w:    sounded as a long
u
, as in h
u
e; before vowels often becomes a soft consonant as in the name G
w
en

y:    usually short, as in p
i
n; sometimes
u
as in p
u
n; when long, sounded
e
as in s
ee
; rarely,
y
as in wh
y

The careful reader will have noted that there is very little difference between
i
,
u
, and
y
—they are almost identical to non-Celts and modern readers.

Most Celtic words are stressed on the next to the last syllable. For example, the personal name Gofannon is stressed go-FAN-non, and the place name Penderwydd is pronounced pen-DER-width, and so on.

PROLOGUE

Wintan Cestre

Saint Swithun’s Day

K
ing William stood scratching the back of his hand and watched as another bag of gold was emptied into the ironclad chest: one hundred solid gold byzants that, added to fifty pounds in silver and another fifty in letters of promise to be paid upon collection of his tribute from Normandie, brought the total to five hundred marks. “More money than God,” muttered William under his breath. “What do they do with it all?”

“Sire?” asked one of the clerks of the justiciar’s office, glancing up from the wax tablet on which he kept a running tally.

“Nothing,” grumbled the king. Parting with money always made him itch, and this time there was no relief. In vain, he scratched the other hand. “Are we finished here?”

Having counted the money, the clerks began locking and sealing the strongbox. The king shook his head at the sight of all that gold and silver disappearing from sight.
These blasted monks will bleed me dry,
he thought. A kingdom was a voracious beast that devoured money and was never, ever satisfied. It took money for soldiers, money for horses and weapons, money for fortresses, money for supplies to feed the troops, and as now, even more money to wipe away the sins of war. The gold and silver in the chest was for the abbey at Wintan Cestre to pay the monks so that his father would not have to spend eternity in purgatory or, worse, frying in hell.

“All is in order, Majesty,” said the clerk. “Shall we proceed?”

William gave a curt nod.

Two knights of the king’s bodyguard stepped forward, took up the box, and carried it from the room and out into the yard where the monks of Saint Swithun’s were already gathered and waiting for the ceremony to begin. The king, a most reluctant participant, followed.

In the yard of the Red Palace—the name given to the king’s sprawling lodge outside the city walls—a silken canopy on silver poles had been erected. Beneath the canopy stood Bishop Walkelin with his hands pressed together in an attitude of patient prayer. Behind the bishop stood a monk bearing the gilded cross of their namesake saint, while all around them knelt monks and acolytes chanting psalms and hymns. The king and his attendants—his two favourite earls, a canon, and a bevy of assorted clerks, scribes, courtiers, and officials both sacred and secular—marched out to meet the bishop. The company paused while the king’s chair was brought and set up beneath the canopy where Bishop Walkelin knelt.

“In the Holy Name,” intoned the bishop when William Rufus had taken his place in the chair, “all blessing and honour be upon you and upon your house and upon your descendants and upon the people of your realm.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said William irritably. “Get on with it.”

“God save you, Sire,” replied Walkelin. “On this Holy Day we have come to receive the
Beneficium Ecclesiasticus Sanctus Swithinius
as is our right under the Grant of Privilege created and bestowed by your father King William, for the establishment and maintenance of an office of penitence, perpetual prayer, and the pardon of sins.”

“So you say,” remarked the king.

Bishop Walkelin bowed again, and summoned two of his monks to receive the heavy strongbox from the king’s men in what had become an annual event of increasing ceremony in honour of Saint Swithun, on whose day the monks determined to suck the lifeblood from the crown, and William Rufus resented it. But what could he do? The payment was for the prayers of the monks for the remission of sins on the part of William Conqueror, prayers which brought about the much-needed cleansing of his besmirched soul. For each and every man that William had killed in battle, the king could expect to spend a specified amount of time in purgatory: eleven years for a lord or knight, seven years for a man-at-arms, five for a commoner, and one for a serf. By means of some obscure and complicated formula William had never understood, the monks determined a monetary amount which somehow accorded to the number of days a monk spent on his knees praying. As William had been a very great war leader, his purgatorial obligation amounted to well over a thousand years—and that was only counting the fatalities of the landed nobility. No one knew the number of commoners and serfs he had killed, either directly or indirectly, in his lifetime—but the number was thought to be quite high. Still, a wealthy king with dutiful heirs need not actually spend so much time in purgatory—so long as there were monks willing to ease the burden of his debt through prayer. All it took was money.

Thus, the Benefice of Saint Swithun, necessary though it might be, was a burden the Conqueror’s son had grown to loathe with a passion. That he himself would have need of this selfsame service was a fact that he could neither deny nor escape. And while he told himself that paying monks to pray souls from hell was a luxury he could ill afford, deep in his heart of hearts he knew only too well that—owing to the debauched life he led—it was also a necessity he could ill afford to neglect much longer.

Even so, paying over good silver for the ongoing service of a passel of mumbling clerics rubbed Rufus raw—especially as that silver became each year more difficult to find. His taxes already crushed the poor and had caused at least two riots and a rebellion by his noblemen. Little wonder, then, that the forever needy king dreaded the annual approach of Saint Swithun’s day and the parting with so much of his precious treasury.

The ceremony rumbled on to its conclusion and, following an especially long-winded prayer, adjourned to a feast in honour of the worthy saint. The feast was the sole redeeming feature of the entire day. That it must be spent in the company of churchmen dampened William’s enthusiasm somewhat, but did not destroy it altogether. The Red King had surrounded himself with enough of his willing courtiers and sycophants to ensure a rousing good time no matter how many disapproving monks he fed at his table.

This year, the revel reached such a height of dissipation that Bishop Walkelin quailed and excused himself, claiming that he had pressing business that required his attention back at the cathedral. William, forcing himself to be gracious, wished the churchmen well and offered to send a company of soldiers to accompany the monks back to the abbey with their money lest they fall among thieves.

Walkelin agreed to the proposal and, as he bestowed his blessing, leaned close to the king and said, “We must talk one day soon about establishing a benefice of your own, Your Majesty.” He paused and then, like the flick of a knife, warned, “Death comes for us all, and none of us knows the day or time. I would be remiss if I did not offer to draw up a grant for you.”

“We will discuss that,” said William, “when the price is seen to fall rather than forever rise.”

“You will have heard it said,” replied Walkelin, “that where great sin abounds, great mercy must intercede. The continual observance and maintenance of that intercession is very expensive, my lord king.” “So is the keeping of a bishop,” answered William tartly. “And bishops have been known to lose their bishoprics.” He paused, regarding the cleric over the rim of his cup. “Heaven forbid that should happen. I know I would be heartily sorry to see you go, Walkelin.”

“If my lord is displeased with his servant,” began the bishop, “he has only to—”

“Something to consider, eh?”

Bishop Walkelin tried to adopt a philosophical air. “I am reminded that your father always—”

“No need to speak of it any more just now,” said William smoothly. “Only think about what I have said.”

“You may be sure,” answered Walkelin. He bowed stiffly and took a slow step backwards. “Your servant, my lord.”

The clerics departed, leaving the king and his courtiers to their revel. But the feast was ruined for William. Try as he might, he could not work himself into a festive humour because the bishop’s rat of a thought had begun to gnaw at the back of his mind: his time was running out. To die without arranging for the necessary prayers would doom his soul to the lake of everlasting fire. However loudly he might rail against the expense—and condemn the greedy clerics who held his future for ransom—was he really prepared to test the alternative at the forfeit of his soul?

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