Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 6 - Might is Right, page 1 of 7)

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Canon William Bradford waited outside the abbot's chamber. The door was ajar and he could hear the chaplain conducting morning prayers. He couldn't see the abbot but knew he would be propped up in bed, swathed in warm quilts, fumbling his rosary with swollen fingers. A sickly aroma hung in the air. An infusion of fenugreek, stale sweat and other bodily excretions. William knew it from visits to the sick and dying. It was an old man's smell ... the smell of death.

The chaplain reached the end of the service. William heard the bed creak and guessed the abbot was making use of his commode as he always did after prayers. A bell rang and a woman went into the chamber. She left with a pot covered by a linen cloth. William decided that the morning ritual was complete and he could now enter.

'Pray be seated.'

Abbot Brunyng indicated a bench. For twenty years, he had stamped his will on Sherborne. One of his greatest achievements was the rebuilding of the abbey which was falling apart. The cost was staggering but his will prevailed. Now he hardly had the strength to pick up a small bowl. He coughed and black phlegm splattered the silver surface. William guessed there would soon be an election for a new abbot.

'Did you question the bailiff?'

'I saw Walter Gallor in his yard,' William replied.

'Did he confirm what Brother Mathew said?'

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