Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 1 - Sherborne Abbey, page 1 of 3)

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Easter Sunday 1436

Alice walked up the cobbled path towards the abbey. The old building was undergoing renovation and the scaffolding had recently been removed from the south side of the tower. The work was being undertaken at huge expense to the parish and was a major cause of friction between the abbot and the local people. On that chilly April morning, the new stonework shone brightly in the crisp light of a cloudless day.

She wore a warm gown with a badge that identified her as the matron of the parish almshouse. She had recently arrived in Sherborne from the convent in nearby Shaftsbury. Her friends, Elizabeth and John Baret, had arranged for her to take up the appointment.

They had rescued her from a situation that was becoming unbearable. Alice was a free thinker and that was something you kept quiet about if you lived in a convent. She knew Latin and Greek and had taught herself Arabic.

Arabic was strictly forbidden but she was prepared to take the risk. The language of the Moslem unbelievers had opened up a whole new world. The Arabs were skilled at healing. She had trained as a midwife and was intent on using her new knowledge to save the many poor women who died in childbirth.

She was on her way to All Hallows, which was a church-like building attached to the west end of the abbey. A crowd was gathered there. From the sprinkling entering the porch, it was evident that today's congregation was handpicked. Apart from the distinguished guests and their attendants, they were solid, respectable townsfolk who could be relied upon to behave.

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