Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 3 - Easter Fair, page 1 of 4)

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Richard Vowell strode up Cheap Street towards the noise and bustle of the Easter Fair. A man of many colours, he had served with the English forces in France before returning to his native Sherborne where his quick wit enabled him to earn a respectable living.

His involvement with All Hallows was one of his many ventures. It yielded a small income but that didn't concern him. Anything he earned as a priest was returned to the parish in the form of donations to the poor and incentives to those who could further the cause.

The cause fired Richard with passion. He'd heard endless sermons about Christ's suffering on the cross. Nothing stirred him more than the suffering and indignity inflicted on ordinary people who were condemned to a lowly station because of their humble birth.

When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman? He had repeated the words a million times. They were the rallying call of all true believers. Radical preachers had gone to the stake for saying them out loud. Women had been burnt as witches. Richard said them under his breath. He had no time for people who made martyrs of themselves. His hero was the death-watch beetle that invaded huge structures and gnawed away in silence.

He had invented a family coat of arms. It consisted of a shield with bar sinister in blood red. Beetles occupied two quadrants and the heads of monks, barons and bishops made up the rest of the composition.

On that pleasant Easter afternoon, Richard Vowell, the priest, was transformed into Dick Vowell, the old soldier. He'd discarded his surplice and was attired in a way fitting for a former archer: flared boots of soft leather, green stockings, padded jerkin and red tunic. The shaved, bald pate, on the top of his head was the only sign of his clerical commitments.

Cheap Street was the market street. It was where the shopkeepers had their businesses. Narrow at the bottom, it widened towards the town green where there was ample space for stalls and entertainers. A troop of mummers was performing a passion play outside the Julian Inn when Richard got there and a band of pipers was playing outside the George Inn.

The English marched to the wail of pipes and the familiar sound stirred memories in Richard's soul. For a moment he was transported back to a muddy battlefield in northern France. Then the sound of tapping shook him from his reverie. A tinker was sitting beside a brazier, surrounded by pots and pans. Richard sneaked up behind him.

'Lollard Heretic!'

He grabbed the man by the neck.

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