Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 8 - God's House, page 1 of 3)

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A strong wind gusted across the abbey green and blew in the faces of the archers. Richard Vowell watched them bend their bows. They had to take account of the difficult conditions and were doing well. Richard felt pleased. As a recruiting agent, he could expect a substantial fee if he managed to place them with the Earl of Huntingdon for the war in France.

This was a full training session. He and the men were attired in the sort of gear they would wear in combat. He reached for his whistle and was about to blow it when a familiar figure raced towards him.

'Dickie. They're stealing our door.'

Thomas Draper reached his side, red-faced and out of breath. Richard peered at him quizzically.

'What you going on about, Tom?'

'They've barred the south door to keep people out. You'd better come and see.'

They entered All Hallows through a side door. Richard usually found it crowded. The chapel wasn't just a place for worship. It was the centre of community life. Men met to discuss business. Women gathered for mutual support. It was impossible to separate religion from everyday life.

'Christ Almighty!'

In the space of a few hours, workmen had totally remade the processional doorway. A new arch had been inserted inside the old arch and a new door was already in place. The vicar and the sacrist were there with Bailiff Walter Gallor.

'Sod you!'

Richard strode towards them, looking more like a soldier on the rampage than a priest of All Hallows. A steel helmet covered his bald pate and a sword hung from his belt.

'That's our door. You leave it alone.'

'You are mistaken, Master Vowell.' The sacrist peered timidly from behind Walter. 'The processional door is an integral part of the abbey nave.'

'You're telling me they built a church that was open at one end.' Richard's face reddened.

'The east end of All Hallows abuts the west end of the abbey nave,' the sacrist tried to explain. 'It was built as a chapel of ease.'

'So, you're saying we don't have any rights.'

'No. I'm not.'

'Yes you are. You've just said it's not our church. You said it was a chapel of ease. That's another way of saying it's part of the abbey and you can do what you sodding well like.'

'Master Vowell,' the vicar tugged at his sleeve. 'Pray, watch your language. You are in God's house.'

'That's right.' Richard wagged a menacing finger at the sacrist. 'You heard what the reverend said. This is God's house ... it doesn't belong to you.'

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