Wolf Wood (Part One) (Chapter 6 - Might is Right, page 1 of 4)

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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?'

'He did, Father. Four ruffians were trying to drag the font into All hallows. Three spoke Welsh. The other was a Lollard tinker.'

'This is serious.'

'Aye, Father. And it didn't happen by accident.'

'How do you know?'

'Master Mason Hulle came to me. His son was climbing on the scaffolding, playing with a friend as boys will. They saw one of the parishioners use a rope to pull the platform down. The priest, Richard Vowell, was involved.'

'Can you vouch for what Master Hulle said?'

'Aye, Father. He told me he'd thrash his son to within an inch of his life if he thought the boy was lying.'

'He's a good man, that mason,' Abbot Brunyng coughed. 'He does good work and knows where his loyalties lie.'

'He does, Father, and so does the butcher. Walter Gallor has informers ... people he can trust. They told him Vowell spent the evening in the Julian with the Lollard tinker and some Welsh archers.'

'Plotting something, no doubt.'

'Aye, to steal the font. And there's more. Earlier in the day, Gallor saw Alice de Lambert speaking to the tinker.'

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