The monk’s murder

This is one of the pieces I have cut out of my book, Through the Nethergate, as part of the editing process. Maybe I will it into a short story, who knows. It is not easy to remove pieces of writing that you like but I know it needs to go to make my story flow better.

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The monk’s murder

They had been travelling all day on the rough, dirt tracks that served for roads. James had not travelled since he entered the Abbey at the age of ten years old. If he went anywhere, it was a relatively short distance and he used “shank’s pony” and not a horse. His legs and back ached terribly and he felt hungry and freezing cold.

A glance at his companion confirmed that Thomas was also exhausted. His plight was worse as he was leading the pack horse carrying the pannier. Every now and again they dismounted and walked to warm themselves up. A bitter wind blew heralding the first snow of the season.

They had set off yesterday afternoon on the three to four day journey from Glastonbury Abbey to Greenwich Palace.  King Henry VIII liked to spend Christmas at his birthplace.

The palace would be specially decorated for Christmas with seasonal greenery, dried fruit, berries and candles, James reflected. He had heard about the lavish Christmas celebrations enjoyed by the King and his guests during the Yuletide season.

Before leaving the Abbey, James and Thomas had watched in silence as the Abbot cut open a giant Christmas pie and replaced the filling with the deeds of twelve manor houses. He meticulously covered the papers with the bottom pie crust and applied a thick syrup to hold it in place. The cut was not obvious to the careless eye.

The Christmas pie was placed in a large wooden box and carefully packed into a pannier for transportation.

James and Thomas knew this was the Abbot’s final effort to save the Abbey from destruction at the hands of Thomas Cromwell’s henchmen.

They had travelled as far as they could yesterday before night closed in and they were forced to stop for the night.

Today had been much more wearisome for James. He was used to the strict routines of prayer, reading and work at the Abbey. He was looking forward to finding an inn to rest at for the night.

I hope the King will accept this pie, thought James. He is known for keeping the feast of Christmas with much nobleness and an open court. His table is said to feature all sorts of festive culinary treats; traditional boar’s head, peacock, larks, partridges, quails, roast beef and prawn pasties. A Christmas pie might be too ordinary.

***

James ate a simple supper of two cooked dishes made from cereal and vegetables with a bit of added fish. It was not dissimilar to the meal he would have enjoyed at the monastery.

“Goodnight, Thomas,” he said, climbing the stairs to the bed chambers. His words sounded loud to his ears, James did not speak often.

James spent an uneventful night. The pannier containing the Christmas pie rested against the wall in his bedchamber.

James woke at 5 A.M. as was his custom. He would normally be preparing for the early morning service of Lauds. Thomas sat on the wooden floor, surreptitiously pulling papers from the bottom of the Christmas pie.

***

The chamber maid approached the closed door and knocked. There was no answer. She leaned close to the door, her hand to her ear.

No sounds came from the other side of the door. She cocked her head.

Is he definitely gone? I don’t want to disturb him if he is still sleeping.

She reached out and grasped the door knob, turning it slowly. The door creaked open a tiny crack. She could see a shape in the bed and drew back, ready to close the door again, when the dripping sound caught her attention.

Drip …. drip … drip. It sounded like water leaking from an overturned jug. The sound was loud in the stillness of the dark room.

She pushed the door open. She would quickly right the jug and then leave.

Her shriek brought the Innkeeper running.

The monk lay on the bed, white faced with glazed eyes. The wound from the narrow blade was small but it had entered his heart. Rivers of blood flowed across the bed and mattress, dripping over the edge and pooling on the floor below. Other than the body, the room was completely empty.

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