The Iron Lance (Celtic Crusades Series #1)by Stephen R. Lawhead
In book one of the Celtic Crusades series, a Scottish boy travels to Jerusalem to try to regain his family's stolen lands, and ends up saving the relic Iron Lance that pierced Christ's side.See more details below
In book one of the Celtic Crusades series, a Scottish boy travels to Jerusalem to try to regain his family's stolen lands, and ends up saving the relic Iron Lance that pierced Christ's side.
In 1899 Scotland, lawyer and member of a mystical secret society Gordon Murray is proposed for initiation to a higher degree. He accepts the test, and soconfused, drugged, and lowered into a lightless cavernhe stumbles upon the weapon of the title. Touching its cold pitted iron grants Murray visions of the distant past. There, in the late 11th century, young Murdo, son of Lord Ranulf of Dyrness, Orkney, must stay at home and mind the store while his father and brothers march off to join what will become the first Crusade. But soon the king of Norway's lackey Orin Broadfoot (with the collusion of the Church) dispossesses Murdo of his estate, then hastily disappears to join the Crusade himself, before Murdo can remonstrate with him. Murdo vows to follow Orin and force him to make amends, and pledges to return to his beloved Ragna. Meanwhile, another narrative strand details the doings of the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I, who, having requested warriors from northern Europe to fight the Turks, receives instead a peasant rabble headed by Peter the Hermit. These sections merely reiterate the progress of the Crusade, treading the same ground as Susan Shwartz's Crescent and Cross (1997). Eventually, we learn of Murdo's exertions, the fate of lawyer Murray, and the identity of the weapon that inspired the whole business.
Familiar fare for Lawhead fans, watery gruel for outsiders or newcomers.
Read an Excerpt
Murdo raced down the long slope, his bare feet striking the soft turf so that the only sound to be heard was the hiss and swash of his legs through the coarse green bracken. Far behind him, a rider appeared on the crest of the hill and was quickly joined by two more. Murdo knew they were there; he had anticipated this moment of discovery, and the instant the hunters appeared he dived headlong to the ground to vanish among the quivering fronds where he continued his flight, scrambling forward on knees and elbows, first one way and then another
The riders spurred their mounts and flew down the hillside, the blades of their spears gleaming in the early fight. All three shouted as they came, voicing the ancient battlecry of the dan: "Dubh a dearg!"
Murdo heard the shouts and froze fast, pressing himself to the damp earth. He felt the dew seeping through his siarc and breecs, and smelled the sharp tang of the bracken. The sky showed bright blue through leafy gaps above him and, heart pounding, he watched the empty air for the first glimpse of discovery
The horses raced swiftly nearer, their hooves drumming fast and loud, and flinging the soft turf high over their broad backs. Murdo, flat beneath the bracken, every sense alert and twitching, listened to the swift-running horses and judged their distance. He also heard the liquid gurgle of a hidden bum a short distance ahead, lower down the slope.
Upon reaching the place where the youth had disappeared, the riders halted and began hacking into the dense brake with the butts of their spears. "Out! Out!" they shouted. "We have you! Declare and surrender!"
Murdo, ignoring the calls,lay still as death and tried to calm the rapid beating of his heart so the hunters would not hear him. They were very near. He held his breath and watched the patch of sky for sight or shadow of his pursuers.
The riders wheeled their mounts this way and that, spear shafts slashing at the fronds, their cries growing more irritated with each futile pass. "Come out!" shouted the largest of the riders, a raw-boned, fair-haired young man named Torf. "You cannot escape! Come out, damn you!"
"Give up!" shouted one of the others. Murdo recognized the voice; it belonged to a thick-shouldered bull of a youth named Skuli. "Give up and face your punishment!"
"Surrender, you sneaking little weasel," cried the last of the three. It was the dark-haired one called Paul. "Surrender now and save yourself a hiding!"
Murdo, knew his pursuers and knew them well. Two of them were his brothers, and the third was a cousin he had met for the first time only ten days ago. Even so, he had no intention of giving up; he knew, despite Paul's vague assurance, they would beat him anyway.
Instead, amidst the shouts and the brushy whack of the spears, Murdo calmly put two fingers beneath his belt and withdrew a tightly-wound skein of wool and deftly tied one end of the thread to the long bracken stem beside his head. Then, with the most subtle of movements, he began to crawl again, paying out the thread as he went.
Slowly, slowly, and with the icy cunning of a serpent, he moved, pausing to unwind more string and then slithering forward again, head low under the pungent green fronds, forcing himself to remain calm. To hurry now would mean certain disaster.
"We know you are here!" shouted Torf. "We saw you. Stand and declare, coward! Hear me? You are a very coward, Murdo!"
"Surrender," cried Paul, dangerously near. "We will let you go free."
"Give up, Stick!" added Skuli. "You are caught!"
Murdo, kept silent-and even when Paul's spear swept only a hair's breadth from his head, he did not break and run, but hunkered down and waited for the horse to move on. Reaching to the end of his thread ball, he lay still, trying to determine where and how far away were each of his pursuers. Satisfied that they were all at least ten or more paces away, he took a deep breath, pulled the woollen thread taut ... and then gave a quick, sharp tug
He waited, and jerked the string hard once more.
"'There!" shouted Skuli. The other two whooped in triumph, wheeling their mounts and making for the place.
But Murdo had already released the thread and was slithering down the hill as fast as he could go. He reached the bank of the bum and risked a furtive look back at the riders: all three stood poised in the saddle with spears at the ready, shouting into the bracken for him to surrender.
Smiling, Murdo eased over the edge of the bank and lowered himself into the bum. The water was shallow, and cold on his bare feet, but he gritted his teeth and hastened on. While the riders demanded his surrender, Murdo made his escape along the low stream bed.
It was Niamh who finally caught him; he was sliding quietly around the comer of the barn, hoping to slip into the yard unobserved. "Murdo! There you are," she scolded, "I have been looking for you."
"My lady," Murdo said, snapping himself straight. He turned to see her flying toward him, green skirts bunched in her fists, dark eyes flashing.
"A fine my lady! Look at you!" she said, exasperation making her sharp. "Wet to the bone and muddy with it." She seized him by the arm and pulled him roughly toward her. A head or more taller than the slender woman, he nevertheless delivered himself to her reproof. "You have been at that cursed game again!"
"I am sorry, mam," he replied, his man-voice breaking through the boyish apology. "It's the last time, and-"
"Hare and hunter-at your age, Murdo!" she snapped, then looked at him and softened. "Ah, my heart," she sighed and released his arm. "You should never let them treat you like that. It is neither meet nor fitting for any lord's son."
"But they could not catch me," Murdo protested. "They never do."
"The abbot is here," Niamh said, tugging his damp, dirty siarc and brushing at it with her hands.
"I know. I saw the horses."
"He will think you one of the servingmen, and who is to blame but yourself?"
"What of that?" Murdo replied sourly. "It's never me that's going."
"How should you be going? For all it is only ten and four you are.
"Ten and five-in five months," Murdo protested. "Besides, I am taller than Paul, and stronger." But his mother was already moving away. He stepped quickly beside her. "Why is the abbot here?"
"Can you not guess?"...
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