The Middle Ages. Finally, the Black Plague has passed and for a while it seems evil has been defeated. Europe recovers; prosperity returns, trade resumes, and people slowly recover from the effects of the plague. Then, just as the Church relaxes its guard, war spreads across Europe. Widespread heresies challenge the authority of the Church. Revolts and rebellions threaten to topple the established monarchies and overturn the social order of Europe. And then the plague returns, worse than ever.
Thomas Neville, a neurotic warrior-priest, eventually discovers the cause. The minions of the Devil have been scattered throughout European society during the confusion of the Black Death. His task is to discover the identities of these shapeshifters so that the Church can move against them, but it is a dangerous task. These are master shapeshifters, perfect at their craft, and Neville can never be certain of who he should trust.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
Sara Douglass was born in Penola, a small farming settlement in the south of Australia, in 1957. She spent her early years chasing (and being chased by) sheep and collecting snakes before her parents transported her to the city of Adelaide and the more genteel surroundings of Methodist Ladies College. Having graduated, Sara then became a nurse on her parents' urging (it was both feminine and genteel) and spent seventeen years planning and then effecting her escape.
That escape came in the form of a Ph.D. in early modern English history. Sara and nursing finally parted company after a lengthy time of bare tolerance, and she took up a position as senior lecturer in medieval European history at the Bendigo campus of the Victorian University of La Trobe. Finding the departmental politics of academic life as intolerable as the emotional rigours of nursing, Sara needed to find another escape.
This took the form of one of Sara's childhood loves - books and writing. Spending some years practising writing novels, one of Sara's novels was published in Australia. BattleAxe (published in North America as The Wayfarer Redemption), the first in the Tencendor series, and found immediate success in Australia. Since 1995 Sara has become Australia's leading fantasy author and one of the country's top novelists. Her books are now sold around the world.
Sara Douglass was born in Penola, a small farming settlement in the south of Australia, in 1957. She spent her early years chasing (and being chased by) sheep and collecting snakes before her parents transported her to the city of Adelaiden and the more genteel surroundings of Methodist Ladies College. Having graduated, Sara then became a nurse on her parents' urging (it was both feminine and genteel) and spent seventeen years planning and then effecting her escape.
That escape came in the form of a Ph.D. in early modern English history. Sara and nursing finally parted company after a lengthy time of bare tolerance, and she took up a position as senior lecturer in medieval European history at the Bendigo campus of the Victorian University of La Trobe. Finding the departmental politics of academic life as intolerable as the emotional rigors of nursing, Sara needed to find another escape.
This took the form of one of Sara's childhood loves - books and writing. After she spent some years practicing writing novels, HarperCollins Australia picked up one of Sara's novels, BattleAxe (published in North America as The Wayfarer Redemption), the first in the Tencendor series, and chose it as the lead book in their new fantasy line with immediate success. Since 1995 Sara has become Australia's leading fantasy author and one of its top novelists. Her books are now sold around the world.
Read an Excerpt
The Wounded Hawk
The Crucible: Book Two
By Sara Douglass
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty Ltd
All rights reserved.
The Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist In the first year of the reign of Richard II
(Monday 29th August 1379)
MARGARET STOOD in the most northern of the newly harvested fields of Halstow Hall, a warm wind gently lifting her skirts and hair and blowing a halo of fine wheat dust about her head. The sun blazed down, and while she knew that she should return inside as soon as possible if she were to avoid burning her cheeks and nose, for the moment she remained where she was, quiet and reflective, her eyes drifting across the landscape.
She turned a little, catching sight of the walls of Halstow Hall rising in the distance. There lay Rosalind, asleep in her crib, watched over by her nurse, Agnes. Margaret's eyes moved to the high walls of the courtyard. In its spaces Thomas would be at his afternoon swordplay with his newly acquired squire, Robert Courtenay, a likable fair-faced young man of commendable quietness and courtesy.
Margaret's expression hardened as she thought of the banter the two men shared during their weapon practice. Courtenay received nothing but respect and friendship from Thomas — would that she received the same respect and friendship!
"How can I hope for love," she whispered, still staring at the courtyard walls, "when he begrudges me even his friendship?"
Margaret might be Thomas' wife, but, as he had told her on their wedding night, she was not his lover.
Margaret had never imagined that it could hurt this much, but then she'd never realized how desperately she would need his love; to be the one thought constantly before all others in his mind.
To be sure, this was what they all strove for — to force Thomas to put thought of her before his allegiance to the Church and the angels — but Margaret knew her need was more than that. She wanted a home and a family, and above all, she wanted a husband who respected her and loved her.
She wanted Thomas to love her, and yet he would not.
She turned her head away from Halstow Hall, and regarded the land and the far distant wheeling gulls over the Thames estuary.
These had been pleasant months spent at Halstow Hall despite Thomas' coolness, and despite his impatience to return to London and resume his search for Wynkyn de Worde's ever-damned casket. The angels had told Thomas that the casket held the key that would see the demons who thronged earth cursed back into hell. As an ex-friar and a cold, heartless man of God, Thomas was devoted to the archangel's cause, and he was determined to discover the casket and work the angels' will. Margaret needed, desperately, to crack the cold hard shell Thomas had built about himself when he'd turned to the Church after the dreadful suicide of his lover, Alice. She needed, desperately, to have Thomas love her before he found that casket.
And she had no idea how she could ever achieve it. Sweet Jesu knew how she had tried these past months.
There had been mornings spent wading in clear streams, and noon-days spent riding wildly along the marshy banks of the estuary as the herons rose crying about them. There had been afternoons spent in the hectic fields as the harvest drew to a close, and evenings spent dancing about the celebratory harvest fires with the estate men and their families. There had been laughter and even the occasional sweetness, and long, warm nights spent sprawling beneath Thomas' body in their bed.
And there had been dawns when, half-asleep, Margaret had thought that maybe this was all there ever would be, and the summer would never draw to a close.
Yet this was a hiatus only, the drawing of a breath between screams, and Margaret knew that it would soon end. Even now hoofbeats thudded on the roads and laneways leading to Halstow Hall. Two sets of hoofbeats, drumming out the inevitable march of two ambitions, reaching out to ensnare her once again in the deadly machinations of the looming battle between the angels of heaven and the demons escaped from their imprisoning hell.
Margaret's eyes filled with tears, then she forced them away as she caught a glimpse of the distant figure striding through one of the fields. She smiled, gaining courage from the sight of Halstow's steward, and then began to walk toward the Hall.
Visitors would soon be here, and she should be present to greet them.
MASTER THOMAS Tusser, steward to the Neville estates, walked though the stubbled fields at a brisk pace, hands clasped firmly behind his straight back. He was well pleased. The harvest had gone excellently: all the harvesters, bondsmen as well as hired hands, had arrived each day, and each had put in a fair day's work; the weather had remained fine but not overly hot; the ravens and crows had devastated neighbors' fields, but not his; and little had been wasted — like their menfolk, the village women and girls had worked their due, gleaning the fields of every last grain.
There would be enough to eat for the next year, and enough left over to store against the inevitable poor years.
The fields were empty of laborers now, but the work had not ceased. The threshers would be sweating and aching in Halstow Hall's barns, separating precious grain from hollow stalk, while their wives and daughters swept and piled grain into mounds, before carting the grain from threshing court to storage bins.
Tusser's footsteps slowed, and he frowned and muttered under his breath for a few minutes until his face suddenly cleared. He grinned, and spoke aloud.
"Reap well, scatter not, gather clean that is shorne,
Bind fast, shock apace, have an eye to thy corn,
Load safe, carry home, follow time being fair,
Give just in the barn, life is far from despair."
Tusser might well be a steward with a good reputation, but that reputation had not been easy to achieve. He had made more than his fair share of mistakes in his youth: leaving the sowing of the spring crops too late, allowing the weeds to grow too high in the fields, and forgetting to mix the goose grease with the tar to daub on the wounds on sheep's backs after shearing. He had found that the only way he could remember to do the myriad estate tasks on time, and in the right order, was to commit every chore to rhyme. Over the years — he was a middle-aged man now — Tusser had scribbled his rhymes down. Perhaps he would present them to his lord one day as a testament of his goodwill.
Well ... that time was far off, God willing, and there would be many years yet to rearrange his rhymes into decent verse.
Tusser reached the edge of the field and nimbly leaped the drainage ditch separating the field from the laneway. Once on the dusty surface of the lane, he looked quickly about him to ensure no one was present to observe, then danced a little jig of sheer merriment.
Harvest was home! Harvest was home!
Tusser resumed a sedate walk and sighed in relief. Harvest was home, praise be to God, even though it had not been an easy year. No year was ever easy, but if a stewardhad to cope with a new lord descending upon his lands in the middle of summer ...
When he'd commenced his stewardship of Halstow Hall eleven years ago, Tusser had been proud to serve as a servant of the mighty Duke of Lancaster ... even if the duke had never visited Halstow Hall and Tusser had not once enjoyed the opportunity to meet his lord. But the duke had received Tusser's quarterly reports and had read them well, writing on more than one occasion to thank Tusser for his care and to congratulate him on the estate's productivity.
But in March preceding, Tusser received word that Lancaster had deeded Halstow Hall to Lord Thomas Neville as a wedding gift. Tusser was personally offended: had the duke thought so little of Tusser's efforts on his behalf that he thoughtlessly handed the estate to someone else? Was the duke secretly angry with Tusser, and thought to punish him with a new lord who was to actually live on the estate? A lord in residence? The very idea! Tusser had read the duke's news with a dismay that increased with every breath. No longer would Tusser have virtual autonomy in his fields ... nay, there would be some chivalric fool leaning over his shoulder at every moment mouthing absurdities ... either that or riding his warhorse at full gallop through the emerging crops.
Good Lord who findeth, is blessed of God,
A cumbersome lord is husbandman's rod:
He noiseth, destroyeth, and all to this drift,
To strip his poor tenants of farm and of thrift.
Thus it was, that when Lord Thomas Neville had arrived with his lady wife and newly born daughter, Tusser had stood in the Hall's court to greet them with scuffling feet and a scowl as bad as one found on a pimply faced lad caught with his hand on the dairymaid's breast.
Within the hour he had been straight-backed and beaming with pride and joy.
Not only had Lord Neville leaped off his horse and greeted him with such high words of praise that Tusser had blinked in astonishment, Neville had then led him inside and informed him that Tusser's responsibilities would widen to take in Neville's other estates as well.
He was to be a High Steward! As Tusser strode along the lane back toward the group of buildings surrounding Halstow Hall, he grinned yet again at the memory. As well as Halstow, Tusser now oversaw the stewards who ran Neville's northern estates, and the second estate in Devon that Lancaster had deeded Neville. Admittedly, this necessitated much extra work — Tusser had to communicate Neville's wishes and orders to the northern and Devon stewards, as well as review their estate books quarterly — but it was work that admitted and made full use of his talents.
Why, Tusser now had the opportunity to send his verses to his under-stewards! Thus, every Saturday fortnight, Tusser sat down, ordered his thoughts, and carefully composed and edited his versified directions. He was certain that his under-stewards must appreciate his timely verses and homilies.
Tusser tried not to be prideful of his new responsibilities, but he had to admit before God and the Holy Virgin that he was not completely successful.
Not only had Neville praised Tusser's abilities, and handed him his new responsibilities, but Neville had also proved to be no fool meddling with Tusser's handling of the estate. He had a deep interest in what happened to the estate, and kept an eye on it, but he allowed Tusser to run it in the manner he chose and did not interfere with his steward's authority.
Neville was a good lord, and surely blessed of God. And his wife! Tusser sighed yet again. The Lady Margaret had an agreeable manner that exceeded her great beauty, and Tusser rose each morning to pray that this day he would be graced with the sweetness of her smile.
Aye, the goodness and grace of God had indeed embraced Halstow Hall and all who lived within its estates.
TUSSER TURNED a corner in the lane and Halstow Hall rose before him. It was a good building, built of stone and brick, and some two or three generations old. Originally, it had consisted only of the great hammer-beamed hall and minstrel gallery, kitchens, pantries and larders, and a vaulted storage chamber that ran under the entire length of the hall, but over the years Lancaster had caused numerous additions to be made, even though he had never lived here. Now a suite of private chambers ran off the back of the hall, allowing a resident lord and his family some seclusion from the public life of the hall, and new stables and barns graced the courtyards.
The sound of horses behind him startled Tusser from this reverie, and he whipped about.
A party of four horsemen approached. Tusser squinted, trying to make them out through the cursed sun ... then he started, and frowned as he realized three of the four riders were clothed in clerical robes.
Priests! Cursed priests! Doubtless come to eat Halstow Hall bare in the name of charity before moving on again.
Priests they might be, but Tusser had to admit to himself that their habits were poor, and they showed no glint of jewels or gold about their person. The lead priest was an old man, so thin he was almost skeletal, with long and scraggly hair and beard.
His expression was fierce, almost fanatical, and he glared at Tusser as if trying to scry out the man's secret sins.
Evening prayers will be no cause for lightness and joy this night, Tusser thought, then shifted his eyes to the fourth rider, whose appearance gave him cause for thought.
This rider was a soldier. Sandy hair fell over a lined, tanned and knife-scarred face, and over his chain mail he wore a tunic emblazoned with the livery of the Duke of Lancaster. As the group rode closer to Tusser, still standing in the center of the laneway, the soldier pushed his horse to the fore of his group, pulled it to a halt a few paces distant from the steward, and grinned amiably at him.
"Good man," said the soldier to the still-frowning Tusser. "Would you be the oft-praised Master Tusser, of whom the entire court whispers admiration?"
Tusser's frown disappeared instantly and his face lit up with pride.
"I am," he said, "and I see that you, at least, are of the Duke of Lancaster's household. Who may I welcome on Lord Neville's behalf to Halstow Hall?"
"My name is Wat Tyler," said the rider, "and, as you can see, I am a sergeant-at-arms within good Lancaster's household. I ride as escort to my revered companions," Tyler turned and indicated the three priests, "who know your master well, and have decided to pass the night in his house." Tyler grinned even more as he said the last few sentences. "Perhaps you have heard of Master John Wycliffe," he nodded at the fierce-faced old priest, "while his two godly companions," now Tyler could scarcely contain his amusement, "are named John Ball and Jack Trueman."
Tusser bowed slightly to the priests, narrowing his eyes a little. He was well aware of John Wycliffe's reputation, and of the renegade priest's teachings that the entire hierarchy of the Church was a sinful abomination whose worldly goods and properties ought to be seized and distributed among the poor. Many of Wycliffe's disciples, popularly called Lollards for their habit of mumbling, now spread Wycliffe's message far and wide, and Tusser occasionally saw one or two of them at the larger market fairs of Kent.
The steward stared a moment longer, then he smiled warmly. "Master Wycliffe. You are indeed most welcome here to Halstow Hall, as are your companions. I am sure that my master and mistress will be pleased to greet you."
"The mistress, at least," said a voice behind Tusser, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Margaret walking down the laneway to join him. He bowed, and stepped aside.
Margaret halted, and looked carefully at each of the four men. "I do greet you well," she said, "and am most happy to see you. My husband I cannot speak for."
Wycliffe and Tyler smiled a little at that.
Margaret hesitated, then indicated with her hand that they should ride forward. "Welcome to my happy home," she said.
THOMAS NEVILLE was anything but happy to welcome John Wycliffe and his two companion priests into his home. He had just finished at his weapons practice with Courtenay when he heard the sound of hoof fall entering the courtyard.
Turning, Neville had been appalled to see the black figure of John Wycliffe walking beside Margaret, two other priests (Lollards, no doubt) close behind him, and Wat Tyler leading the four horses. As he watched, Tusser, who'd been walking at the rear of the group, took the horses from Tyler and led them toward some stable boys.
Margaret said nothing, only halting as Neville strode forward.
"What do you here?" Neville snapped at Wycliffe.
Wycliffe inclined his head. "I and my companions are riding from London to Canterbury, my lord," he said, "and thought to spend the night nestled within your hospitality."
"My 'hospitality' does not lie on the direct road to Canterbury," Neville said. "I say again, what do you here?"
"Come to enjoy your charity," Wycliffe said, his voice now low and almost as menacing as his eyes, "as my Lord of Lancaster suggested I do. I bear greetings and messages from John of Gaunt, Neville. It is your choice whether you decide to accept Lancaster's goodwill or not." Wycliffe paused. "It is for a night only, Neville. I and mine will be gone by the morning."
Furious at being trapped — he could not refuse Lancaster's request to give Wycliffe lodging and entertainment — Neville nodded tightly, and indicated the door into the main building. Then, as Margaret led Wycliffe and the two other priests inside, Neville directed a hard glare toward Tyler.
"And you?" he said.
Tyler shrugged. "I am escort at Lancaster's request, Tom. There's no need to glower at me so."
Neville's face did not relax, but neither did he say any more as they walked inside. Wat Tyler and he had a long, if sometimes uncomfortable, history together. Tyler had taught Neville his war craft, and had protected his back in battle more times than Neville cared to remember. But Tyler also kept the most extraordinary company — his escort of the demon Wycliffe was but one example, and Neville felt sure he knew one of the other priests from somewhere — and Neville simply did not know if he trusted Tyler any longer.
In this age of demons who could shape-shift at will, taking on whatever form they needed in order to deceive, whom could he trust? Neville had trusted the Frenchman Etienne Marcel — and yet he had been a demon, intent on destroying God's order on earth and distracting Neville from working the angels' will. Tyler kept the company of demons; Neville knew he could not trust him.
Excerpted from The Wounded Hawk by Sara Douglass. Copyright © 2005 Sara Douglass Enterprises Pty Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsPart One: Margaret of the Angels,
Part Two: The Wounded Wife,
Part Three: Well Ought I to Love,
Part Four: The Hurtyng Tyme,
Part Five: The Maid and the Hawk,
Part Six: Dangerous Treason,
Part Seven: Horn Monday,
Part Eight: Bolingbroke!,
Epilogue: Pontefract Castle,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A must for the sci fi liver and history buff alike!!!
Sara Douglass - how does she do it? Like 'The Nameless Day', she again weaves the history/fiction/fantasy int a wonderful storyline - and trying to figure out the intent of all the characters is a page turner and whether good or evil - Douglass' writing keeps one so intrigued with that character you feel like you know the character personally. Like another reviewer wrote - I didn't want this book to end.
This, in my opinion, is Sarah Douglass's best book yet. The first is good but in this Thomas goes through so much more emotionally and you have to feel a bit sorry for him. But the charactor that will be remembered is Catherine and how she took her own fate into her hands and doesn;t wait for Mary to die just to be with Bolingbroke. Philip is also so much sweeter and romantic. He becomes the good guy and Brolingbroke shows a side that just doesn;t seem like him. There are lots of changes, but they really are good changes you don;t expect and you learn to love.My favorite thing is how they portray Joan of Arc. If you believe she was miss inncocent sorry but this book total kills that image, which I love.
Thomas Neville, once a priest in the Dominican order, is married to Margaret; they have a daughter he loves dearly, but he doesn¿t love his wife because the Angel Michael told him she was demon spawn like all daughters of Eve. Thomas¿ mission is to find Wynkyn de Worde¿s casket and use the book inside to send the demons back to hell. He doesn¿t know who to trust but believes King Richard II is a demon and that Duke Hal Bolingbroke, the next in line for the throne, should rule....................... Over time his feelings for his wife turn to love, an emotion that Jesus sanctified in a vision to him. The king and his lover Robbie Devere are bankrupting the country, turning the peasants against him. When the king exiles Bolingbroke without charging him with anything the nobles turn against their monarch as well. Just when it looks like Bolingbroke will achieve his dreams, Thomas learns the secret that he and his wife share that if revealed could cost them both Bolingbroke and Margaret their lives................................. Fans of Judith Tarr¿s historical fantasies will love THE WOUNDED HAWK, a brilliant epic novel that uses authentic historical facts in a supernatural context. This romantic fantasy answers many of the questions in THE NAMELESS DAY but there are still more yet to be answered in the next book THE CRIPPLED ANGEL. Although not a religious book, the author provides a unique take on angels, demons, Christ and God. The tortured hero is torn between his love for his wife and the veneration of an angel; he knows it is his destiny to choose mankind¿s path, a decision he fears but will make when the time comes. This superb tale will appeal to speculative fiction readers................. Harriet Klausner