From internationally bestselling author Bernard Cornwell comes the eagerly anticipated sequel in his acclaimed Grail Quest series, in which a young archer sets out to avenge his family's honor on the battlefields of the Hundred Years' War and winds up on a quest for the Holy Grail.1347: a year of war and unrest. England's army is fighting in France, and its absence encourages the Scots to invade the old enemy. Thomas of Hookton, sent back to England to follow an ancient trail that suggests his family once owned the Holy Grail, instead becomes embroiled in the savage fight when the Scots come to Durham. Out of the horror he finds a new companion for the quest but also discovers a new and sinister enemy in a Dominican Inquisitor.All Europe wants the grail. Many may doubt it even exists, but no one would willingly allow an enemy to find Christendom's most precious relic, and Thomas finds himself in a murderous race with the Inquisitor and with Guy de Vexille, the mysterious black rider who murdered Thomas's father (in The Archer's Tale).Thomas appears to have an advantage in the race. His father bequeathed him a mysterious notebook that confirms the grail's existence and offers clues to where the relic might be hidden. But his rivals, inspired by a fanatical religious fervor, have their own advantage-the torture chamber of the Inquisition. Thomas, seeking help to decipher the book's cryptic pages, is delivered instead to his worst enemies.He finds refuge in Brittany, with Jeanette, the Countess of Armorica, but fate will not let him rest. He is thrust into one of the bloodiest and most desperate fights of the Hundred Years' War, the Battle of la Roche-Derrien, and amid the flames, arrows, and butchery of that night, he faces his enemies again.
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November 30, 2002
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Excerpt from Vagabond by Bernard Cornwell
It was October, the time of the year's dying when cattle were being slaughtered before winter and when the northern winds brought a promise of ice. The chestnut leaves had turned golden, the beeches were trees of flame and the oaks were made from bronze. Thomas of Hookton, with his woman, Eleanor, and his friend, Father Hobbe, came to the upland farm at dusk and the farmer refused to open his door, but shouted through the wood that the travelers could sleep in the byre. Rain rattled on the moldering thatch. Thomas led their one horse under the roof that they shared with a woodpile, six pigs in a stout timber pen and a scattering of feathers where a hen had been plucked. The feathers reminded Father Hobbe that it was St. Gallus's day and he told Eleanor how the blessed saint, coming home in a winter's night, had found a bear stealing his dinner. "He told the animal off!" Father Hobbe said. "He gave it a right talking-to, he did, and then he made it fetch his firewood."
"I've seen a picture of that," Eleanor said. "Didn't the bear become his servant?"
"That's because Gallus was a holy man," Father Hobbe explained. "Bears wouldn't fetch firewood for just anyone! Only for a holy man."
"A holy man," Thomas put in, "who is the patron saint of hens." Thomas knew all about the saints, more indeed than Father Hobbe. "Why would a chicken want a saint?" he inquired sarcastically.
"Gallus is the patron of hens?" Eleanor asked, confused by Thomas's tone. "Not bears?"
"Of hens," Father Hobbe confirmed. "Indeed of all poultry."
"But why?" Eleanor wanted to know.
"Because he once expelled a wicked demon from a young girl." Father Hobbe, broad-faced, hair like a stickleback's spines, peasant-born, stocky, young and eager, liked to tell stories of the blessed saints. "A whole bundle of bishops had tried to drive the demon out," he went on, "and they had all failed, but the blessed Gallus came along and he cursed the demon. He cursed it! And it screeched in terror" -- Father Hobbe waved his hands in the air to imitate the evil spirit's panic -- "and then it fled from her body, it did, and it looked just like a black hen -- a pullet. A black pullet."