Title: The Prisoner
Author: Steven A. McKay
Genre: Historical Fiction
When two lawmen are sent to a snowy English village to arrest a vicious rapist it seems a straightforward task, but is all as it first appears? ENGLAND, AD 1325 As Robin Hood and John Little, legendary former outlaws themselves, take the criminal into custody they find the people of Stapleford accommodating enough. The terrified victim's bruises are plainly, painfully, visible and a local nobleman confirms her accusations.
As they set off on the road back to Nottingham the lawmen's disgust for their captive's actions colours their opinion of him and John has to be restrained from brutally assaulting the man. The harsh winter conditions slow their journey though, and eventually the prisoner's words and desperate, violent actions have the lawmen questioning what's really been happening in Stapleford... Can Robin and John complete the mission they've been given, or will their own innate sense of justice lead them down an unexpected path? Fans of the bestselling Forest Lord series will love this exciting new stand-alone tale that cleverly explores the themes of morality and justice in medieval England. "A delightfully crafted, deceptively simple little glimpse of life in early 14th Century England." - 5 Stars, Steve Denton of Speesh Reads
They seated themselves by the fire with sighs and broad smiles of satisfaction, rubbing their hands to bring some warmth back into them, basking in the glorious warmth which had already begun to thaw their icy fingers and toes and turn their cheeks red.
Soon enough the inn-keeper brought them two mugs of ale, gesturing to the pokers by the hearth which they might use to warm the drinks if they wished. When he wandered back to the kitchen Robin and John gladly placed the implements into the flames for a time then dipped them in the ale mugs, watching the dark liquid hiss as it heated invitingly. Soon, as they sat supping the wonderful, slightly herby drinks the man returned again with two steaming bowls and a trencher laden with a loaf of black bread.
“Enjoy, my lads,” he smiled, and his expression was one of a man who knew his food was sure to please. “If you want any more – and you will – just shout.”
They set to with relish and soon finished the meal but, before they could even wave him over, the inn-keep had bustled across and set down second helpings, clearing their empty bowls away with a knowing, satisfied smile.
“Oh, this is the life,” John gasped, as he swallowed another long pull of ale, and Robin nodded, mumbling an incoherent reply through a mouthful of the excellent stew.
As they devoured their second serving the alehouse door opened again and a flurry of snow whipped inside before the newcomer thrust it to and stamped his feet on the hard ground to remove the slush packed hard around them.
He was a slim fellow, of average height, with hard, confident eyes that swept the room before settling at last on Robin and John.
Robin watched the man as he strode across the small common room towards them, a smile appearing on his face as he neared their table.
“You must be the lawmen from Nottingham.”
“Well spotted. What gave us away?”
The man pulled up a stool and sat next to them, not noticing or perhaps simply ignoring the gentle sarcasm in John’s voice.
“We don’t get many visitors around here, and even less as big as you two. Word came to me that you’d arrived, so here I am to greet you.” He raised a hand to catch the burly inn-keeper’s attention. “I’ll be paying for the lads’ meal and board, Simon. All right?”
The landlord nodded, gave a small grunt that might have meant anything, and went back to polishing the top of his bar with a filthy old rag that could only be spreading the grime about.
“There’s no need for that, friend,” Robin shook his head, assuming, correctly, that this newcomer must be the village headman. “The sheriff, Sir Henry, is covering all our expenses.”
The man winked. “Sir Henry de Faucumberg is a cousin of mine, but he doesn’t have to know that someone else paid for your stay here, does he? You two hold onto the coins he gave you. Go on, put them back in your purses. We’ll see you right in Stapleford since you’re here to do me – us – a good turn by taking that foul raper away.”
He got to his feet and Robin swallowed a piece of bread, surprised, as the man made to head back into the night.
“Won’t you stop and have a drink with us?” the lawman shouted.
“No thank you, although God bless you for the thought. I’ve got work of my own to do this night and it can’t wait. Head to the mill tomorrow – Simon will direct you although it’s easy enough to find. The prisoner – Luke Tanner – is being held in the basement there for now, and I expect you’ll want to get him back to the city as soon as possible, eh? See justice done?”
He waved merrily and, before the lawmen could utter another word, the door was opened with a chill blast and he was gone.
“Strange fellow,” Robin muttered, tipping another mouthful of stew into his mouth thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like him before.”
John simply shrugged, sighing as a sip of ale warmed his whole body. “Lots of people are strange. Let’s just do as he says and enjoy the hospitality he’s paying for. We can find out more about this whole business tomorrow if you’re so inclined.”
“Aye, fair enough,” Robin nodded drowsily. “I suppose you’re right.”
He finished his meal at last and leaned back in the creaking chair, patting his stomach although the feeling of contentment was somewhat offset by the look he’d noticed on the inn-keeper’s face when the headman was leaving.
Hate might have been too strong a word to describe the expression, but it was clear the jovial landlord had little time for the suave headman.
“More ale,” John called and, by now utterly relaxed, pulled his damp boots off and set stockinged feet towards the fire.
“No more food though,” Robin gagged, eyeing the giant’s waggling, sweating toes theatrically. “I’ve just lost my appetite.”
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Steven A. McKay was born in Scotland in 1977. His first book, "Wolf's Head", came out in 2013 and was an Amazon UK top 20 bestseller. "The Abbey of Death” is the final book in the Forest Lord series which has over 130,000 sales so far.
Steven's new book, "The Druid" is the first in a series set in post-Roman Britain and was published on November 1st 2018, holding the number 1 spot in the UK "Celtic Myths and Legends" chart for the next three months.
His first novel written exclusively for audio, "Lucia", will be produced by Audible in 2019 and tells the tale of a Roman slave in second-century Britannia.
Steven plays lead guitar and sings in a heavy metal band when they can find the time to meet up.
Check out his website at stevenamckay.com
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