Title: Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil
Author: Steven A. McKay
Genre: Historical Fiction, Holiday Fiction
"...a heart warming tale, wrapping the deep meaning of Christmas in amongst a clever little mystery...a perfect Xmas tale!” - Parmenion Book Reviews
December, AD 1323
Holly and ivy decorate the houses while voices are raised in song, but the Christmas cheer is tempered by terror this festive season, as demons haunt a small English village.
Strange thefts; cloven hoof-prints in the snow; a house burned to the ground.
Something evil stalks the icy streets of Brandesburton and former mercenary Tuck must find out what, before it's too late.
As he sets out to solve the mystery the friar prays his faith will protect him. His faith AND his great quarterstaff, for he knows full well – the Devil makes no deals...
This brand new novella from the best-selling author of the Forest Lord series will delight and entertain historical fiction fans looking to escape the madness of Christmas shopping for a little while. Grab a mince pie, warm some mulled wine, and join Friar Tuck on this snowy adventure!
DECEMBER AD 1323
Holy Mary, Mother of God. It's him! The devil!
The man shrank back, too anxious to approach his own front door for fear of what terrors he might find inside the thatch-roofed hovel he called 'home'.
The snow had fallen sporadically for the past week or so and had been particularly heavy that day, leaving a clean white covering on the land. The roads around the village were, of course, muddy and sodden from travellers' feet and the wheels of delivery wagons and the animals that pulled them but here, outside the old peasant's home, the snow was thick and fresh and untouched.
Or at least it should have been untouched, since no one ever came to visit the man and, as his family had all died or grown-up and left to live elsewhere, there was really no reason for anyone to have been near his front door.
So the sight of footprints leading towards the threshold had made the peasant pause and then stare, wide-eyed and terror-stricken at the low dwelling, which had begun to seem horribly sinister in the early-evening gloom. For upon closer inspection the prints in the snow weren't normal human, or even animal prints – they appeared to have been made by some bipedal beast with hoofs for feet. Cloven hoofs.
“The devil!” the peasant shouted in alarm, his strangled cry somewhat muffled by the falling snow yet still loud enough to bring his neighbours to their own doors. Their faces peered out, framed in the orange glow from their cosy hearths.
“What's going on out there?” a voice demanded. “I'm trying to get my children abed, Ivor. What's all the shouting about?”
“The devil's been in my house!” the peasant cried in reply, shuffling backwards away from the haunted place, waving his arms towards the hoof prints in the snow. “Call out the tithing! Someone send to the city for the sheriff's men – the fiend might still be inside. Look at the marks it's left; the thing must be huge!”
People began to spill into the street at the noise. Men carried wooden clubs, pitchforks, longbows or whatever other weapons they owned; mothers tried to hold back their children who, frightened but excited, called to their friends, wide-eyed and smiling.
“James!” The old peasant spotted a work-mate of his, a big man, who was watching events from the safety of his own front door. “James! Fetch your dog – it'll chase out the devil for us. You people, be ready to defend yourselves when the foul beast is chased into the open.”
The villagers seemed unwilling to come anywhere near his hovel, fear keeping even the biggest, hardest of the men at bay, although James had apparently gone to find his dog for his bulk had disappeared from his doorway. The big man came back a moment later with the hound on the end of a length of rope.
It was a big dog, its head almost as tall as its owner's waist, although it was lean and rangy, being used for hunting rather than fighting and the frightened Ivor wished one of his neighbours owned something more vicious like a mastiff. Even the devil wouldn't want to face one of that giant breed!
The common folk of Brandesburton had good reason to be jumpy and fearful; in the past few weeks there had been many strange happenings around the village. A number of people – stolid, trustworthy citizens – had reported thefts from their homes and workplaces. Even the presence of locked doors didn't seem to be able to stop the thieves yet the doors were never broken down – it was as if the locks had simply been bypassed somehow...
On a few occasions the burgled buildings had shown signs of similar, cloven hoofprints in the mud or snow outside and so, of course, the rumours started.
The gossips had come close to hysteria when the blacksmith, a dumpy man who made up for his lack of height with the biggest arms Ivor had ever seen, had been reduced to a quivering wreck when, he claimed, a horned, glowing demon had brushed by him as he opened the smithy one morning. Some of his best pieces were missing and, as usual, hoofprints were found tracked along the entrance to the building.
Since then more people had come forward telling tales of sighting the devil, be-horned and with eyes that burned red like hellfire, leaping from rooftop to rooftop and howling with insane laughter.
Ivor knew some of those witnesses and he knew they wouldn't lie. If they said they'd seen Satan in Brandesburton it had to be true – who would lie about something like that at this time of year, when folk were preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ?
And now the devil was in his own house! The peasant clasped his hands and shakily mumbled the Ave Maria and Pater Noster as James led the big harrier towards the hoofprints in the snow.
The front door to the dwelling was slightly ajar although, as usual with these recent break-ins, it hadn't been broken off its hinges or had the lock smashed, and the dog approached, apparently interested more in pissing all over the fresh white snow than in chasing any denizen of hell that might be hiding inside Ivor's miserable house.
Buy Link: getbook.at/FTXD
What I love most about the holiday season:
Spending time with my family, all cozy indoors, watching movies together.
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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 www.stevenamckay.com
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