Last Templar, by Jecks Michael
- ISBN: 9780060763442 | 0060763442
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 8/24/2018
A Knights Templar Mystery
Simon Puttock felt elated, but not withouta certain trepidation, as he meanderedalong the road that led from Tiverton toCrediton, letting his horse take him at aslow walk as he thought about his new position.
He had worked for the de Courtenays for manyyears now, as had his father before him, and he supposedthat he should have expected a promotion -- buthe had not. It had been completely unexpected, a suddenshock; if they had told him he was to be imprisonedfor robbery, it could not have surprised him more.Naturally he hoped that his lords were satisfied withhis work over the years, but he had never dreamed ofbeing given his own castle to command, especially oneso important as Lydford, and every now and again aquick smile cracked the serious expression on his faceas his glee momentarily flared, quenching his nervouscontemplation.
The de Courtenays, the lords of Devon and Cornwall,had been able to rely on Simon's family fordecades. Peter, his father, had been the seneschal oftheir castle at Oakhampton for twenty years before hisdeath two years ago, carefully looking after their es-tates and keeping the peace during the long, regular absenceswhen the de Courtenay family went to visittheir lands farther north. Before that, Peter's father hadbeen the family's chamberlain and had fought loyallywith his lord in the troubled times before King Edwardcame to the throne. Simon was immensely proud of hisforebears' association with, and honorable service to,this ancient family.
But even after so long in the de Courtenay family'sservice, the honor of being given the castle of Lydfordto look after was still an unexpected delight -- and afearsome opportunity. If his tenure was successful andthe land was profitable, he could expect to becomewealthy, a man of power and influence in his ownright. Of course, as the bailiff of the castle, he was alsoheld responsible for any failures: for lower tax revenues,for reduced productivity from the demesnelands -- for anything. Now, on his way home to hiswife, he was gathering his thoughts, framing the bestway of putting to her the possibilities and options thatthe role presented. Being a realist, he not only feltpride at the recognition he had been offered; he wasalso aware of the awesome immensity of the job thathe had been given.
Ever since the Scots had defeated the English armyat Bannockburn two years before, matters had got progressivelyworse, he knew. It was not just the continualattacks on the northern shires by the Scots or their invasionof Ireland, it sometimes appeared that God himselfwas angry with the whole of Europe and waspunishing it. For two years now the whole country hadbeen blighted, suffering under the worst rainstormsever known. Last year, thirteen hundred and fifteen,had not been so bad down here in the far west; his peo-ple had hardly noticed any lack of essentials. Now,though, in the late autumn of thirteen sixteen, the rainhad again been constant, and it had ruined the harvestfor a second year. In other counties the people hadbeen reduced to eating their horses and dogs in the vainsearch for sustenance, although it was not quite so badyet here in Devon. It did mean that there would be a lotto plan for, though, and in his new job as the bailiff ofLydford castle, Simon intended to do all he could tohelp the people he was responsible for.
Lost in his thoughts, he had a deep frown on his faceas he rode. He was a tall and muscular man with abody honed from riding and hunting, in his prime atnearly thirty years old. His hair was thick and a uniformdark brown, with no gray or white hairs to marthe youthful looks that hid his age so well. His complexionwas ruddy from the days regularly spent in theopen air and the saddle. Fortunately his daily exercisehad so far prevented the build-up of fat that he rememberedso well hanging under his father's chin as heavyjowls, making him look so much like one of his mastiffs,but he could still feel the early onset of thickeningaround his waist from the heavy beer that hishousehold was so proud of.
From his sun- and wind-burned face his dark grayeyes looked out with a calm confidence. He was fortunateto have grown up near Crediton, and to have beentaught how to read and write by his father's friends inthe church -- a fact that would surely make him uniqueamong the other bailiffs in the district -- and he wasconfident that he was fully capable of the responsibilitiesthat had been given to him.
Looking up at the sky he could see it was alreadystarting to darken as the sun slowly sank over to the west, and he threw a glance back at his servant, whoplodded along behind on his old carthorse. "Hugh," hecalled, resting his hand on the rump of his horse as hetwisted in his saddle to face backward, "I think we'llstop off at Bickleigh for the night, if they'll let us. It'llbe dark long before we get home to Sandford."
His servant, a lean, morose, dark-haired man withthe narrow, sharp features of a ferret, glared back. Hisdemeanor was that of a prisoner being taken to the gallowswho had been asked about the weather -- angry atthe interruption of his thoughts and suspicious of thereasons for the comment.
Satisfied that the remark was made with no maliciousintent, he grunted his assent as he lolled in hissaddle. He had no desire to ride any farther tonight,and Bickleigh was known to have a good stock of wineand beer -- it would be a fine place to rest as far as hewas concerned ...The Last Templar
A Knights Templar Mystery. Copyright © by Michael Jecks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from The Last Templar by Michael Jecks
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