Just a quick update: the next book is more than half finished and I’m hoping to get more time to write now so things can really start to kick on and I can get Rise of the Wolf out within the next few months. In the meantime, here’s a little (un-edited!) snippet featuring the jovial Friar Tuck who’s in a spot of bother:
“What can I do for you, my son?” he asked, smiling deferentially at the little man. “A blessing? Do you seek” –
“Enough, priest,” the robber growled, sidling over and standing to look up at the palfrey whose ears were back as it sensed something was wrong. “We need no blessings in Sherwood. What we need is silver and gold. And food. And judging by the belly you’re carrying around on you, you’ve got enough of everything to share with me and my mates here.” He raised the sword he carried, unusually, in his left hand, brandishing it menacingly, and Tuck noticed the man was missing more than one finger from his right hand. Punishment for being caught stealing before perhaps, although that method of justice had – mostly – been done away with years earlier.
Dangerous, but hopefully stupid.
The friar looked back across his shoulder to see a tall young man holding a longbow aimed directly at him. His hands were steady, but the expression on his face was one of distaste. Not at the clergyman, no…the big man’s eyes flicked to his leader for a moment and Tuck knew the youngster wasn’t happy to be here doing this.
“Aye, he’s got you covered, old man,” the robber leader grinned, showing a mouthful of surprisingly complete teeth. “And the rest of us’ll split you wide open – priest or not – if you don’t hand over what you’ve got. Including that nice horse.”
There was little point denying he was carrying money, Tuck thought. The robbers would know he’d need coin to pay for food and board as he travelled.
“Will you let me be on my way if I give you what I have?” he asked in a trembling voice, moving towards the small man and fumbling in his cassock. As he reached the robber, he smiled, remembering a similar scene a couple of years earlier when he’d first met Robin and the men.
“Here you go, have the lot!”
The two big robbers further back on the road stood in stunned silence for a moment as their leader collapsed in front of them. Tuck had whipped his cudgel up and into the jaw of the robber, then, as the man stumbled backwards, the friar brought it round in an arc into the side of the man’s neck, sending him flying across the road senseless.
Before anyone could react, Tuck jumped forward, ramming the cudgel into the man on the left’s face, feeling teeth crunch as his target reeled back and landed on his backside with a howl of pain.
By now it was obvious this was no normal priest and the final swordsman struck out with the battered old blade he carried.
Tuck had been fast when he was young, but now…he twisted sideways, lashing out with his own weapon which connected with the back of his opponent’s skull sending the man crashing to the hard earth of the road. He let out a breath of relief as he realised his flesh was unbroken – the robber’s blade had only torn his cassock.
The friar glanced back to the bowman and was relieved to see the youngster staring at the scene before him, mouth open in surprise, bowstring not quite fully drawn. Still with one eye on the archer, Tuck moved over to the man with the wounded mouth and kicked out at the side of his head, hard enough to send the man reeling.
“Where are you from, son?”
Look out for Rise of the Wolf, coming soon!