Behold a Pale Horse
not. Sister Fidelma is a lawyer in her own land and was recently praised by the Holy Father and his nomenclator . She solved the mystery of the murder of some foreign archbishop which happened in the Lateran Palace.’
    Radoald’s eyes widened and then he turned back to Fidelma.
    ‘Is this so? Did you accomplish this?’
    Fidelma shrugged, feeling embarrassed by the praise of the young girl. ‘I will not deny that I was able to help in that matter.’
    ‘Well, well.’ The young man exchanged a glance with Sister Gisa, who seemed so keen on ensuring that the Lord of Trebbia knew who she was. Fidelma had a feeling that some intimacy passed between them. Then she wondered whether she was being too sensitive. She did not like speaking of her rank or, indeed, her past success as a dálaigh , an advocate of the courts of her own land in which she held the degree of anruth , the second highest degree that the colleges could bestow. The young lord was laughing with good humour. ‘Well, indeed, we have no mysterious deaths here that I could ask your assistance with, lady. But allow me to welcome a Hibernian princess into my poor valley.’
    ‘I am pleased to be here,’ Fidelma replied as diplomacy dictated.
    Radoald swung round to extend his smile of welcome to all of them.
    ‘My roof is your roof for this night, my friends.’ He spread a hand to encircle his hunting party. His companions had already dismounted and were leading their mounts to the edge of the river to slake their thirst. ‘We were hunting for some meat for this evening’s feasting and, having just brought down a red deer, we came here to the riverside so that we might refresh ourselves before returning home. So now you may join us, and my fortress is yours for this night.’



ell, Magister Ado, you must tell us something of your journey to Tolosa,’ Radoald invited after he had finished quenching his thirst from a goatskin water bag that one of his warriors had filled from the river.
    Fidelma had been standing by him and noticed an oddly suspicious look come into the elderly scholar’s eyes.
    ‘How did you know I had been to Tolosa?’ His voice was unnaturally sharp.
    Radoald did not appear to notice his tone. ‘You should know that we are a small community in the valley. News travels quickly.’
    Magister Ado was frowning. ‘Then you will know that I went to the Abbey of the Blessed Martyr Saturnin to view a manuscript. It was a boring journey but, Deo gratias , it was a short one.’
    ‘Ah, I wondered at its shortness. It was surely a long way to go, just to return immediately. You could have barely been there for more than a few days.’
    ‘You are well informed, Lord Radoald.’
    ‘I try to be, my friend, especially in these days. However, did you see anything untoward on your travels?’
    Fidelma listened to the exchange with interest, although she tried to keep her features expressionless.
    ‘There are constant rumours that the Franks are plotting against us. Even more rumours of their army crossing into our lands in support of Perctarit.’
    ‘I saw nothing.’
    ‘Yet I hear that Tolosa is now a city bathed in darkness, stricken by plague, the flight of its population, and even the great basilica fallen into decay.’
    ‘That is not so, for I stayed several days there and was able to secure the very book I went there to see, the Life of the Blessed Martyr Saturnin , and thus was able to bring it back with me for our great library at Bobium.’
    ‘Well, then, that is good news.’ Radoald glanced round to check that his men had finished watering their horses, as if his questions had been no more than a passing interest. But Fidelma thought that something lay behind his queries.
    ‘Who is Perctarit?’ she decided to inquire.
    Radoald turned to answer her. ‘He used to be King of the Longobards, a cruel and despotic man who was eventually overthrown and fled for protection to the land of

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