‘Mister Twilight?’ he called, hesitantly inching toward them. Receiving a smile and a nod, his face broke into a broad beam of welcome and relief.
‘I am Brother Thomas, novice monk and assistant to the archbishop. He awaits your presence and thanks you for coming. This way please.’
As he turned to lead them, Tara nodded at the pig, which instantly turned back into the guard who found himself sitting on the floor. She smiled sweetly at Brother Thomas, who, mouth agape, made a sign of the cross and began to hurry across the cobblestones with frequent glances behind him. For devilment Tara pointed her finger at him, and he yelped and jumped into the air thinking he, too, was about to become a pig.
Behave yourself, Twilight said but could not keep the smile from his face.
A tall man in a black robe with a heavy gold chain and a large golden cross around his neck stood by the entrance to the cathedral. On his head he wore a large black flat hat made out of some kind of felt, which was slanted over one ear. Clear blue eyes twinkled in a lined and weather-beaten face.
‘I have heard of people being turned into goats and pigs but always believed it to be myth,’ he said in heavily accented English, holding both arms out to grasp Twilight by the elbows. ‘You are indeed most welcome, sir, and I apologize for the reception you were given by my guards. One has so many enemies, and I have to be protected at all times.’
His gaze held Twilight’s black orbs for as long as he could; then he dropped his eyes down to Tara.
‘And you, young lady, are, I believe, the tyro venefica to this great and wonderful man, are you not?’
‘And pig turner,’ Tara said impishly. ‘My name is Tara.’
The archbishop smiled down at her. ‘Asses would be more appropriate sometimes, Tara, believe you me. Come this way, there is something I wish to discuss with you both.’
When they were settled in his rooms, Archbishop Jumieges began his story.
‘I was appointed by King Edward in order to bring the church’s view and teachings to this land and to help restore some of the balance and authority to the crown where it belongs.’ He held his hand up. ‘Before you say anything, I am aware of your stance with regard to religion, all religion. When I was a young novice and before I went to Rome for further study, I spent a brief period of time studying with a fine monk with whom I believe you are acquainted.’
Twilight raised an eyebrow but he already knew the name that was coming.
‘Brother Bede at the monastery on Lindisfarne. He told me many things about you and the heroic deeds you performed with King Alfred against the Viking invaders. It was Bede who told me about your anti-religious stance.’
The enchanter nodded.
Jumieges gathered his thoughts for a moment before pressing on.
‘There is a powerful Anglo-Saxon earl in England called Godwine. He has three sons called Swein, Harold, and Beorn, all of whom have been appointed earls because of their father’s patronage. The one I am concerned with here is Swein, who is a particularly nasty individual who thinks that he can take whatever he wants. In this case Edgiva, the Abbess of Leominster.’
Twilight nodded again. He was beginning to see where this was going.
‘Swein, who glorifies in the title of the Earl of Herefordshire, Gloucester, and Oxford, has kidnapped the abbess from Leominster Abbey and is holding her prisoner in his castle at Hereford. He is evidently captivated by her and refuses to let her go such that I have heard many rumours of, shall we say, improper behaviour by Swein with Edgiva. He also has many men under arms and the castle is strongly defended. The king will deal with the Godwines in due course and it won’t be merciful, but the time is not right to provoke all-out war with them across the land by rescuing the abbess . . .’
‘So he wants us to do it for him,’ said Tara bluntly.
‘He does and, just as