Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 2 of 6

That evening, the travelers found a place to camp not far from the road they would take into England Proper, as Father Tucker called it.  He explained to them that the lowlands they were in used to be considered part of Scotland, but the Normans came up and stole at least the southern part of it, like Galloway.  Lincluden Abbey was still in Norman lands.  He was actually on his way to Scotland but got as far as Lockerbie and turned around to go to Dumfries and to the building at Lincluden.

“They needed a proper priest to serve them until the bishop could appoint a priest.  He eventually sent both a priest and an abbot to discipline the monks there, so I am no longer needed, though I suppose a thank you would have been nice.  Anyway, I got to thinking about home and so, here I am.”  He smiled for them all.

“Why were you trying to get to Scotland?” Katie asked, and Alexis, who was cooking the deer, nodded, like she wanted to ask the same question.

“Yes.  Well, I ran afoul of the sheriff.  I’m from a little town south of York called Sheffield.  You probably never heard of it.”  To his surprise, a number of travelers heard of it.  “Well, anyway, John Lackland had his eyes on Sheffield Castle, but King Henry granted that place to the Lovetot family.  Good people overall.  Well, Lord Lovetot died suddenly in an accident when Sir Guy of Gisborne was his guest.  Some believe Sir Guy murdered the man for John.  He has that sort of reputation.  But I argued with the sheriff, Lord Sir Ralph Murdac, that the eldest daughter, Maud at age thirteen should be given to ward the castle until such time as she came of age and married or until the king should decide otherwise.  I guess I was persuasive because Lord Murdac agreed, and Maud, with help, gained the Hallamshire properties.  Too bad for John.”   Father Tucker let out a small laugh.

“Lovetot,” Lincoln interrupted.  “We are looking for Helen Lovetot in this place.”

“The little one?” the priest looked surprised and then not surprised.  “She is a strange one, but with a good heart.  Lord Lovetot only had the two daughters, which is why I had to argue so hard to keep the property in the elder one’s hands.”

“But it sounds like things worked out,” Katie said before Decker mentioned the obvious, with Nanette nodding.

“You said you ran afoul of the sheriff.”

“Yes.”  He picked up a stray stick to stir the fire.  “As soon as Richard left on the holy crusade, John forced Lord Murdac out of his place, seeing as Lord Murdac frustrated John’s ambition.  Lord Murdac appealed to Longchamp and Puiset, the men left in charge of the kingdom while Richard was away, but nothing ever came of it.  John got one of his friends to take the spot.  The Baron William de Wendenal is now Sheriff of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the Royal Forests, and a meaner man has never been born.  John wants money, and his new sheriff is happy to steal everything, every penny from the people, right down to the food out of the mouths of the babies.”

“So, you tried to argue with the new sheriff?” Katie asked, trying to piece it together.

“No.  I ran away,” the priest admitted.  “I got Lord Furnival to watch over Maud, Helen, and Sheffield, and keep it out of the hands of John and his baron, but then I got fingered as a main conspirator that kept it out of the hands of John in the first place.  Forget Longchamp and Puiset.  All they do is argue and no one is there to stop John from doing what he pleases.  I ran to Scotland to escape the kingdom altogether and thought about how this would be a good time to go on a pilgrimage to Rome.  But the Lord Almighty got hold of me and calmed my panic.  The Lord turned me to Lincluden where they needed a priest.  And now, it is time to pay the piper.  That is one of Helen’s expressions, but I have found it useful more than once.”

“So, Boston,” Lockhart said.  “Looks like we might see the Sheriff of Nottingham.”

Boston grinned and nodded while the priest said, “Nottinghamshire?”  He knew the town, but he was not sure what they were implying.

“I wonder if Robin Hood is around,” Boston said through her grin.

“Yes.”  Father Tucker picked up the conversation.  “I have heard there are all sorts of hoodlums like poachers, robbers, and even murderers hiding out in the forests, just waiting to prey on unwary travelers.  I have heard of this Robin Hood.”

“Yes!” Boston said.  “But the story says they are free Englishmen and people who are starving under the heavy tax burden imposed by the sheriff.”

“Yes, I imagined that to be true, but like other secrets that have been discussed, we will have to see when we get there.”

People nodded and quieted.  “Standard Watch,” Lockhart said.

###

Father Tucker proved a gruff man, not given to putting up with nonsense, but at the same time, he came across as gregarious and kind.  He had a good heart and smiling proved to be his natural state.  He wore a short knife to cut his meat, and a long knife that would not qualify as a sword.  He said it was to defend the innocent.  People did not question him about that.  He also had a bow and a few scraggly arrows, he said, to fetch his meat to go with his daily bread.  He nearly gagged when Decker first told him to keep his arrows, raised his rifle, and took down a deer with one shot.  Decker was well practiced by then.

It took ten days to reach Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest, or the Royal Forest, as the priest called it.  That first day on the main North-South Road, they passed some soldiers—Normans.  Father Tucker hid his face from the men, but after that, after some thought and prayer, he went out of his way to show his face to whoever they met on the road.

“I will fear no evil because the Lord is with me,” he said.

Most of those ten days were pleasant.  They stayed at village inns on the third and fourth days but found the accommodations uncomfortable and the food barely edible.  After that, they opted to stay alongside the road.

“You should eat the food that the monks eat in most places.  You have no idea how inedible food can be,” Father Tucker said.

“Army food,” Decker agreed.

By far, Father Tucker spent most of those ten days with Decker and Nanette, once he found out they were Christians, not Muslims, and they were engaged and looking to marry.  They shared openly with the father that they were traveling through time and trying to get back to nine hundred years in the future.  It allowed them the chance to talk openly around the campfire about past time zones they traveled through and hopes for the future if they did not give too many future details.

“So, Margueritte married Roland,” Father Tucker said once privately to Boston.

Boston nodded.  “My Roland was named after Charlemagne’s friend.  But he was a grand nephew, or great-grand nephew named after Margueitte’s husband.”

“I see,” he said.  “Sort of like being part of the family.”

“Alexis is the only family I have right now.  She was Roland’s sister, but she became human to marry Lincoln, and now she is too human for words.  Alexis’ elf is still in there, somewhere, I think.  But sometimes it is hard to find.”

“Yes.” the father said.  “Elf.  I am still getting used to that.  You people have opened my eyes to so many things.  I’m sorry.  My poor mind can only handle so much at a time.”

Boston kissed his cheek and left him so he could find Nanette.

Alexis called it twelfth-century premarital counseling.  She said she and Lincoln could have used some of that, especially at first.  She imagined she had an inkling of what Decker and Nanette must be going through, being separated by a hundred years in their upbringing and worldviews.  “Conventions, attitudes, cultures change in a hundred years, especially those hundred years,” she said.  “Nanette got brought up in horse and buggy days, but Decker left the future more than fifty years after men landed on the moon.”

Father Tucker quickly realized the same thing.  As an outsider, and one barely able to follow the things they talked about, he did what he could to help bridge that gap.

Then they came to Cunigsworth Ford and crossed a small river into the forest.

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