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Blood Runs Thicker by Sarah Hawkswood

Blood Runs Thicker by Sarah Hawkswood

Author:Sarah Hawkswood [Hawkswood, Sarah]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Published: 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00


Chapter Eleven

The coppice was mostly hazel with a little holly scattered amongst it like prickly green sentinels and the odd legacy of a greater wood, an occasional oak or ash. The body lay in a small clearing, where one of the great trees had fallen, not at its end of years, but lightning-struck and split. Such a ‘ghost tree’, accounted cursed by many, had not fed the village hearths, and its parts lay supine, the saplings that would fight to replace it merely supple mourners about the skeletal remains. The clearing was perhaps fifteen paces from the trackway, behind a wall of hazels and green shrubbery. A shaft of slightly dappled light played over the corpse like shimmers upon water, creating an illusion of movement, though Winflaed the Healer would never move again. She lay with one cheek upon the earth as if listening to its heartbeat, one arm still outstretched towards a sprouting of mushrooms against the pale roots of the ghost tree. Another of the tree’s roots, ripped from the earth and pointing skywards, seemed to be drawing the attention of Heaven to the evil that had been perpetrated. Her other arm was still beneath her, and the fact that it was not flung out suggested to Bradecote that she had been insensate even as she toppled forward. He did not need Catchpoll’s skills to work that out. The pale cloth of her coif was pale no longer, but heavily stained scarlet, and the ground was damp-dark.

Catchpoll skirted to the side of the body and knelt down. He touched the flesh of her cheek.

‘Only warmth in the skin is the little from the sunlight.’ He closed the sightless eyes. ‘No real death-stiffening as yet, but then we knows she was alive a couple of hours ago, so that is no surprise at all.’

‘And the basket for her foraging is almost empty,’ noted Walkelin, picking up a shallow basket that the woman had evidently set down out of the way before her death. It had but half a dozen mushrooms and a sprig of some plant, its leaves slightly wilted. ‘So she was killed not long after setting out.’ He cast about the edge of the clearing and added that a horse had been there. ‘We are not far from the track, but no rider would bring their horse among the trees and bushes by mistake.’

Catchpoll nodded his agreement and approval, though he was still looking at the body. ‘Leastways it was quick.’ His fingers touched the red stain upon the neck of her gown and soaked into the folds of her coif. ‘Blade went in behind the left collarbone and straight down to the heart, I reckon.’ Catchpoll looked up and caught the movement of the swine boy wiping his sleeve across his nose. He looked pinched and rather green-tinged. ‘You go back and fetch two men and a strong blanket or a hurdle, boy. Be swift.’ The boy just nodded, turned and ran. ‘Should’ve thought of him before.



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