The woman giggled. Wormwood heard a tinder strike and a long candle flared into light. The woman walked towards Wormwood, the candle bathing her face in a circle of light.
'Here, hold this,' she said.
Wormwood grabbed the candlestick. 'You wanton wench! Come here!'
The woman smiled, her eyes sparkling as she placed one long, beautiful hand on his shoulder. Her blue, cat-like eyes held his and, for a few seconds, the assassin knew something was wrong. The smile went from her face and her eyes became heavy-lidded. He opened his mouth to scream and tried to step back, but too late. The knife, held in the woman's hand, took him deep beneath the heart. He felt the room sway. He wanted to scream at the pain that shot through him.
'The Guardian greets you,' the woman whispered. 'And bids you adieu.'
A TAPESTRY OF MURDERS
The Man of Law's Tale of Mystery and Murder as he goes on Pilgrimage from London to Canterbury
England, 14th Century
The spade grated on something in the dark, friable soil, something neither loam nor stone. Cadfael checked his stroke instantly at its suggestion of age, frailty and crumbling dryness. He let the blade lie, and stooped to scoop away with his hands the cool, odorous, gentle earth that hid the obstruction from him. Dark soil peeled away under his fingers from a slender, pale, delicate thing, the gentle dove-grey of pre-dawn, but freckled with pitted points of black. He drew out an arm-bone, scarcely more than child size, and stroked away the clinging earth. Islands of the same soft colouring showed below, grouped loosely together. He did not want to break any of them. He hoisted the spade and tossed it out of the pit.
'She is here. We have found her. Softly, now, leave her to me.'
A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES
The first chronicle of Brother Cadfael
England and Wales, 1137
THE WOLF SISTERS
Saxon England, 7th Century
He heard leaves crumpling as pads pressed them down, and the swish of a strong tail sweeping aside stems. A cold nose pressed into his neck, and he opened his sore eyes to see that the wolves had returned. The wolf nearest him lay down and rolled in the grass. Its fur parted, and a naked woman sat up from the skin like a woman rising from under a wolf-skin coverlet in the midst of a wood. 'Come and run with us,' she said.
She reached out and gripped his arm hard. Tugging, she dragged him to his feet. The trees, the sky, spun around him and, dizzily looking down, he saw a man lying among the leaves and greenery. He thought it strange that another man should be there, deep in the wood, until he realised that he was looking at himself.
'Come, come,' said the woman, and pushed at his shoulder and pulled at his hand. He started in the direction she moved him. His legs, his feet, moved, but he felt no contact with the ground. Ahead of him, through the grey and green of the wood, he saw the grey wolves loping, their tails held high.