The Council of the Cursed: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland (Mysteries of Ancient Ireland)

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9780312604936: The Council of the Cursed: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland (Mysteries of Ancient Ireland)
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In A.D. 670 Fidelma of Cashel is asked to act as an advisor to the Irish delegation to a hostile church council. In an abbey in Burgundy, Bishop Leodegar of Autun has assembled church leaders from all over western Europe, intending to use the council to deliver a death blow to the Celtic Church. But his plans are threatened when one of the delgates is found murdered, his skull crushed.
Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf, are suddenly in the midst of a murder investigation involving some of the most powerful religious leaders. The duo soon find that between the autocratic Bishop Leodegar and the malignant abbess, Mother Audofleda, a web of sinister intrigue is spreading throughout the abbey. And murder is only the beginning. The theft of a priceless reliquary box, the disappearance of local women and children, and the concurrent rumors of a slave trade all combine to make this one of the most diabolical puzzles that Fidelma and Eadulf have ever faced.

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About the Author:

PETER TREMAYNE is best known for his stories and novels featuring Fidelma of Cashel. He lives in London.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

The two cowled figures were barely discernible in the dark shadows of the mausoleum. They stood silently by the large sarcophagus that occupied the centre of this small section of the musty catacombs, which seemed to stretch in every direction under the abbey. This was the ancient necropolis; old even before the abbey had been built. Since the site was sanctified, after the coming of the New Faith, it was where generations of abbots had been laid to rest.

There was silence here apart from the distant dripping of water. The atmosphere was dank and almost suffocating. A faint light permeated the underground caverns, giving a certain relief to the darkness, by which objects could be distinguished by their various differences in light and shade but without detail. The two figures stood without movement, almost as if they themselves were part of the stonework.

Then, in contrast to the faint dripping of water, there was a sudden soft shuffling noise, as leather came into contact with stone. One of the figures stiffened perceptibly as a glimmering light appeared across the cavern and caused shadows to dance this way and that in the gloom. A third figure, holding a candle, emerged between the tombs.

The figure also wore a hooded robe. It halted before the mausoleum.

‘I come in the name of the Blessed Benignus,’ its rasping voice intoned.

The waiting couple in the darkness visibly relaxed.

‘You are welcome in the name of Benignus of sanctified name and thought,’ said one, in a soft, female voice. The words were exchanged in Latin.

The newcomer hurried forward into the mausoleum and placed the candle on the side of the marble tomb.

‘Well?’ asked the second of the waiting figures. ‘Does he still have it?’

The newcomer nodded quickly. ‘He has placed it in his chamber.’

‘Then we might easily take it. It will be a sign that God has blessed our endeavour,’ replied the other.

‘But we must act swiftly. The envoy from Rome has already spoken with him about it. If we are to use it as our symbol when the time comes, we must remove it now.’

‘If this is to work in our favour and the people to be aroused, he must be prevented from spreading the truth of this great symbol. The people must believe in it without question.’

‘Are we prepared for what we must do?’ It was the woman’s voice again.

‘It is for the greater good,’ intoned her companion.

Deus vult!’ the newcomer added solemnly. God wills it.

‘It is agreed, then?’ asked the woman with a catch of breath, as if caught by a cold air.

‘The deed must be done tonight,’ the newcomer said firmly.

The three looked at one another in the crepuscular light, and then with one voice they murmured: ‘Virtutis fortuna comes!’ Good luck is the companion of courage.

Without another word, the three shadowy figures departed in different directions through the dark vaults of the catacombs.

‘I will no longer tolerate the arrogance of that man!’

There was an astonished silence in the chapel as the voice echoed in the stone vaulted building. The abbots and bishops, who sat in the dark oak carved seats arranged before the high altar, turned almost as one to regard their grim-faced colleague. He was still seated but pointed an accusing finger towards the religieux seated further along the row.

‘Calm yourself, Abbot Cadfan,’ admonished Bishop Leodegar, who was presiding over the meeting. The chapel had been so arranged to serve the function of a council chamber. ‘We are here to debate the future of our Churches, which are currently separated by language and rituals. Remember that blunt words may be spoken in seeking paths along which we might converge so that unity may be achieved. Such words should not be taken as personal insults.’

He spoke firmly in the Latin language that was common to them all.

Abbot Cadfan’s scowl merely deepened.

‘Forgive my bluntness, Leodegar of Autun,’ he said, ‘but I have the ability to recognise an insult from an opinion expressed in genuine debate. I will tolerate no insults from the enemies of my blood and my people.’

The elderly, grey-haired cleric seated at Abbot Cadfan’s right side laid a gentle hand on his companion’s arm. He was Abbot Dabhóc of Tulach Óc, who represented Bishop Ségéne of Ard Macha; the latter claimed episcopal primacy over all the five kingdoms of Éireann.

‘I am sure Bishop Ordgar did not mean to sound arrogant,’ he said diplomatically. ‘While we speak in Latin, it is not the language of our mothers and thus we often lack the dexterity of expression with which we are comfortable. It may simply have been a matter of clumsy usage, or possibly different interpretation of emphasis?’

Bishop Ordgar, the subject of the initial angry outburst, had remained staring at Abbot Cadfan with sullen features. A sharp-featured, dark-haired individual with an unfortunate cast of the mouth that seemed to present a permanent sneer, he now turned his belligerent gaze on Abbot Dabhóc.

‘Are you accusing me of not knowing good Latin?’ he growled. ‘What would you, a barbaric outlander, know of the refinements of the tongue?’

Abbot Dabhóc flushed. Before he had a chance to respond, Abbot Cadfan gave a short bark of laughter.

‘Arrogance again–and from one whose people have not yet emerged from pagan savagery. Did we Britons not warn our neighbours of Hibernia that they should not attempt to convert these Saxons from their pagan ways, to teach them the ways of Christ and of literacy and learning? They are not yet sufficiently civilised to know what to do with it.’

Abbot Cadfan used the Latin name of Hibernia to refer to the five kingdoms of Éireann.

Bishop Ordgar thumped his fist on the armrest of his wooden seat. ‘I am an Angle, you Welisc barbarian!’

Abbot Cadfan shrugged indifferently. ‘Angle or Saxon, it is both the same, the same rasping language and the same ignorance. At least I call you by a proper name, but you, in your arrogance, call me Welisc. I am told this means “foreigner”. Yet it is you who are foreigners in the land of Britain. I am a Briton, whose people were in that land at the beginning of time, while your barbaric hordes came but two centuries ago. You entered our land by stealth and guile, and then by invasions, bringing slaughter and death to my people. You seek no more than the wholesale eradication of the Britons. I tell you this, barbarian, you will not succeed. We Welisc–as you sneeringly call us–will survive and may one day drive you from the land you are now calling Angle-land that was once our peaceful land of Britain.’

Brows drawn together, Bishop Ordgar had sprung to his feet, knocking his seat over backwards, one hand apparently searching for a non-existent sword at his side.

Abbot Cadfan sat back and gave another bark of laughter and glanced round at the serious-faced prelates at the table.

‘You see how the barbarian reacts? He would resort to primitive violence, if he had a weapon. He is not fit to call himself a man of peace, a representative of the Christ, and sit in discussion with those of civilised degree. He is just as savage as the rest of the petty chieftains of his people who, when they do not make war on us Britons, are at war with each other.’

A sudden noise interrupted the scene. A tall, swarthy-skinned man, seated beside Bishop Leodegar and wearing rich robes and a silver cross on a chain around his neck–which denoted he was of high rank among them–had risen to his feet and rapped loudly on the floor with a staff of office.

Tacet! Be silent!’ he thundered. ‘Brethren, you both forget yourselves. You are gathered in council under the eye of God and the bishop of this place. As the envoy from the Holy Father in Rome, I am ashamed to witness such an outburst among the chosen of the Faith.’

That the envoy of Rome, Nuntius Peregrinus, had felt forced to intervene was a rebuke to the lack of authority displayed by Bishop Leodegar in controlling the delegates to the council.

Bishop Leodegar now raised a hand and gestured to the envoy to reseat himself. Then he said firmly: ‘Brethren, you do, indeed, shame yourself before our distinguished envoy. This is a council of the senior abbots and bishops of the western churches, here to decide the fundamental ways of promoting our unity. It is true that this is supposed to be an informal opening, without the attendance of all our scribes and advisers, so that we could come to know one another before our main debates, but it is not a marketplace where we brethren can brawl and fight among ourselves.’

There was a muttering from the twenty or so men who were seated around the table.

Bishop Leodegar now turned to Bishop Ordgar.

‘Ordgar, you are here as the personal representative of Theodore, who has been newly appointed by our Holy Father Vitalian in Rome as Archbishop at Canterbury. Would Theodore truly utter the words that you have used to a prelate of the church of the Britons?’

Ordgar was about to respond when Bishop Leodegar’s stern look caused him to sink back in his chair with a sour expression.

‘Cadfan,’ continued Bishop Leodegar, ‘you have come here representing the churches of your people, the Britons. Do you truly represent your people when you preach war and the elimination of the kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons?’

Abbot Cadfan refused to accept this censure silently.

‘We did not ask the Angles and Saxons to invade our lands and seek our eradication,’ he snapp...

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Book Description Minotaur Books, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In A.D. 670 Fidelma of Cashel is asked to act as an advisor to the Irish delegation to a hostile church council. In an abbey in Burgundy, Bishop Leodegar of Autun has assembled church leaders from all over western Europe, intending to use the council to deliver a death blow to the Celtic Church. But his plans are threatened when one of the delgates is found murdered, his skull crushed. Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf, are suddenly in the midst of a murder investigation involving some of the most powerful religious leaders. The duo soon find that between the autocratic Bishop Leodegar and the malignant abbess, Mother Audofleda, a web of sinister intrigue is spreading throughout the abbey. And murder is only the beginning. The theft of a priceless reliquary box, the disappearance of local women and children, and the concurrent rumors of a slave trade all combine to make this one of the most diabolical puzzles that Fidelma and Eadulf have ever faced. Seller Inventory # AAS9780312604936

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Book Description Minotaur Books, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In A.D. 670 Fidelma of Cashel is asked to act as an advisor to the Irish delegation to a hostile church council. In an abbey in Burgundy, Bishop Leodegar of Autun has assembled church leaders from all over western Europe, intending to use the council to deliver a death blow to the Celtic Church. But his plans are threatened when one of the delgates is found murdered, his skull crushed. Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf, are suddenly in the midst of a murder investigation involving some of the most powerful religious leaders. The duo soon find that between the autocratic Bishop Leodegar and the malignant abbess, Mother Audofleda, a web of sinister intrigue is spreading throughout the abbey. And murder is only the beginning. The theft of a priceless reliquary box, the disappearance of local women and children, and the concurrent rumors of a slave trade all combine to make this one of the most diabolical puzzles that Fidelma and Eadulf have ever faced. Seller Inventory # AAS9780312604936

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Book Description Minotaur Books, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In A.D. 670 Fidelma of Cashel is asked to act as an advisor to the Irish delegation to a hostile church council. In an abbey in Burgundy, Bishop Leodegar of Autun has assembled church leaders from all over western Europe, intending to use the council to deliver a death blow to the Celtic Church. But his plans are threatened when one of the delgates is found murdered, his skull crushed. Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf, are suddenly in the midst of a murder investigation involving some of the most powerful religious leaders. The duo soon find that between the autocratic Bishop Leodegar and the malignant abbess, Mother Audofleda, a web of sinister intrigue is spreading throughout the abbey. And murder is only the beginning. The theft of a priceless reliquary box, the disappearance of local women and children, and the concurrent rumors of a slave trade all combine to make this one of the most diabolical puzzles that Fidelma and Eadulf have ever faced. Seller Inventory # BZE9780312604936

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