Authors: K. R. Richards
LORD OF THE ABBEY
by K. R. Richards
Copyright © 2012 by K. R. Richards
To my mom, family, and friends
who supported me throughout this process.
You know who you are.
In honor of my Daddy, wish you were here!
Glastonbury Abbey, September, 1539
t was after midnight. Ten year old William Fotherby stood
sleepy-eyed in Abbot Whiting’s study after being wakened and hastily dressed in clothes that were not his own. The pair of small candelabra’s cast long shadows on the walls around them.
“Remember what I tell you William. Listen carefully.” The elderly Abbot, Richard Whiting, placed a small but sturdy bag into the boy’s outstretched arms.
“Yes sir. I’m listening.” Ten year old William tried diligently not to cry. He so wanted to be a man. The Abbot received word that evening the King’s men were on their way to Glastonbury. William feared for the safety of his beloved mentor. The Abbot had been forthright with him, explaining the precarious state of the monasteries and the eradication of their faith to William often over the course of the past year. Both knew this day would come.
“There are letters sewn into the lining of this bag holding your belongings. If something happens to me, if in time the Abbey is returned to the hands of the Holy Father in Rome and restored to her glory, you must see that the new Abbot or the Bishop of Wells receive these letters. It is imperative this be done. The letters explain where the most Blessed and Holy treasures of the Abbey are hidden. Providing, of course, Thomas Cromwell’s men do not find them first.”
“But sir, can you not give the Abbot or Bishop the letters yourself?” William carefully set the bag he was given on a small table and returned his questioning, nay, pleading gaze to Abbot Whiting.
The Abbot reached out and fondly ruffled the newly washed, cropped and combed hair of his youngest and dearest servant. He offered the boy a smile, heartfelt, though weak.
William, we both know once the King’s men arrive I will be Abbot of Glastonbury no more.” The Abbot shrugged off the former topic and gently instructed, “Hold out your hand, William.”
He waited for the dutiful boy to do as he bid. He placed a small pouch in his palm. “This is coin. Lady Dulac did not ask for it, nor is it meant for her. It is yours and yours alone. My gift to you. Keep it hidden in the event you need to flee Glastonbury in future. I do not think it will be necessary. I feel certain that you will be safe with Lady Dulac. What with your fine new clothes, your hair shorn like a young gentleman, I don’t imagine anyone shall see you as anything other than the grandson of Lady Dulac. None shall remember you were my servant after this. Lady Dulac was alone, and she will now have you. Her husband has been dead three years and her last remaining son buried for six months.”
The Abbot chuckled, “She is very happy to learn you can read and write. Lady Dulac’s heart quite went out to you when she saw you upon her visit with me here at the Abbey last week. I know you will make her fine company as you did me.”
“I shall serve her well, sir. As I have done for you.”
But I want to serve you! I don’t want to go.
Why is this happening?
William wanted to tell the Abbot he did not want to leave him, but he knew Abbot Whiting was tired and ill. So he didn’t. Couldn’t. It would only worry the old man further. He feared for the Abbot’s life and didn’t want him to know it. He swallowed, trying to remove the thick knot forming in his throat.
“No, boy, you will not serve Lady Dulac. As of this moment you are no longer William Fotherby. Your real parents, William and Martha Fotherby, now long dead, must be forgotten to you. Your new name is William Dulac, the grandson of Lady Dulac. From this moment on, your father’s name is that of her son, Richard Dulac. Your mother is unknown to you. You resided with a family near Bath by name of Ronde. You are a gentleman now, William. You will in time learn what that means. Lady Dulac will protect you with her life, I know it. She has been a good friend to me. Never must you speak of serving me, or being here at the Abbey. Do you understand?”
William could only nod, his eyes misting with unshed tears. With all the worry Abbot Whiting carried on his shoulders these months past, he made the time to look out for
. To create a new life for
William vowed then he would never forget the kindness the Abbot showed him these five years.
“Very Good. Now repeat your new name and the information I just gave you,” the Abbot instructed calmly as if it were a normal day and they were in the midst of morning lessons.
William cleared his throat and dutifully repeated all he was told.
“Well done, William. Always the perfect student. Promise me you shall continue your learning.” After William’s nod, he continued, “You remember where we put the Holiest of our relics? The sapphire? The cross and cruets? The books and bones? The Holiest Relics from the Altars? The Holy Secrets? Each in their separate places.”
“Yes sir. I remember each place, clearly,” the boy spoke with much difficulty. He did not want to leave his mentor nor his home.
“Good. Never forget their locations. Tell no one. Not even Lady Dulac. If this Abbey is destroyed, or if still in the hands of this King or one of his ilk as you near old age, you must tell only one trusted person our secret before you pass.”
If there is no one to trust, you must write the locations of the treasures down and hide the letter if need be. The locations are never to be revealed unless the Abbey is restored to the leadership of Our Holy Father. Yet, the holiest of secrets cannot be lost forever. You must leave some hope. Understood?”
After another nod from his young charge the Abbot eased his slight frame into a chair and let out a ragged sigh. His old, worn hands shook as they rested on the smooth dark wood of the chair arms. “I must rest a moment before we walk to the tunnel. You know how to find Lady Dulac if something goes awry and her man is not at the Pilgrim’s Inn to meet you?”
“The Manor at Stonedown, sir.”
“That is correct. Follow the tunnel until you get to the door of the Pilgrim’s cellar. Knock three times. Esau Davitt will let you in. You’ll stay in a room upstairs until tomorrow morning when Esau brings you down to the main room where you shall wait for Lady Dulac’s man. It’s highly unlikely anyone will pay you notice. Lady Dulac and I both decided her coming to collect you at the inn herself would draw undue attention to both of you and create much curiosity in the town. Someone might recognize you. Of course, we are watched far too closely at the Abbey for her to come collect you here. You might be torn away for questioning. I will not have that.”
The Abbot rose to his feet again, an effort for his old and weary bones. He breathed deeply, wheezing as he did. “Come, my son. I’ll take you to the tunnel. It is time. The Kings men might arrive before dawn, and I want you safely away from this Abbey and at Dulac Manor as soon as is possible. I am off to Sharpham within the hour.”
There was a surprising amount of strength in the Abbot’s voice as he said, “I’ll not wait here for them. They can come to me, you know. I am in no hurry, for this, the final hour of this venerated Abbey. Off to the tunnel with you then. We must be silent as we walk the halls. I don’t want anyone to hear us or to see you. Not that I do not trust the servants or the monks, but sometimes the best of men talk when they fear for their lives.”
Abbot Whiting motioned for the boy. “Come here, William. Let me put on your new hat for you. There you are, the picture of a well-bred gentleman, if I must say it.” He managed a smile then ushered the boy from his offices.
It seemed an eternity before they reached the tunnel entrance. The Abbot limped along slowly, seemingly exhausted and in pain. William struggled to keep from shedding the tears that threatened to spill as Abbot Whiting opened first the false panel and then the large oak door behind it which led into the darkness of the tunnel beyond.
“God bless you and keep you safe, William.” The Abbot made the sign of the cross over him. “I am very proud of you. You are an astute pupil, have a keen mind and good, solid manners. Make your new grandmother proud, my little Lord. You’ve a good life before you. I know you shall make a fine gentleman. Be off with you, I must gather my things and away to Sharpham.” The Abbot reached out and squeezed the boy’s shoulder.
“God be with you, sir.” William started to enter the tunnel, then stopped, turned, and flung himself against the slight, frail Abbot, hugging him tightly. “Thank you, sir. Thank you for everything. You saved me from being an orphan when my momma and papa died. You taught me well. You send me to safety. I wish I could stay with you, sir.”
Abbot Whiting’s thin, weak arms embraced William. “You, and you alone William, hold all of the sacred secrets of the Abbey of Glastonbury.
You must go
. You are to guard the secrets of the Abbey, to pass the knowledge along in the future so that at a time, when it is safe again, the Holy relics can be returned to this great church. You are my only hope for this, William. The only one I can entrust this duty to. Go now.” The Abbot gently pushed William from him. He smiled down at the boy who had always been such a good lad.
Bag in hand, coin in his pocket, William stepped into the tunnel. He was handed a lantern. “May God be with you, my son.”
“And also with you.” William whispered back but the heavy wooden door groaned shut and was locked as he stood looking at it. Lantern held high, tears streaming down his cheeks he turned slowly and began the long walk through the tunnel. Alone.
After he came downstairs with Esau Davitt into the public room of the Pilgrim’s Inn, William heard the thundering of horses’ hooves outside from further down the High Street. He stood from his chair to better look out the window. He watched as the King’s men came into view and drew nearer. Their bright colored clothing glowed rich in the morning sunlight. The fine horses, coats gleaming, pranced proudly as they slowed, tossing their heads as they stopped before the Pilgrim’s Inn. Had he not known what danger their arrival brought to Glastonbury and her Abbey, he might have enjoyed such pageantry.