Home Coming Soon Catalog Authors Awe-Struck Hard Shell Phaze Submissions
catalog
imprints
genres
other
Subscribe to the feed!
Book Likes!
Book Likes!
Of Quests And Kings

LOST IN TIME!

It all began with a small group of people who were trapped in Bass Foster's twentieth-century American home during a terrible storm. Somehow, they were carried back through time and space to an alternate seventeenth-century England, a realm at war and ruled by the legendary King Arthur Tudor III. Bass, Krystal, and the rest had either adapted to their strange new home--or died in the attempt.

And now, Bass, a Duke of the Realm, and one of the king's most valued commanders, has been given a seemingly impossible mission: to unite the warring kingdoms of Ireland under Arthur's own loyal ally King Brian.

But in Ireland waited both treacherous friends and bloodthirsty enemies. And mobilizing for actions as well aware the well-trained forces of the Holy Roman Empire and a foe who could destroy them all--the mysterious lords of the Time Projector!

Book 3 of the Castaways in Time series

Buy this book:
Trade Paperback978-1-59426-308-8$12.95Qty:
Adobe Reader eBook (.PDF)978-1-59426-309-5$4.99Qty:
Kindle eBook (.MOBI)978-1-59426-309-5$4.99Qty:
Mobipocket eBook (.PRC)978-1-59426-309-5$4.99Qty:
HTML eBook (.HTML)978-1-59426-309-5$4.99Qty:
iPhone / Nook eBook (.EPUB)978-1-59426-309-5$4.99Qty:

Robert Adams

Robert Adams (1932-1990) was a career soldier whose Horseclans series drew on his military background to lend verisimilitude to the exploits of 26th Century of immortal mutant warriors in a balkanized North America. The Coming of the Horseclans (1975) was the first of 18 novels in the sequence, which ended, with The Clan of the Cats (1988), only on account of the author’s death.

His non-Horseclans work included two other series. Castaways in Time (1980) and its five sequels were a mix of alternate history and time travel. The Stairway to Forever and Monsters and Magicians (both 1988) were the only volumes to appear of a projected fantasy series.

He also co-edited several anthologies, among them Barbarians (1985, with Martin H. Greenberg and Charles H. Waugh), four Magic in Ithkar volumes (1985-87, with Andre Norton), Robert Adams' Book of Alternate Worlds (1987, with Pamela Crippen Adams and Martin H. Greenberg) and Robert Adams' Book of Soldiers (1988, same co-editors).

Coming Soon...
Excerpt

Prologue

The big, burly man in half-armor and plumed, open-faced bassinet strolled, seemingly aimlessly, along the top of the outer wall of the city, glancing from time to time at the massive bombards ranged at odd intervals. Each of the archaic pieces was covered with waxed tarpaulins against the frequent misty drizzles, and under them, thick, tarred tompions sealed the gaping muzzles, while waxed plugs stopped the touchholes atop the breeches. Wooden sheds thrown up on either side of each bombard held the multitudinous items of supplies and equipment needed to maintain, serve, and clean the antique weapons. Beyond range of the bombards’ hellacious recoils stood stacks of four to five of the granite balls which were the heaviest things that the weak-walled tubes would throw, even charged with the weak serpentine powder that had to be mixed on the spot to the individual requirements of each bombard.

The big armored man, Captain Timoteo, Il Duce di Bolgia, could not imagine just what had gone through the brain—admittedly, a quite often addled brain—of King Tŕmhas FitzGerald, his erstwhile employer. The man had had the foresight to mount decent, modern guns that were cast strong enough to be charged with corned powder and would accurately throw iron ball and shell, grape, langrage, or what-have-you farther than all but the very largest of the bombards, could be reloaded in much less time, and could be easily moved about the walls to the spots of most immediate need; but these guns all were mounted on the landward approaches of the fortified city of Tŕmhas’burh—the walls and other strong points overlooking the river and anchorages were armed with nothing of any size better or newer than these abominations of world-heavy, barely manageable relics.

Now true, a single massive stone ball from any one of them would go far to crack like a pigeon egg the oaken ribs of even the biggest and best-found ship, but in order for that to take place, the ship would have to be in just the right place at just the right time, a happenstance that was seen very, very infrequently in warfare. Had the ancient tubes been more maneuverable and faster to clean and recharge, they might have been some bare protection against a river packed with ships as thickly as a barrel with Lenten herrings.

But such was not the case. There was no slightest degree of uniformity to these guns—each of them took a different size of stone ball, a different charge of powdery serpentine mixed especially for it, on the spot, by a gunmaster who knew no other gun but the one and was responsible for no other, and each had its own particular and often peculiar quirks with regard to cleaning or charging, recharging or laying. Moreover, the old bombards could be more dangerous to their crews and to those round about than they were to those at whom they chanced to be aimed. Twice, now, since the siege had commenced, bombards still mounted on landward walls had burst, killing their entire crews, setting off mixed powder and maiming men standing far down the stretches of walls with shards or chunks of bronze or iron. Timoteo was of the firm opinion that all of the bombards should long since have been rendered into something useful, such as bells, plowshares, or brass pisspots.

But Righ Tŕmhas would not hear of gracefully retiring even a single bombard for stupidly emotional reasons. He frequently pointed out that such and such a gun—he had pet names for each of more than twoscore of the things—had had a part in such and such a “great triumph” over such and such foes during the “illustrious reign” of his great-great-grandfather and gave such inanities as the firm reasons why the venerable piece could not be replaced with a new tube that would throw iron safely for a much greater distance, use less powder, foul less thickly and frequently, be traversed when need be, fire faster than a couple of shots per hour, and imperil less the lives and well-being of those who served it and served around it.

Pragmatic and more than a little cynical, il Duce di Bolgia had never been able to fathom or relate to the thinking processes of those who allowed their emotions to make their decisions for them. His brother, Robert, was and had always been far the better at doing any necessary handling of such types; moreover, the Righ had taken a liking to the younger of the brothers, and so Timoteo had left the management of the none-too-bright, self-deluded kinglet to Roberto and to Sir Ugo D’Orsini, who had traveled with the di Bolgia condotta from Palermo.

Aside from his ongoing difficulties with the temperamental, often childish, but powerful and unbelievably arrogant pocket king, Righ Tŕmhas de FitzGerald—whose “kingdom,” even at the most far-flung boundaries claimed by him and his cousin-advisers, was not quite so large as the Duchy of Bolgia, and less than half the size of the Duchy of D’Este—Timoteo thought that he could almost come to like this kind of warfare, this variety of investment and siege.

He had lost a bare handful of men from his own condotta, and there had been perhaps that many more lost from the Ifriqan condotta of Sir Alariq al-lswid, and almost all of them had fallen in the sally that had convinced the Ard-righ, Brian VIII, that another frontal assault against Tŕmhas ‘burh would cost more than he cared to pay. After that, with other fish to fry, the Ard-Righ had wisely marched his army off, leaving his trains to continue a passive investment of Tŕmhas’burh.

Upon the withdrawal of the Ard-Righ’s main force, Righ Tŕmhas had been hot to lead a sally-forth against the siege lines to capture all the guns and engines, butcher the gunners and engineers, and sack the camps, but after a few nights of quiet, professional reconnaissances led by Timoteo and Sir Alariq, Sir Roberto and Sir Ugo had had to convince the hot-blooded, thick-headed monarch that Brian the Burly had left behind more than enough quality soldiers to make any sally a risky to bloody business, beyond any safe capability of the much-shrunken Royal Army of Munster.

Tŕmhas had railed and shouted and stomped up and down the length of the audience chamber, thrown a cathedra chair through a window, snapped the etched and inletted blade of a gold-hilted dress dagger by trying to drive it into the top of a polished oaken table. As he stared at the broken bauble, the big, muscular man began to cry and moan of how the Holy See and its chosen captain, di Bolgia, had ruined him and Munster, driving loyal bonaghts and galloglaiches and even noble FitzGerald kinsmen away from their loving sovran, leaving him and Munster now defenseless except for craven, money-grubbing oversea mercenaries, with no true loyalty of bravery in them not reckoned in grams of gold and ounces of silver. On hearing this last, it was only Sir Ugo’s firm grip on his thick, solid upper arm that kept Sir Roberto from stalking out unbidden.

But at length, while the Righ moaned and sobbed on with his litany of his totally undeserved abuses at the hands of those he had trusted and those who had been sent to aid,him, Sir Roberto regained enough self-control to step forward and say, “Your majesty, the di Bolgia condotta and that of Sir Alariq al-lswid were sent here to hold this city, to try to make a modern army of the Munster forces, also, but first and foremost to keep open this port. My illustrious brother, Sir Alariq, and Le Chevalier Marc have unanimously agreed that the city cannot be held, the port cannot be kept open, if the best of the now available forces are frittered away in open assault on entrenched foemen for the possible capture of a few guns, trebuchets, and catapults and a bit of common camp loot.

“However, these strictures apply only to the companies not to noble-born individuals. If your majesty and his councillors and his gentlemen-at-arms wish to ride out against the siege lines, both Sir Ugo and I will ride behind your banner.”

Righ Tŕmhas, after using his long fingers to blow mucus from his nostrils onto the Persian carpet, snuffled and looked up. “And your brother and that blackamoor, what will they do, Sir Roberto?”

The younger di Bolgia shrugged. “Most likely they will bar the city gates behind us, observe the combat from the walls, let any survivors back in and haggle with the victors for the return of any wounded, work out ransoms, and buy noble bodies back for honorable, Christian interments.”

The Righ snuffled once again, used a silken sleeve to wipe his nose, and nodded profoundly. “I knew that I had chosen aright, Sir Robert, Sir Ugo, I knew from first meeting that you two, alone of all the pack of new-model cravens who fight what little they do only for specie, were both good old-fashioned knights who valued your honor above all else in this world. I will be most happy to have you both ride out in my warband, but first I must meet with my full council. You will be summoned. You have my leave to now depart. May our Savior bless and keep you both.”

Once some hundreds of yards distant from the palace, Sir Ugo laid hold to Sir Roberto’s bridle arm and nearly jerked the stocky man out of the saddle. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re up to, man? You may be as deluded as that so-called king is into thinking that you’re still living two or three hundred years ago, but not me, not the third son of Geraldo D’Orsini. I’ve got far better things to do with my life than toss it away in the most senseless of a harebrained pocket king’s schemes. Ride out to your death with those mad FitzGeralds if that is your desire, but ride without me!”

Roberto just grinned. “Simmer down, Ugo, simmer down. Nobody’s going to ride anywhere. Haven’t you yet taken the true measure of that precious pack of FitzGerald cousins who were introduced to us as the Royal Council? Oh, yes, they every one talk and rant just as bloodthirstily as does their royal relative, but one and all, their hands are every bit as soft as my mistress’s bottom. I have no doubt that they’d make good poisoners, and one or two of them might even be able to screw up the gumption to thrust a dagger in a man’s back, but no one of them is in any manner of means a soldier. Recall, if you will, the exact way in which I phrased my offer of military service to Sniffing Tŕmhas: ‘If your majesty and his concillors and his gentlemen-at-arms wish to ride out...’ and so on. Did you note the suddenly milk-pale faces on those three mothers’ mistakes, Ugo? I did, and I also saw the ‘secret signal’ that they gave Tŕmhas just before he dismissed us and announced an urgent meeting of the full council.”

Sir Ugo dropped his hand from Roberto’s arm and sat back in his saddle. “By the dusty pecker of Christ’s ass-colt, di Bolgia, you’re as devious as a cardinal. With any luck, you’ll split that royal dolt away from his council as cleanly as... God’s Wounds, if you and your brother had chosen the church instead of war... who knows?

“But once they’re all sacked or worse, what then, Roberto? That man is about as capable of dealing with the affairs of what little is now left of his kingdom as is this gelding I ride today, and what noblemen are there about who are not related to him some way or anoth—? But... but, of course! And just who dreamed all this up, you or il Duce?”

“Actually,” drawled Roberto, “the germ of the plan came from L·e Chevalier. He is a shrewd judge of the weak he descended, a sleekly groomed and richly accoutered seem. It was either somehow get firm control of this easily swayed kinglet... or do away with him entirely, only to see him succeeded by yet another of his ilk who might have been even more difficult and intransigient.

“This way, we two are just now the very jewels of Tŕmhas’s bloodshot eye; while, shortly, he will have damned all his councillors for cowards and be very much in need of solace and sage counsel by men he feels are alike to him and so can be implicitly trusted to lead him in the pursuit of old-fashioned honor.”

Sir Ugo slapped the reins languidly on his mount’s neck and tapped his heels gently against the barrel to get moving once more, then he chuckled and shook his head. “So, Tŕmhas will rule the city, we will rule Tŕmhas, and... who will rule us, Roberto? Does His Grace di Rezzi, the legate, know anything concerning any of this?”

Sir Roberto shrugged. “I didn’t tell him. I’ve only seen the man once, after all. Whether others have or will or haven’t or won’t is none of my purely personal affair, Ugo. As to who will rule us, I don’t know about you, but my loyalties will lie just where they always have lain: with His Grace my brother, and the welfare of his company. You will find as has many another that we di Bolgias cleave closely one to the other, for there are but the two of us against a hard and often a cruel world.”

After his early-morning wall-walk, the Duce di Bolgia returned to his small but comfortable mansion, where his serving men helped him to disarm and redress in less military and far more ornate clothing. In the courtyard, as he descended, a sleekly groomed and richly accoutered barb awaited him, stamping and prancing and tossing her small, neat head. At a brisk walk, trailed closely by his bannerman, his squires, and some of the axmen of his personal guard, the eldest of the di Bolgias wound his way through the already bustling streets of the city to the mansion of the Papal Legate, Giosué di Rezzi, acting Archbishop of Munster.

Il Duce could not say that he liked di Rezzi—his employer in residence and in fact. The rigid old man was flinty of nature, and the irreverent, thoroughly practical, outspoken, and not overly moral di Bolgia steel right often struck sparks off that flint. For all of that, the condottiere thoroughly respected the legate, for the man—unlike many another representative of the clergy di Bolgia had met on occasions too numerous to count—said just what he thought, said it out in words any man could understand, and never, so far, had tried to honey-coat criticisms of di Bolgia or anyone else. So, having this degree of marked respect for the cleric, il Duce felt an obligation to apprise him of just what he and his brother and the other military leaders were about with regard to their figurehead employer, King Tŕmhas di FitzGerald.

He was ushered into the legate’s bedchamber, where the air was hot and thickly cloyed with the competing scents of burning incense and herbs piled upon coals of the half-dozen braziers near the huge bed. When he once had dropped to one knee and kissed the ring, the legate signed a servant to bring a chair for him, signing another to bring wine for the noble guest.

His eyes swollen and wet-looking, speaking nasally, while sneezing and coughing often, the old man got directly to a point. “Your grace di Bolgia, yesterday afternoon, King Tŕmhas saw fit to dissolve his Royal Council, having three of his closest advisers hustled into an inner courtyard and there beheaded by members of the FitzGerald Guards. Two others of them were hanged last night, and it is my understanding that the rest currently languish in the warren of cells and foul dens under the royal residence.

“Now, while a spate of interfamilial violence is far from uncommon among these primitives here in Irland, I think me that I detect the fine Italian touch in all of this barbarity just past. The proper and more usual pattern would have been for the king to chose new advisers from among others of his kin. Instead, he has named his latest councillors to be none other than Sir Roberto di Bolgia, Sir Ugo d’Orsini, Your Grace, himself, le Chevalier Marc Marcel de Montjoie de Vires, and one solitary FitzGerald, a guardsman named Sean something or other, who will be about as outclassed on such a council as a lapdog among as many boarhounds.

“Your Grace di Bolgia, I demand to know just what chicanery you and your brother and the rest are perpetrating here against the King and the Kingdom of Munster.” The servant padded in with a ewer of wine, a goblet, and a small legged silver tray. When he had poured and tasted and departed, di Bolgia took a long draught, smiled, and said, “Your Grace di Rezzi, to tell you of these things was the very reason I called upon you so early. I should have known that such information would already have been imparted to you by others, of course, for Your Grace is ever a well-informed man.”

“Your Grace di Bolgia should be aware by now that flattery will accomplish him nothing but suspicion from me,” snapped di Rezzi. “Now get on with it man. Just what are you up to?”

Timoteo shook his head. “No flattery was intended, Your Grace di Rezzi, I but stated established fact. Under the circumstances, with the city and port besieged—albeit mildly so—the king dimwitted and most ill-reded, but a true, old-time fire-eater to suicidal extremes, I was afforded but three options, namely: to take you and your people aboard with me and mine and sail away, forfeiting the city and port and all to the Ard-Righ (whenever he got back to take it); to arrange the quiet demise of King Tŕmhas and maybe still be saddled with a royal FitzGerald nincompoop in his successor; or to arrange to get rid of that sycophantic so-called Royal Council and give the poor royal ninny advisers who could and would cool down his hot head and help him to keep the city and port, which seems so important to the Holy See. This lastmost option we have now accomplished, Your Grace di Rezzi.”

Di Rezzi stared at Timoteo over slender, steepled fingers and asked, “And had this... this scheme not blossomed as it did, what would Your Grace then have done, pray tell?”

Timoteo spoke bluntly. “Then Tŕmhas would have been dead inside a week, of course, Your Grace. And had we drawn yet another of his ilk for the new Righ of Munster, then I would have advised total withdrawal from the city, port, and land.”

“Hmmph!” grunted the ailing old man. “You’re candid enough, aren’t you, Your Grace di Bolgia? And your morality leaves much to be desired—you cheerfully admit to planning that has resulted in the deaths of at least five noble Irlandesi already, with who knows how many more yet to be done to death, and to contemplating regicide and/or desertion of your trusting allies in their time of direst need. What other dark sins lie upon your soul, eh? Besides corrupting a child-mistress, as you have been doing for some time, that is?”

Timoteo laughed good-naturedly. “Your Grace di Rezzi, the lady Rosaleen is no child—she is a full fourteen years old and a widow.”

“Do you intend marriage... or merely sinful lust and dalliance with this poor, bereaved young woman, then?” demanded the legate, his tones now that of a stern priest.

Timoteo laughed even more heartily. “Marry Rosaleen? Hardly, Your Grace. Bigamy is not one of my vices, and I still have a wife living in Bolgia. Nor does Rosaleen want marriage, only... ahhh, variety, shall we say, a lover who is neither an Irlandesi nor yet a distant relative. Our relationship is purely physical, lustful, sinful, and enjoyable as all hell, Your Grace di Rezzi, and I will be the first to admit to those unvarnished facts.”

Dropping his hands to his lap, the old man pursed his lips and glared at his visitor in helpless rage, “is Your Grace aware that I have petitioned His Grace D’Este no less than three times to have a certain intemperate, blasphemous, insubordinate, and unabashedly sinful condot-tiere recalled and replaced with one who might be easier to control and might offer a better example to his soldiers?”

Timoteo arched his eyebrows. “Really? And His Grace D’Este made reply?”

Looking as if he had but just bitten into something rotten, the Legate replied sourly, “I was advised that said insubordinate sinner was, with all of his glaring faults, still the best of the best for this work at hand and that I should temper my care for the good of his immortal soul with the knowledge that just now Holy Mother the Church owns more need for the proven expertise of his mind and the strength of his body.” Timoteo nodded once. “Yes, I had thought that I had proper measure of the man. His Grace D’Este and I are much alike, when push comes to shove... as, too, are Your Grace and I, would Your Grace care to admit that which I am certain he knows aloud.”

“I humbly beseech our Savior that that not be so, Your Grace di Bolgia. Like all mortal men, I harbor many faults, but I would hope that adultery, fornication, a mind freely set to cold-blooded murder, debauchery, frequent blasphemy of the very crudest water, I would pray that these not be included amongst them.

“I would suppose that were I to inform King Tŕmhas of the cruel trick you have played against him, it would scarcely improve matters, so I shall keep my peace... for now. But I warn Your Grace, do not make the cardinal error of pressing my forbearance too far.

“Now, leave me. I am ill, as Your Grace can see, and I own but little energy to do all that I must do every day, ill or well. The very sight and sound of Your Grace sorely angers me, and that fire of rage consumes energy better put to creative uses.”

Timoteo, il Duce di Bolgia, felt a twinge of shame as he left his most recent “conference” with the Papal Legate. The man was both old and infirm, and he had disliked that which he had had to do—calculatedly enrage him, bait him, really—but it had all been very necessary; now, at least, he knew for certain that di Rezzi knew no more of the di Bolgia schemes than Timoteo wanted him to know and so would be able to transmit no more than that to Palermo or Rome, and il Duce thought it best for the nonce that only his version of the roiled, muddy politics of Munster and I Hand reach the eyes of D’Este and his co-conspirators. Nor must anyone of power in the Church harbor, for a while, even the barest flicker of suspicion that their hired great captain was most assiduously frying some of his own fish on the same griddle as theirs.

Sir Sean FitzRobert of Desmonde sat across an elaborate chessboard of white and black marble squares set in enam- eled bronze from his opponent, Le Chevalier Marc. Sir Sean was, like all of the nobility and not a few of the commoners of Munster, a blood relation of Righ Tŕmhas Fitzgerald. Careful scrutiny of many genealogical tables had affirmed to the di Bolgias, Marc, and Sir Ugo that FitzRobert owned as much clear title to the blood-splattered throne of Munster as did any living man other than the reigning monarch, and should it prove a necessity—as it very well might, all things considered—to send King Tŕmhas to hell suddenly, a quick replacement of the water of Sir Sean would be a most handy asset.

Unlike his cousin, the king, and far too many of their other male relatives, Sir Sean was more than a muscular, dimwitted fire-eater. Not that he was not an accomplished warrior, too; he had had some years as a mercenary in Europe, some more in Great Irland, across the Western Sea, and had invaded England with the Irish contingent of Crusaders against King Arthur III Tudor, most recently, being one of the few of that ill-starred lot who had come home with more than his life, his sword, and his shirt.

For his class, country, and upbringing, he was not ill-educated. He spoke his native Irish, the bastard dialect of antique Norman French of his cousin’s court, modern French, Low German, Spanish, Roman Italian, English, Latin, and a couple of Skraeling tongues from Great Irland. Also, although he could write little more than his name, he could read Latin, French, and Irish well and Roman and Spanish after a fashion; like all widely traveled mercenaries, he had a few words or phrases in a vast diversity of other languages or dialects, but nothing approaching fluency in most of them.

Nor was the thirtyish knight any more like to his sovran than survival in that royal figure’s court had made necessary. Even before he had been taken under the collective wing of the one French and three Italian noblemen, he had washed once monthly without fail, be the season summer or winter, spring or autumn. His squires brushed his shoulder-length, wavy, russet hair daily and combed his beard and mustachios and dense eyebrows; moreover, and sometimes as often as twice the week, he submitted to their minstrations with fine-comb, sitting near a smoking brazier so that the lice and nits might more easily be cast to a certain death upon the coals.

He used scent, of course, as they all did, but his four new foreign mentors had convinced him that he would not need nearly as much of the hellishly expensive stuff did he have his squires and servants commence to regularly shake out and brush off his clothing and hang the garments in a sunny, well-ventilated chamber, rather than in the close, noisome confines of a garderobe.

They could only make over FitzRobert to a certain extent, however; if they ground off too much of the Munster-Irish barbarity, made him too clearly the mirror image of a civilized gentleman, there might well be insurmountable difficulty in getting him crowned when the time came upon them, as Timoteo and the others were certain it would, soon or late. Sir Sean was already considered to be somewhat eccentric by the most of the Munster court, but as he owned his regard of Righ Tŕmhas, it was generally excused as peculiarities acquired during his years of selling his sword in foreign lands.

Of course, Sir Sean had been kept completely in the dark regarding his almost certain royal destiny, for like all his kin he owned a loud, flapping tongue and an often indulged habit of boasting. He was allowed to know only that he had been picked for membership on the Royal Council because of his proven valor, his relatively open mind, his linguistic abilities, his reading talents, and his possession of a reasoning mind. And he was bright; he knew enough to keep his mouth firmly shut during council meetings unless pointedly asked for an opinion or comment.

Timoteo was very glad that the man had been on hand when needed, but still was of the opinion that he could have been a great captain had he remained in Europe as a mercenary officer rather than returning to Munster. At the Game of Battles, for instance, FitzRobert had but to see a new tactic or strategy once to adapt it to his own play, right often with surprising improvements, too. It was the same with sword work, also; within bare minutes of first using a personal attack or defense movement, he or his brother, Sir Ugo or L·e Chevalier, right often found themselves fed back the identical maneuver by Sir Sean. And as the new-made commander of the FitzGerald Guard, he did that which even the military experts from Italy had been unable to attain—he subjected the troop of noble Irish bodyguards to and maintained them under firm discipline... with not one desertion from their ranks to show for his efforts.

During their initial and exceedingly secret meeting in a tiny port at the foot of the Slieve Mish Mountains (to Timoteo, who had seen real mountains, those called such in Irland were laughable little molehills), Ard-Righ Brian, called “the Burly,” had wrinkled his brows and opined, “We suppose that since the addlepated Munsterians will no doubt insist on yet another Norman bastard of the same FitzGerald ilk, with all that house’s inbred faults, this FitzRobert is as good choice as any of them; at least he has the reputation for being a gentleman of honor and martial prowess. We must insist, however, that his predecessor be not just set aside but slain. The new-crowned righ must immediately forgo claims to the disputed lands along the marches of Munster and send the Star of Munster to Tara. Then and only then will we recognize him as Righ Sean, lift our siege, and march our armies out of those undisputed parts of Munster that we now occupy.

“ As regards this other matter, Dux di Bolgia, we will have to see a fait accompli in Rome before we even contemplate changing our present course in here in Eireann. Can Sicola, D’Este, and the rest unseat these Spaniards and Moors and bring a sense of sanity and rightness back to the Roman Papacy, with long-overdue redress and justice extended to us and to our sorely tried cousin King Arthur of England, then... perhaps. We can just now give you no firmer answer to send to your employers, we fear.

“Understand, Dux di Bolgia, and see to it that those who employ your services understand that we would really prefer to see a Papacy in England, at York, or even, God willing, at Tara, here in Eireann. Should this occur—and plans for it are jelling fast—Rome could but watch herself lose hegemony over the most of northern and coastal Europe, Iceland, Greenland, and probably eke all of the lands to the west north of the Spanish holdings.

“In such a case, a vastly weakened and impoverished Rome might well find its few remaining assets taken over by either the newer, northern Papacy or Constantinople or both together—the precedent is there; it has happened before; remember the Alexandrine Papacy of old.

“In point of fact, Dux di Bolgia, the plans of your employers may already have become a case of too little and far too late to save the Roman Papacy to which ‘we all were born. Rome has played favorites with a callous intensity for at least two hundred years now, alienating and deeply angering whole kingdoms, not just their kings. Norway, Gottland, England, and now Eireann have been slighted as if they were ill-favored and iHegaJ offspring; while certain other kingdoms have enjoyed the feast, others have been obliged to crouch in the rushes and snap at scraps and offal.

“The lands to the west make an excellent case in point, Dux di Bolgia. Certain men of Connachta, Breifne, and Ui Neill were settled in parts of the northern continent there eight hundred years ago; the Norse and Goths have been farther north on the same continent for at least six hundred years, as have also small colonies of Scotti, Breton fishermen, and Welsh. Yet when the Genoan, Columbo, and that Florentine, Vespucci, made landfall on certain southerly islands, to whom did the Spanish-born Roman Pope give all rights to the lands he called new? Why to Spain, of course. And of course also with the proviso that hefty chunks of all profits accrue to Rome. And those profits have been healthy enough, God knows, and will be even more so if the next in the seemingly endless stream of Spanish madmen ever is successful in conquering the Aztec Empire, as the Incas on the southern continent were finally ground down, fifty years ago. “It all might have been understood and forgiven had matters to the west been set aright when there no longer sat a Spanish or Moorish Pope on St. Peter’s seat, but no, Rome seems fundamentally unable to, incapable of admitting publicly to any mistake or misjudgment, ever. To this very day, any man not directly in the service of Spain or Portugal who dares to set foot upon any part of the western lands is automatically excommunicated until he leaves, confesses, and does his penance. This is not fair, Dux di Bolgia, it was not fair to begin, especially in the light of clear evidence that Spanish claims were predated by five to six hundred years by other Christian peoples, many of whom have done far more, incidentally, to win souls for Christ than have the Spaniards, who seem mostly concerned with gaining bodies for servitude.

“If they succeed in their aims, we think that a good place for your employers to begin—after they have fairly settled matters with us and with England, of course—would be to make meaningful rhyme and reason out of the ownership of the western lands, admitting that others own earlier and better claim to certain parts of them than do Spain and Portugal.”