Series: The Fifth Knight
Genre: Historical Thriller
England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.
Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.
But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.
Context: Sir Benedict Palmer has arrived in Ireland amongst the ranks of John’s men. John has ordered castles to be built as part of his campaign, including one at Tibberaghny in Co. Kilkenny, where this scene takes place. Although John’s men have had an early victory, the threat of retaliation from the Irish has been growing by the day.
Palmer climbed the mud-slicked steps of the wide ladder that led to the wooden watchtower above the bailey gate, careful of his step. The low clouds of the last few days had brought yet more rain, and the soaked treads might as well have been oiled.
A forlorn voice floated down to him. ‘The blessings of the feast of Saint John the Baptist to you, Sir Benedict.’
‘And to you, Simonson. How goes the watch?’ He climbed onto the planks of the floor of the tower as the younger man, hunched against the coolness of the damp, nodded a greeting.
‘All quiet, Palmer.’ He held a spear but used it as a leaning post. ‘Don’t think it’ll be like that at Ardfinnan Castle. The Lord John’s men looked out for more Irish blood when they left.’
‘That they did.’ Palmer had watched them depart earlier in an orderly formation, sent on their way by an excited John. No question of the Lord of Ireland joining them to swell the ranks at Ardfinnan. John remained secure behind walls as he always did, his fighting words never more than empty bluster.
‘I swear I regret not being picked to go with them. Or with Theobald Walter: he’s gone to claim his new lands in Munster.’ Simonson gave a wistful sigh. ‘Think of the glory they’ll bring.’
‘Glory? Not always the case, I’m afraid.’ But the call of battle had tugged at him too. The mailed knights, the keen horses, the shine of ready weapons, the gleam of polished shields: all brought an urge he’d thought behind him. No mind. His place was here.
‘Hard to believe it’s summer.’ Simonson stamped his feet, a long shiver passing through him. ‘Can’t wait to finish my watch. My belly’s empty. The only thing filling it is cold. Hot food and a warm tent. That’s what I need.’
Palmer caught back a smile at the wistful look on Simonson’s big face. So much for the man’s urge to go into battle. ‘You’ve only a couple of hours to go. And those fires aren’t cooking much at the moment.’ From where he stood on high, he could see each sulking pile of wood in the bailey, belching smoke into the wet air. Except for one. One that sent up a stronger plume. Behind a group of tents. He frowned. ‘Who’s built a fire so close to the wall?’
‘Oh. I don’t know.’
Of course you don’t. Palmer set off along the wall walk to get a better look, Simonson trailing behind him.
A movement in a huge, heavily leafed oak tree a few yards beyond the ditch caught his eye. A branch, moving abruptly, though the rest of the tree stayed still. Then he saw it. A man daubed in mud, his gaze locking on Palmer’s.
‘Down!’ Palmer dropped.
A wooden dart flew through the air, its wicked point burying in Simonson’s shoulder.
Simonson squealed, his eyes wide in shock as his hands flew from his spear.
Palmer yanked him to the floor, as dart after dart whipped over the wall.
Screams and yells shrilled from the bailey below.
Tibberaghny was under attack.
Praise for The Fifth Knight Series
“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown
“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review
“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland
About the Author
E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.
Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.