This week, I'm pleased to share an intriguing excerpt from Philip Yorke's book, Redemption which is the second book in the Hacker Chronicles. Civil conflict is always a fascinating source from which authors can create powerful and meaningful plots and characters. Great Britain's revolt against King Charles I was just that sort of conflict when fear reigned and treachery was everywhere.
I hope you'll enjoy reading this snippet from Yorke's adventure story.
Saturday, the second day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1644, will be a day long remembered by the men and women committed to ending the reign of a tyrannical King. For on this day, the forces of Charles the First were crushed on the bloody fields of Marston Moor.
The calamitous defeat forces the increasingly desperate Royalists to intensify their attempts to bring about the immediate demise of their Parliamentarian enemies. This includes devising an audacious plan to assassinate the man they believe is key to the war’s outcome.
With the plotters ready to strike, Francis Hacker, one of Parliament’s most loyal soldiers, becomes aware of the conspiracy. With little time to act, he does everything in his power to frustrate their plans. But, alas, things start to unravel when brave Hacker finds himself pitted against a ruthless and cunning mercenary, a man who will resort to anything to achieve a ‘kill’.
Excerpt from Redemption
By Philip Yorke
I arrive at Gervase's chamber at eight o'clock, escorted by a pair of sullen guards. These men clearly resent a rebel prisoner being in their midst at this time of despair and fear. If they had not been obeying the explicit orders of Lucas, I would have feared for my safety. But thankfully, discipline has not broken down at Belvoir Castle, and subordinates still do as they are ordered.
"Come in and sit yourself down," commands Lucas after the guards have left us. "There is food to eat, a lot to say – and time is precious.”
I look at my host. He is clearly an agitated man this morning, but his manners and courtesy remain intact. Set out before me, on the large table, is as much food a man can eat. A feast, no less! Alas, my stomach betrays my thoughts once again, and a succession of unnatural and strange noises emphasize my urgent desire to eat.
"What is going on, Gervase?" I enquire, pointing at the exotic fruits and freshly baked pastries. "Why was it necessary to wake me up and drag me here, and what is all this in aid of?”
Lucas stands up and walks to the large, stately window that dominates the room. From this vantage point, he has a clear view of much of the western side of the Vale of Belvoir. When the skies are at their most clear, he has told me he can often see the church tower of Saint Guthlacs in Stathern, which is less than a handful of miles away. Today is such a day, and how I wish my beautiful wife, Isabel, could be in my arms at this moment, her piercing opal eyes gazing into my own. Unfortunately, I have come to realize a man cannot have everything he desires. If it happens occasionally, then he is a fortunate fellow indeed.
“Holck left the castle at seven o’clock this morning,” Lucas informs me coldly, without turning around. “His men are riding to Oxford, seeking to be reunited with the remnants of the forces loyal to Princes Rupert and Maurice. As for our friend, he has plotted an altogether different path; one that will take him to the coast and a French boat that will secure his escape to the Continent.”
I rise to my feet, forcing the chair I am seated on to crash to the floor. In an instant, Lucas has turned and is facing me. The noise has startled us both.
“This cannot be so?” I say, desperation all too evident in my voice. “That barbarian cannot be allowed to escape. He must be brought to justice and pay for the atrocities he has committed.”
Lucas stares at me as I slump to the floor. Spent. All sense of hope and purpose has deserted me.
"I agree," he concurs unexpectedly. "That's why I have called you here, Francis. You will be released within the hour. But there are strict conditions, which I will discuss with you in a moment. It may surprise you to learn that men like Holck disgust me. I have made my views known to my superiors on several occasions. But they have been ignored because Holck has been a valuable servant to the King, even though his methods are abhorrent. The reality is that his tactics have achieved results for much of the conflict, and for many, that is all that matters.
“But circumstances have changed. The war is lost, and I have no desire to be tarred with the same brush as men like Gustav Holck. So I am prepared to give you what you desire most – time to settle your account with this man. But you must not breathe a word of this arrangement to anyone. It is between you and me.”
I run my hands through my thick, dark hair, seeking to comprehend everything that is unravelling at a rapid rate of knots. Devouring a large crust of delicious, freshly baked bread, which gives me precious thinking time, I ask: "Tell me, Gervase, why exactly are you releasing me, and what are the conditions I must adhere to for this to happen?”
My unlikely saviour walks around the table and pours himself a glass of ale. When he has tasted the intoxicating hops and adjusted the lapel of his jacket, he replies: "My reasoning is simple, Francis: I simply wish to survive this war and grow to be a prosperous old man. I have also lost faith in the cause I serve and have no desire to see men like Holck prosper. He needs to be held to account, as do all the murderers who cause so much misery. I am prepared to offer you that opportunity if you so desire it? Give me your word that you will return to the castle within a month, so you can continue your confinement, and I will give you leave to do whatever you wish, wherever you wish to do it. What say you, is this proposition of sufficient interest?”
I nod my head slowly, confirming my assent, aware there is much I can achieve in thirty days, not least claim the justice my daughters and best friend deserve.
"As the Lord is my witness, you have my word. I will comply with any conditions you attach to my temporary release," I say to Lucas. "All I ask of you is one further thing: tell me where Holck is going?"
All About Philip
Philip Yorke is an award-winning former Fleet Street journalist who has a special interest in history. His Hacker Chronicles series, to be told in five fast-paced historical fiction novels, tells the story of Parliamentarian soldier, Francis Hacker.
Redemption, the second book in the series, is set during the period 1644-46 (during the first English Civil War), when events take a significant turn in favour of Parliament.
Philip is married, and he and his wife have five children. He enjoys relaxing to classical music, reading the works of Nigel Tranter, Bernard Cornwell, Robyn Young and CJ Sansom, and supporting Hull City FC and Leicester Tigers RFC.
He lives in Leicestershire, England.
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