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       Pagan's Vows, p.1

           Catherine Jinks
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Pagan's Vows


  ‘Full of the richly-textured, high-smelling, highly individualistic atmosphere of the Middle Ages, Catherine Jinks’s Pagan series offers unforgettable characters in an extraordinary setting and time, presented in crisp, pungent prose.’


  ‘Humour, romance, adventure, violence – who would have thought Medieval Jerusalem could be so much fun?’


  ‘The Pagan Chronicles are a kind of medieval version of Tin Tin, meticulously researched and told with a delightfully slapstick, cinematographic vigour.’


  ‘What a romp! Not since Don Quixote took up with Sancho Panza has a knight had a squire like Pagan Kidrouk.’

  Voice of Youth Advocates

  ‘There have been few characters in recent historical fiction more vibrant than the street-smart, fast-talking protagonist of this series.’

  School Library Journal

  ‘Rich, vivid storytelling, with a sturdy base in historical events, and undercurrents both comic and serious. ’

  Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)

  ‘Jinks dramatically evokes a historical time that was particularly dark and dirty ... Along with the drama and darkness, readers will find intensity and, yes, humor. Series fans may find other books set in the Middle Ages pallid after this one.’


  ‘Pagan is a real, live boy who leaps off the page and compels you to listen to his story.’


  ‘Humour? Rage? Agony? Spiritual journeys? Murder? Moral turpitude? Twists both welcome and dismaying? This decidedly unique historical saga has it all.’

  Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)

  ‘Brimming with wit and fascinating details of medieval history, with its vividly drawn characters ... this emotionally satisfying epic brings the Middle Ages to life.’

  The Horn Book

  CATHERINE JINKS is a scholar of medieval history and a prolific author for teenagers, children and adults. Her books have been published to wide acclaim in Australia and overseas and have won numerous awards. She loves reading, history, films, TV and gossip, and says she could write for eight hours straight every day if she had the chance. Catherine lives in the Blue Mountains of NSW with her husband and daughter.


  Pagan’s Crusade

  (shortlisted CBCA and Victorian Premier’s Literary awards)

  Pagan in Exile

  Pagan’s Vows

  (winner CBCA Book of the Year Award for older readers)

  Pagan’s Scribe

  (winner Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for children’s literature)

  Pagan’s Daughter

  (notable book CBCA Book of the Year Award for older readers)



  The author would like to thank John O. Ward for his assistance.

  In writing this book, the author was assisted by a Category B Fellowship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the Federal Government’s arts funding and advisory body.

  First published in 1995

  This edition published in 2007

  Copyright © Catherine Jinks, 1995

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

  Allen & Unwin

  83 Alexander St

  Crows Nest NSW 2065


  Phone (61 2) 8425 0100

  Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218

  Email: [email protected]


  National Library of Australia

  Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

  Jinks, Catherine, 1963–.

  Pagan’s vows.

  For ages 12 and over.

  ISBN 978 1 74175 233 5 (pbk.).

  1. Benedictines – France – History – 12th century – Juvenile fiction. 2. Monks – France – Juvenile fiction. 3. Monastic and religious life – History – Middle Ages, 600–1500 – Juvenile fiction. I. Title. (Series: Jinks, Catherine, 1963– Pagan chronicles; 3).


  Cover & Text Design by Zoë Sadokierski

  Set in Celestia Antiqua 11.5/15pt by Midland Typesetters

  Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  To my dear grandmother, Beryl Dickings

  The Abbey of Saint Martin


  Summer 1188

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Autumn 1188

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Winter 1188–1189

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Spring 1189

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Summer 1188

  Chapter 1

  Monks, monks, monks. Monks everywhere, as far as the eye can see. Rows and rows of them, crammed together on their chapter-house seats like bats in a cave. Like crows around a corpse. The rustle of their black woollen sleeves, as they point and nudge and whisper. The coughing and gurgling of old men with clogged lungs.

  God preserve us, just look at them, will you? Talk about the blind, the halt and the withered. This abbey must be the local dumping-ground for unwanted relatives. But perhaps it’s just as well. Perhaps with all these cripples around, I’ll have a better chance of being accepted. They’d be mad to turn away four sound limbs and a functioning set of teeth, even if they do belong to a seventeen-year-old illegitimate Arab with a highly dubious background.

  ‘And who is this?’ Prior Guilabert peers at me with his pale, bulging eyes. I don’t like the look of Guilabert. Only fools’ eyes bulge like that: it’s the pressure of all the air in their heads. ‘Is this your servant, Lord Roland?’

  ‘This is my squire,’ Roland rejoins. ‘His name is Pagan Kidrouk.’

  ‘And he is seeking a place in this most holy foundation, as you are?’

  ‘He is.’

  ‘As a novice?’

  ‘Yes.’ Roland hesitates; glances at me; continues. ‘Pagan is a Christian Arab. He was born a Christian, and he grew up in a monastery in Bethlehem. Now he wants to return to the cloister.’

  Bethlehem! You can hear the word passing from mouth to mouth. You can hear them all fluttering with excitement.

  Ho hum. Here we go again.

  ‘Bethlehem?’ Guilabert’s eyeballs practically pop out of his head and roll across the floor towards us. ‘You mean he’s from the Holy Land?’


  ‘And you were there too? In Jerusalem

  ‘Yes.’ Roland stares down at his feet. He looks so strange in this room, surrounded by all these stunted scarecrows. So very big and broad-shouldered. Straight and strong and majestic, like the pillars holding the roof up. Soft light glistening on his golden hair. ‘I was in Jerusalem for six years,’ he says, ‘until it fell to the Turks last summer.’

  ‘You were there as a knight of the Temple?’ Guilabert’s squinting at the red cross on Roland’s surcoat. Amazing how white that surcoat looks, against all these black robes – especially when you consider that I haven’t washed it since God created Adam. In broad daylight it’s not even cream-coloured any more: it’s somewhere between leper’s-foot brown and fever-pus yellow. War is very hard on the colour white.

  ‘As you say, Reverend Father. I was a knight of the Temple.’ Roland speaks slowly and carefully. (He’s rehearsed this speech several times.) ‘It was not – that is – I believed that the Rule of the Templars would be my path to salvation.’

  He stops, and licks his dry lips. Go on, Roland, you can do it. They’re only monks, after all.

  ‘I have long wished to serve our Lord Jesus Christ,’ he continues, ‘and in my youth spent many happy hours at the Abbey of Saint Jerome, which lies a short distance from my father’s lands. You may know of Saint Jerome. You may also know that I was born on the other side of Carcassone, in a castle some three days’ ride from your own abbey. My father . . . my father is a man of war.’

  A brief silence, as Roland swallows. Man of war? More like a murderous blood-sucking butcher. Guilabert’s frowning, and pulling at his pendulous upper lip; you can almost hear the passage of each word as it rolls slowly down his ear canal and drops into the well of darkness which serves him as a brain. How in God’s name did a turnip like this ever get to be Prior of Saint Martin’s? And where, may I ask, is the abbot? If the abbot is as dumb as his deputy, I don’t know how I’m going to survive, in here.

  ‘I know of your father, Lord Roland,’ Guilabert finally remarks. You can tell that he’s heard all the very best stories: there’s something about the way he wriggles in his chair.

  Roland takes a deep breath, and ploughs on.

  ‘My father raised me to fight,’ he says, ‘but I was not happy in his service. I wanted to be a monk at Saint Jerome. So I applied to the abbot, who would not admit me to his house. He said I was born to fight, and that I should fight for God. He said I should go to Jerusalem, where I would be battling against the Infidel. It was there that I joined the Templars, and fought against Saladin’s Infidel army when it conquered the Holy Land. It was there that Pagan first entered my service.’

  ‘And now you have returned to Languedoc.’ (Well done, Guilabert. A brilliant deduction.) Roland nods, and gropes absent-mindedly for his sword-hilt. But it isn’t there any more. So he tucks the wandering hand into his belt.

  ‘Yes,’ he murmurs, ‘now I have returned to Languedoc. I have sheathed my sword, and wish to pray in peace. I beseech you humbly, Reverend Father, to accept me as your brother in Christ.’

  No mention of Esclaramonde, of course. But why complicate matters? Why dwell on the fact that Roland came back to Languedoc to raise troops for the Holy Crusade, and fell in love with a heretic named Esclaramonde? Why admit that she died in a pointless, bloody skirmish on his father’s lands, and that he blames himself for her death? Why point out that he’s sheathed his sword in penance? It’ll only upset the monks.

  Guilabert’s jowls wobble as he inclines his head.

  ‘I understand your wish to serve God,’ he says solemnly. ‘But are you not serving Him with honour and courage as a knight of the Temple? A knight of the Temple is a Monk of War. Are you not dedicated to fighting the Lord’s battles already? Why do you wish to abandon one holy Rule for another?’

  God save us, there’s a question. But Roland remains calm – at least on the outside. He doesn’t even lose control of his voice.

  ‘I no longer believe that anyone can truly serve Christ with a drawn sword,’ he declares firmly, whereupon Guila-bert grunts. He doesn’t sound too sympathetic.

  ‘So be it,’ he mumbles. ‘But in laying down your worldly arms, Lord Roland, you will be taking up the all-powerful arms of obedience, to fight under the Lord Christ our true king. Do you realise that?’

  ‘I do.’

  ‘You will also surrender dominion over your own body and will, obeying with perfect submission the precepts of our most holy Father, the Blessed Benedict of Sacred Memory, under whose ancient and enlightened Rule we imitate in our lives what our Lord said, namely: “I came not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me”.’

  (Guilabert’s obviously said this a hundred times before. He recites it like the Lord’s Prayer, his voice a sapless drone.)

  ‘It is our calling and our privilege to love the Lord God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength,’ he adds, ‘and in so doing to forsake all worldly things: our possessions, our low desires, our friends and family. Knowing all this, are you still steadfast of purpose?’

  Roland bows. ‘I am,’ he says.

  ‘And you, my son?’ (Who, me?) ‘Are you willing to look within yourself, to prove yourself with all your actions, seeking not temporal recompense but the promise of God’s glory?’

  Urn – well . . . yes. I suppose so. Yes.


  ‘And will you prefer nothing to the love of Christ, struggling to attain the twelve steps of humility in the knowledge that undisciplined sons shall perish, as the Scripture testifies, and that to refuse obedience is like the crime of idolatry?’

  Oh hell. Staring up into those frog’s eyes, into that puffy, vacant face with its triple chin and sweaty brow and its network of little red veins around the nose. Perfect obedience? To this brainless tub of lard?

  But I have to. I simply have to. Because it’s the only way. ‘I will make my submission, and prefer nothing to the love of Christ.’

  There, I’ve said it. No going back now. Glance at Roland, but he’s looking at his feet again. Guilabert raises a pudgy hand, and traces a cross in the air.

  ‘Dominus sic in vobis quod aeternam vitam pervenire mereamini,’ he mutters. ‘In the name of God I welcome you, Lord Roland Roucy de Bram, and you, Pagan Kidrouk, into this noble and consecrated abbey, the Abbey of Saint Martin, so that you may follow the Rule of Saint Benedict in preparation for taking a vow of perpetual obedience, perpetual stability, and conversio morum in perpetuum. May the Lord’s blessing be upon you in your endeavours.’

  A low ‘Amen’ from the rest of the assembly. Do we have to say something, now? But Guilabert presses on, as if he’s in a hurry to proceed to more urgent matters.

  ‘I will ask you both to move into the church, where you will wait until the end of chapter,’ he declares. ‘You will then receive your tonsure and your habit, and our novice-master Clement will take charge of you. As a novice, you are in training to be a monk. You are not permitted to leave the abbey, nor to read the lessons, nor to sing the anthems or responses. At the end of two months, the Rule will be read to you, and you will be asked if you are still steadfast of purpose. If you are, you will return to the noviciate for six more months. At the end of that time, the Rule will be read to you again. If you give the same reply, you will be tested for another four months before being received into the Order. Is that quite clear?’

  Roland’s shocked. I can tell by the way his lips tighten. Twelve months? Until we’re received? I should have warned him.

  ‘Quite clear, Reverend Father.’ (Better if I speak for both of us.) ‘Should we – do we go through this door, here?’

  ‘Yes. Just turn right, and that will take you past the sacristy.

  You’ll find a door into the southern aisle of the church.’ ‘Thank you, Reverend Father.’


  Come on, Roland, we’re being dismissed. As I tug his sleeve he seems to snap out of it. Bows low towards the prior’s chair. Turns to face the inne
r door.

  Suddenly Guilabert opens his mouth again.

  ‘Behold the law under which you wish to serve,’ he intones. ‘If you can observe it, enter. If you cannot, freely depart.’

  Freely depart? Not likely. We’ve come this far – no one’s going to turn us back now.

  Chapter 2

  They must be joking. I can’t wear this. I’ll break my neck.

  ‘It’s too big for me.’ Flap, flap. Just look at the sleeves, for God’s sake! ‘How am I going to hold up my skirts if I can’t find my hands?’

  ‘Here.’ Roland tugs at the folds of fabric under my belt. He lifts the hemline about a finger’s length, and leaves me looking pregnant. ‘I’m sure it won’t be for long. If we cut off about this much . . .’

  ‘But surely they could have found something my size? I know I’m small, but I’m not that small! I look like Jonah inside the whale.’ Or like a maggot in an ox-hide. ‘And what about you? Your skirts are almost up to your knees.’

  ‘Oh Pagan, it’s not that bad.’ He lifts an arm; the black wool ends at least a handspan above his wrist. ‘I’ll just let the hem down.’

  ‘You?’ Don’t make me laugh. Since when have you ever picked up a needle, let alone threaded one? ‘No you won’t. I’ll do it.’

  ‘Pagan, you’re not my squire any more. You are my brother.’ (Gently.) ‘It’s not your place to serve me, but to serve Christ.’

  How strange he looks, without his beard. His face seems so much longer. So much softer. And that scar along his jawbone . . . I never knew he had that scar.

  ‘You look younger, without your beard.’ Younger and sadder, but I won’t say that. ‘It suits you.’

  ‘And you look older without your hair,’ he says, smiling. Christ in a cream cheese sauce. Feeling around for the bald spot on the crown of my head. There it is. My new tonsure.

  ‘It feels so odd.’ Ugh! Like the top of an egg. ‘Does it look as odd as it feels?’

  ‘Not at all.’

  ‘And it’s cold, too. Does yours feel cold?’

  ‘A little.’

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