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The Original Sin of William Blackhand

by R. Keelan

In the eighteenth year of the reign of King Edward III, I witnessed a miracle.

I woke in the night, on the Monday after Martinmass, roused by a noise in the chancel. I reached out from beneath my blanket, searching for something to cover myself. My hand felt the cruel bite of November stone before closing over the warmth of rough wool.

Slightly warmer in my tunic and breeches, I pulled on my boots then stumbled to the squint. My room had once been an anchorite’s cell; this small window overlooking the chancel was how the previous occupant had heard mass and received communion. She’d been sealed in and fed through an even smaller window on the other wall, but my father had torn the cell open when I grew old enough for a room of my own.

I should call him my foster father—an ostensibly celibate priest wasn’t supposed to have a trueborn son—but I rarely bothered. No one in the village ever let me forget he’d got me on some itinerant friar’s woman. He hadn’t even had the decenc…

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