Chapter I

An ordinary man of Hamingford

Most stories are of epic tales in distant lands and grand cities, where many fantastic events happen. However, this one is not, so if you are looking for that sort of adventure you will not find it here. This story is one of a small village in the rolling hills of the south of England, hidden from the outside world. This village was Hamingford, nestled snugly in a small valley through which the River Haming trickles merrily on its course to join the River Piddle a short distance downstream. It is the sort of village you would see on a postcard now-a-days, with its thatched cottages and picturesque Norman church, and well-kept lawns and a green surrounded by small shops; the butcher's, baker's and candlestick maker's. Life in the village was slow and gentle, following the gradual changes in the seasons, and the cycles of the surrounding earth. People have lived here for hundreds of years, and life has changed very little.

Judas was a typical villager of Hamingford, and was proud to be so. He kept himself to himself, following the social codes of the village, and was generally wary of foreigners - those being born outside of Dorset. For Hamingford standards, Judas was well-off, being the clerk for the parish, and, to his belief at least, was rather influential in the social circles of Hamingford, and, although not daring to suggest it, as far a-field as Piddlehinton. With his job he carried out many roles, including, but not limited to, collecting parish taxes from the villagers. He worked hard at his job, although sometimes took the liberty of offering himself the odd bonus or reimbursing himself of any financial costs incurred, whatever they may be.

Judas was returning to his cottage this morning humming to himself, having collected a loaf of bread, still warm, from the baker's wife. He entered his cottage taking a moment for his eyes to adjust to the relative darkness of the room compared to the outside. The room was small and a little smoky. On the far wall was a stone fireplace with a glowing hearth. On the wall on the left there was a small window, by which his desk sat perpendicularly, untidy with papers and leather-bound books, and short burnt-out candles.

Judas took a mug hanging on a hook from the mantelpiece and made a cup of tea, carefully pouring in the correct amount of milk, followed by slowly pouring in the tea he had left to brew whilst he collected his loaf of bread. He took a small slice of bread and ate it with his tea. And this is how he began his day every working morning, for Judas was one of routine.

Judas sat down at his desk and began his work for the day. He would sift through the papers and letters on his desk, usually requesting money for some thing or another, and sort out the parish accounts. He opened his large leather book and began to write the latest additions to the expenditures section. Twelve shillings to Master M. Ellis for cutting the grass of St. Mary's gardens. What a waste of money, thought Judas. This did have an element of irony, as when for a short while, the grass in St. Mary's was not cut, Judas was the first to complain for the wild and unkempt treatment of holy land. Thus it is clear that to Judas that on no account should the lawns of St. Mary's grow long, just not at his, no his parish's, expense.

After the long and tiring work of counting the outgoing money from the parish, Judas' attention now turned to his favourite job. Seeing who had not paid their taxes. Mister T. Riles, owes nine shillings and six pence; Mister J Jones owes five shillings, and the list went on. Mister Jones paid off his debts last week, Judas remembered.

It was coming up to noon, and the sun was now shining directly onto Judas' desk, the rays of sun visible in the smoky air of the cottage. Feeling that he needed to stretch his legs a little, Judas decided he would pay a certain Mister T. Riles a visit to see whether he was able to pay what he owed. Thomas Riles was the village miller, and lived in a small cottage attached to the watermill at the far end of the village. When Judas arrived at the cottage, he banged loudly three times on the thick oak door, to make sure Thomas would have been able to hear him. As two seconds passed without any noise coming from the cottage, Judas banged on the door a further five times even more loudly.

"Alrigh', alrigh', I be comin'," Thomas shouted from the back of the cottage in his low, drawling West Country accent, "no need to get your knickers in a twist, I'll be there in a sec."

After a few more seconds, the heavy oak door creaked open, "oh, good day, Judas. Wha' brings yer 'ere?"

"You owe me nine shillings sixpence," replied Judas in as formal a tone as possible.

"'Ang on a sec, I thinks I 'ave he. Yep, I do. 'Ere yer go. Was tha' all?" Thomas said with a slightly impatient tone. He was a good-natured man, but when faced with Judas, whom he intensely disliked, he could not help but loose some his cheerful character.

"Yes, I think it is. However, I don't recall seeing you at church this Sunday last."

"That's 'cause I weren't there."

"Exactly!" Judas exclaimed, looking down his nose at Thomas all the time.

"And?"

"Good Christians go to church every Sunday." Judas replied with an air of righteousness. Judas had attended church every Sunday since the age of six, and intended to continue doing so.

Thomas' patience was now lost on Judas. "I be Christian, not pious. If that'll be all, I have me errands to run." He then followed to close the door with a large bang. And that was the end of that.