In the spring of 1348, tales begin arriving in England of poisonous clouds fast approaching, which have overwhelmed whole cities and even countries, with scarcely a human being left. While some pray more earnestly and live yet more devoutly, others vow to enjoy themselves and blot out their remaining days on earth by drinking and gambling.

And then there are those who hope that God’s wrath might be averted by going on a pilgrimage. But if God was permitting his people to be punished by this plague, then it surely could only be because they had committed terrible sins?

So when a group of pilgrims are forced to seek shelter at an inn, their host suggests that the guests should tell their tales. He dares them to tell their stories of sin, so that it might emerge which one is the best.That is, the worst …

Cerdic, a young boy who has the ability to see into the future, has a mysterious treasure in his possession. A blind old woman once gave him a miniature knife with an ivory bear hilt – the symbol of King Arthur – and told him that when the time comes he will know what he has to do with it.

But when he and his brother, Baradoc, are enlisted into King Arthur’s army, he finds that trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. When Baradoc dies fighting with King Arthur in an ambush of the Saxons on Solsbury Hill, Cerdic buries the dagger in the side of the hill as a personal tribute to his brother.

Throughout history, Solsbury Hill continues to be the scene of murder, theft and the search for buried treasure. Religion, politics and the spirit of King Arthur reign over the region, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of corpses and treasure buried in the hill as an indication of its turbulent past.

1154, Oseney Priory, Oxford. When the first performance of The Play of Adam ends in tragedy, the author is compelled to pen a grim warning for the generations that follow:

‘Beware the sins of envy and vainglory, else foul murder ends your story’.

But his words are not heeded, and as the play is performed in many guises throughout the ages, bad luck seems to follow after those involved in its production.

When a snow storm diverts two disparate parties of travellers to the busy market town of Carmarthen in the winter of 1199, an enigmatic stranger appears and requests to stage the play to alleviate tensions, but on the eve of the performance the actor chosen to play Cain is found dead.

When the play is performed in the city of Ely in 1361, the townspeople fear the play has unleashed a demon upon the town after a gruesome discovery is made in the Cathedral. And from Shakespeare’s London to war-time Surrey, no matter the time or the place, each production always seems to end in disaster.

Perhaps it is simply the curse of thespian rivalry that is to blame. Or does the story of man’s first murder somehow infect all who re-enact it?

AD 848. Beornwyn of Lythe, the young daughter of an ealdorman, spurns marriage and chooses to remain a virgin dedicated to Christ. When she is found murdered in the chapel where she kept her nightly vigils, the butterflies resting on her corpse are seen to be a sign from God that she should receive sainthood.

It is not long before St. Beornwyn comes to be regarded as the patron saint of those suffering from diseases and many are drawn to her shrines. But from a priory in Wales to the Greek island of Sifnos, to the final resting place of Beornwyn’s bones in Herefordshire, far from bringing healing to sick pilgrims, it seems that St. Beornwyn’s remains leave a trail of misery, maladies and murder in their wake.

So when a famous poet pens a new tale of St. Beornwyn, it is no wonder that he questions whether she was as holy as has always been believed … and soon, rumours begin to spread from Nottinghamshire that threaten to ruin the reputation of the saint.

Could the saintly deeds attributed to her have been carried out by someone else? What if the virgin was not all she seemed? Will the truth about St. Beornwyn ever be discovered, or will her story remain forever wrapped in legend?

The Sacred Stone, the sixth collaborative novel by the Medieval Murderers, and the first to which I have contributed, is now available in paperback. The Sacred Stone was originally published by Simon & Schuster on July 8th 2010, in simultaneous hardback and trade paperback editions, which are still available.

In the desolate wastes of Greenland, Viking hunters watch a meteorite fall to earth. The finding of the strangely shaped stone seems to bring good fortune to the little community, healing a lame boy and giving them unusual luck in hunting, but violence quickly follows as men fight for control of the sacred stone.

The sacred stone is brought to England on a Viking ship, and passes from owner to owner down through the ages from Medieval Wales to Elizabethan London in an intriguing series of interlinked mysteries.

Along the way the meteorite falls into the hands of mad monks and kabbalists, thieves and murderers, for men and women will stop at nothing to gain possession of it. For though some try to use the sacred stone to heal and to give hope, its very power always awakens the dark side of men, bringing envy, greed and murder in its wake.

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