It’s here – nearly! “Ballad of Betrayal”, the sequel to Bernard Trafford’s historical adventure novel “Song for a Spy” is out next week. Here’s a taster…

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The sequel to Song for a Spy is out: what are you waiting for?

Ballad of Betrayal, the thrilling sequel to Bernard Trafford’s historical adventure novel, Song for a Spy, is out next week.  If you enjoyed the serialisation of Song for a Spy, only on Voice of the North, you’ll be itching to read the promised sequel. Your wait is nearly at an end!

In Ballad of Betrayal

..a priceless relic is stolen and a captive king goes missing in a power-struggle centred on 13th-Century Bologna. In the fast-paced sequel to Song for a Spy, choirboy-turned-lawyer’s clerk-turned-troubadour-turned-spy Lorenzo uncovers a plot that spells deadly peril for him and threatens chaos across the entire Holy Roman Empire.

Compelled to forsake his comfortable way of life, he must undergo imprisonment, ordeal, seduction, torture and siege and put his life on the line to thwart powerful conspirators and save his friends held hostage and facing certain death.

Can’t wait? Check Voice of the North next Monday 23rd November, for your link to the publication-week offer price! Meanwhile, here’s a taster: just a brief prologue that provides the backdrop to skullduggery to come…

Prologue

He emerged from behind the altar, carrying a casket the size of an ox’s head. “Here it is, my lord. I may show it to you, since you are so very…” His mouth distorted into an obsequious smile: “…persuasive. But no one is permitted to touch the relic, signore. You know that at its heart lies one of the nails that pierced Our Saviour’s hands and feet?”

“Open it.” It was a voice accustomed to command.

Dropping to his knees, he placed the heavy chest on the floor and released the three catches that secured its metal-bound lid. “There, my lord.” His tone was hushed, reverential. “The Iron Crown, heirloom of the Kings of Lombardy, created in Constantinople at the order of Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. It was used to crown Charlemagne himself.”

“So potent a symbol of authority. Of power.” It was as if he were heedless of the other’s words. “Close it up again.”

“Of course, my lord – if you have seen enough? I shall not be able to show it to you again.”

“Why not? You are the keeper of the keys, are you not?

“I am indeed clavicularius to the cathedral, my lord, though I am merely a layman employed here. It’s good enough work to keep my wife and children by, but I am not informed as the brothers are. Nonetheless, I hear rumours: foolish enough gossip, for sure, but sufficient to alarm the bishop and chapter.”

“Rumours? Of what?”

“Nothing to concern so great a lord as you, signore.”

“Tell me.” Again that easy tone of command. “What rumours?”

“They, they say…” He stammered, and then it came out in a rush of words. “They say there is word of a plot to steal the Iron Crown. Something to do with all the quarrels and fighting over who the next Emperor will be. Whether one of Frederick’s children, or that French duke…”

“Charles of Anjou.”

“The very same, my lord. Mere tittle-tattle, I am sure. After all, what use is so ancient an artefact to the grand schemes of kings and emperors? Nevertheless, tomorrow the Iron Crown is to be locked away in the treasury, and none may see it. You arrived only just in time.”

“Indeed. Well, if the crown is at risk, then it must be protected. There is a change of plan. I shall take it with me. For safety.”

The clavicularius looked up in alarm. “Oh, no, my lord. That cannot be. The Crown resides here in Monza for all time. It cannot be removed, even to preserve it from – from theft. Oh!” His voice tailed off as understanding dawned

“You have been well paid. I shall double your – what shall I call it? Your fee.”

“My lord, you must not. I cannot. I beg you.” The words tumbled out in a rush. “It’s more than my life’s worth.”

“No. You’re right. It is worth more than your life.” A knife flashed, then plunged into the man’s throat.

Its wielder bent down to snatch the coffer before it was splashed by the life-blood gushing around the blade. He retrieved the dagger, wiping it clean on the robe of his victim, whose death-rattle subsided to nothing, cut the small purse from the girdle of the still-twitching corpse, straightened, and sheathed it. Tucking the casket under his arm, he strode confidently from the chapel into the twilight.

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