Between the Forest and the Hills

Between the Forest and the Hills

By: Ann Lawrence
Published by: Kestrel Books
Publication Date: 1977

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Iscium — a Roman-British city in the western marches, lying between the forest and the hills, increasingly cut off as the influence of Rome waned — a city not itself in decline, but concerned about its isolation.

As Frontalis, Prefect and Magistrate, said to his old friend Bishop Malleus: 'Calling you the Bishop is like calling me the Prefect and Astragalus the Imperial Legate... It may not make the slightest difference to what we do, but we shall be doing it under proper forms... there have to be properly constituted authorities — otherwise we shall simply disintegrate.'

But it was the suspicion of a Saxon invasion rather than the fear of disintegration that soon preoccupied Iscium. And all because Frontalis's unruly ward, Falx, urged on by Hrudin, the talking raven, to 'seek Italy', had left home only to stumble across Saxon Ulna, also running away as a rebuff to her chieftain father, Torcula.

The Saxons did 'invade' Iscium and were 'defeated' — some thought miraculously — through the good offices of Father Malleus, who, intent upon gathering an alien swarm of bees, rounded on the Saxon ruffians who were disturbing his hives.

Such an ignominious retreat by the Saxons guaranteed, the Romans knew, a second invasion, and this time Iscium prepared for full-scale battle, with a most unorthodox stratagem — the one-eyed Teres, with a chilling, oracular raven perched on each shoulder, emerged out of the mist before Torcula, and the coup de theatre, a hallelujah chorus from the city walls, put the enemy to flight. Another Roman victory; but Iscium knew their forces, if not their morale and Christian certainty, were shrinking, and their future would be more assured if they were to treat with words, as guileful, if not more so, than the Saxons — but that it far from the end of the story...

Ann Lawrence has created, with striking imagination and wit, an Iscium which is both real and fantastic.

From the dust jacket

Between the Forest and the Hills Reprint

Between the Forest and the Hills        
Reprinted in 1999 by Bethlehem Books
Available formats: Paperback
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