Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Paul M Duffy’s novel set in 12th century Ireland, Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound, as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
‘I am a refugee, a sinner, a simple country person, near sixteen when I was taken prisoner from Britannia. At that time, I did not know the true God. It was among foreigners that it was seen how little I was. I tended sheep on the mountainside everyday and it was there that I turned with all of my heart to God. Faith grew and my spirit was moved. I was like a stone lying deep in the mud. Then he who is powerful came and, in his mercy, pulled me out and lifted me up and placed me on the very top of his wall. My name is Patricius.’
Milesius recited these ancient words to me the following morning. He read them from an immense book of cowhide in the empty, sun-warmed scriptorium where his voice lapped against the walls. I sat, as I often had, among the frames of pinned parchment and the venerated books, watching through the narrow window, the brothers below at their tasks in the herb garden. My belly full of honeyed oatmeal and my head drowsing pleasantly.
Milesius read these words in sympathy, to soothe my young anger, my devouring frustration – to show me that at the dawn of time, the greatest of all saints was once in bondage like me. That through his belief he was elevated in life and became a leader of kings, beloved throughout Yrlande. And though Milesius had his own ends in sight, his words gave me power. A power which settled deep within the bole of my being and allowed me to draw upon a pool of strength when the kicks and lashes became too much, when the burden cracked my young joints and twisted my sinews. Over the previous years, he had furnished me with a spirit that became difficult to dim. A spirit fed by belief. A belief that there would be more for me on this earth and that I would be raised up by the grip of a firm hand. Though ‘he who is powerful’, when he made himself known, proved not to be the Christian God, nor was his beneficence eternal. De Lacy. That morning I would hear the name spoken of for the first time.
‘The world is changed Alberic,’ Milesius said, placing down the book and I waited to hear more as he bent his face to the studded cover, his lips kissing silently. ‘MacMurchada is dead and the foreign lords he brought home with him have taken more than was their due. The Engleis King – Henri, has crossed the sea with an army to lay claim to Leinster. Not only that, the king has promised Míde to one of his captains. The baron de Lacy. An outrage. Unspeakable in its wrongness.’
‘Henri here? In Yrlande?’ I spoke to quieten the tumult of feeling this news had caused within me. And to disguise the hope I felt deep within, I said ‘MacMurchada never had true claim over this land.’
‘Indeed,’ Milesius said, watching me closely, ‘this is why the Tiarna takes such rash decisions. Looking for answers in ancient mounds and placing his faith in heathen objects. The gaze of one of the most powerful kings of Christendom is upon us.’
‘Will Ua Conor meet his gaze?’ I asked.
‘Surely,’ he said, ‘And my cousin Ua Ruairc in the vanguard no doubt. And, as ever, the innocent will be trampled in the clash.’
‘The purpose of all war is peace a mháistir.’
‘Perhaps,’ he said, shrewd eyeing me, a thick, ink-stained finger pushing his lower lip into the gentle chew of his teeth. ‘What is certain – your worth has risen lad. The Tiarna will look to use you and your father to his advantage.’
Milesius – Máel Ísu in the tongue of the Gael – of the family of Ua Ruairc, was a great scholar and he enjoyed his role, bending me this way and that with the current of his thought. I could not discern at first why I warranted special interest, why I was so often granted access to the workings of the monastery. Many of the clerics presumed sodomy, though, despite long hours in the close dimness of the scriptorium, he never laid a hand on me in that way. The only time his touch lingered was in tilting my head to show the Abbot or some visiting deacon my birthmark saying.
‘Leag Dia lamh air’ – God has laid his hand on him.
This earned me much scorn from the community of monks and lay brothers – one as low as I within their sanctum. Though their scorn was a paltry thing and I learned to walk tall, uninjured by the bramble of their looks on the back of my neck. In time, they too forgot the outrage of it, and I sank into the background, becoming part of the life of the foundation, coming from the Tiarna’s farmstead on my due days to render service – invisible against the high banks of the enclosure, the painted crosses, the stone shrine.
Milesius had been to the realm of the Holy Father in Rome. An unspeakable journey across oceans and burning wastes and forests deeper than the blackest cavern and through heathen lands and mountains so high that snow laid ever on their peaks. Along this route, he passed the vastness of territories controlled by that Imperator of the west – king Henri of Anjou – and read in the stern faces and high walled fortresses of those Engleis and Normans of what was to come. Forearmed with this knowledge, Milesius fostered me in a way. He saw the value in a half-Engleis lad of reasonable wit. He crafted me, perhaps, as a worker of alder crafts a shield to hold out against future blows.
On a remote Gaelic farmstead in medieval Ireland, word reaches Alberic of conquering Norman knights arriving from England. Oppressed by the social order that enslaved his Norman father, he yearns for the reckoning he believes the invaders will bring—but his world is about to burn. Captured by the Norman knight Hugo de Lacy and installed at Dublin Castle as a translator, Alberic’s confused loyalties are tested at every turn. When de Lacy marches inland, Alberic is set on a collision course with his former masters amidst rumours of a great Gaelic army rising in the west. Can Alberic navigate safely through revenge, lust and betrayal to find his place amidst the birth of a kingdom in a land of war?
Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound is available at
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Paul Duffy, author of Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound (2022), is one of Ireland’s leading field archaeologists and has directed numerous landmark excavations in Dublin as well as leading projects in Australia, France and the United Kingdom.
He has published and lectured widely on this work, and his books include From Carrickfergus to Carcassonne—the Epic Deeds of Hugh de Lacy during the Cathar Crusade (2018) and Ireland and the Crusades (2021). He has given many talks and interviews on national and international television and radio (RTÉ, BBC, NPR, EuroNews).
Paul has also published several works of short fiction (Irish Times, Causeway/Cathsair, Outburst, Birkbeck Writer’s Hub) and in 2015 won the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award. He has been shortlisted for numerous Irish and international writing prizes and was awarded a writing bursary in 2017–2018 by Words Ireland.
For more information about Paul and his books click on the links below
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More information on the Coffee Pot Book Club and other works of quality historical fiction can be found on Twitter and Instagram.
Book Title: Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound
Author: Paul M. Duffy
Publication Date: 11th October 2022
Publisher: Cennan imprint of Cynren Press
Page Length: 342 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
2 thoughts on “Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound by Paul M. Duffy”
Thank you for hosting Paul Duffy today on your lovely blog. x
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Happy to help, Cathie.