Tag Archives: St Brett

Jake: Hell has its Demons Character Profile

I worked on the life story of one of my major characters from Hell has its Demons yesterday. The following paragraphs tell the story of Jake before the events of the novel take place:

Jake’s family moved to St Brett’s when he was 11, a year after the Plague first struck in 1348. His young sister died, but otherwise his family was relatively unharmed. The village where they lived all but disappeared though. His father sold the small plot of land they held and left the village before their lord could demand the fine payable for villains leaving his manor. They arrived in St Brett’s and found that they were able to get a burgess plot on the cheap – the abbey desperate for money with half the town’s tenants having died.

As a child Jake was entranced by stories of knights and seeing them go past in their armour, with their fancy ladies – visiting the abbey for instance or coming into town for the fairs that happened three times a year. He was taken in by the romance of these stories and the pageantry of the knights he saw. He would later bitterly resent the wealth of these nobles and his own foolish hope that he might become a knight too.

His father earns a living through a variety of enterprises, becoming most successful at brewing and running a tavern. John is a shrewd businessman and also sees opportunities for speculating on the trade of cloth manufactured in the town. He encourages others to invest capital into ventures, thereby avoiding risk, but takes a good share of the profits. He uses his son, Jake, to ensure the shipments reach their destination safely – Jake is physically intimidating and also John trusts him. Jake is party to occasional deception of John’s business clients. Jake travels to London and ports in East Anglia on business.

From the age of 16 to 17 John is able to send his boy Jake to the grammar school briefly. Jake learns quickly but can’t stand the discipline of study and the hypocrisy of the monks. He is expelled for a prank on the teacher – who will later be an obedientary or abbot?

The Abbey observes the success of the cloth exports from St Brett’s and the lack of income it derives and seeks to impose levies on St Brett’s merchants – whereas previously it could tax merchants coming to fairs at St Brett’s to buy produce.

These taxes affect John and his associates – a group of wealthier burgesses who control the cloth trade and regularly drink in his tavern. In 1361 when the abbey imposes these tolls the burgesses rebel and the abbey’s tax-collector is murdered.

His Mother died during second coming of the Black Death in 1362.

In 1363 when the abbey bring in local gentry to support their collection of the tolls there is street-warfare. The abbey is briefly besieged. The Abbot promises to withdraw the new tolls, but asks instead for increased tolls for use of the Abbey mills. John is happy with that – he has organized house fulling mills in the workshops of his suppliers.

Jake is supportive of all this activity and helps his father – they are always seen together and effectively control what happens in the town.

Jake is a keen sportsman, football, archery and poaching in the Abbey’s forest.

Jake has some of his own money now and plans to set-up on his own. He buys his own tavern.

Jake marries in 1365 a girl called Edith. She died in childbirth as did the child. Jake has given up on being a father now. Is it worth bringing a child into such a world?

Jake’s tavern is struggling to make a profit. He has become more distant from his father. He no longer represents him on business trips – he doesn’t have time – he is running his own business now, but also morning his dead wife and child.

The conflict with the abbey has died down. The abbey still demands its rights and seems to exert more control – but only over the lesser people of the town – John and his cronies have come to an arrangement. In 1367 they form a new fraternity and pay for an endowment to the abbey. Jake has offended his father by going off on his own and rejecting his advice – his father is quietly cutting him out of his dealings and making him suffer for going against him.

Jake finds Margery and her mother camped out on his doorstep one cold morning early in 1369. He is ready to turn away the two beggars who have appeared from nowhere, but something stops him. He lets them in and cooks them some hot food. His housekeeper, who has taken a shine to him which he hasn’t realized, immediately takes a dislike to them – witch she calls the old woman, who mutters superstitiously under her breath. Jake allows them to board at his house. The old woman does not last the winter. Jake and Margery become lovers, the housekeeper is sacked and Margery lives with Jake (in sin). She has a hold over him.

His father is jealous of Jake’s romantic success and plots against him, first having others accuse him in the abbey’s canon court of fornication. Jake promises to marry. John tries something else, pointing out Jake’s poverty to Margery.

Jake leaves St Brett’s in 1369 (when he was 31) after his father marries Margery (when she was 27). Jake tried to kill his father and Margery shortly before he left in an angry confrontation.

Jake joins a retinue being assembled to support the Black Prince’s forces in Aquitaine. From 1370 to 1374 involved in chevauchées, sieges and skirmishes in various parts of Western France. Involved in war crimes – but this is part and parcel of being a soldier? Jake has become cynical – life has dealt him a cruel hand so he feels it is alright for him to take it out on others. He has realised that only get what you can take in this world.

In 1374 effectively becomes an outlaw in France with a gang of other unpaid soldiers. They capture Roger and some other clerks on their return from Avignon. They plan to ransom the priests for money. But for Roger their plan fails, the other priests are worth something, but not Roger. The other soldiers plan to kill Roger and take his stuff. Jake protects him and saves him. They part. Jake returns to England, but ends up in gaol. Roger hears that he is in gaol and helps secure his release if he will become his servant. Roger is on his way to Oxford to take up a post as Master of Astronomy at the University.

New Title for Habit for Killing: Hell has its Demons

My medieval fantasy mystery now has a new title and one that I am really quite happy with. From now on I will use this new title to label all posts which provide updates on it’s progress.

The new title is:
Hell has its Demons
A Sotil and Savage Adventure
Here’s the draft synopsis, (any feedback is welcome!):

            Investigating an infestation of demons in the town of St Brett’s is the last thing that Jake Savage wants to do this summer. But for his master, the controversial Oxford scholar Roger Sotil, it is a chance to prove his theories about demons and avoid charges of heresy. The Abbot of St Brett’s has called for Roger’s help to rid his town of demons. Jake owes Roger a massive debt, but St Brett’s is a town that holds dark memories for him.

In St Brett’s Roger sees demons possessing the townspeople. Jake thinks they are just acting very strangely. The people are scared and want answers fast. A beautiful woman, Margery Haukwake, is accused of witchcraft. Roger feels sure that she isn’t guilty. Jake knows she isn’t. He was once engaged to marry her, until his widowed father stole her from him.

Margery is helping Roger with his enquiries, but she is scared. The life of her husband, Jake’s father, has been threatened by the necromancer who has summoned the demons. She knows this man’s identity but not his purpose.

Margery is convinced to testify to the Royal Justice who has recently arrived to investigate the strange events in the town. But the necromancer, a monk called Edmund Hope, has got to the Justice first, and presents evidence accusing Margery of witchcraft. Margery is swiftly put on trial, but Roger’s eloquent pleading of Margery’s case persuades the Royal Justice to free Margery and instead arrest Edmund.

When they try to arrest Edmund, the monk turns his demon-possessed minions on the Justice and kills him and his soldiers. The town, and even the Abbot, is under the control of Edmund and his demons. Roger and Jake flee the town, but Margery is captured during their escape.

Roger and Jake make their way to London to seek help. But no-one there is interested, distracted by the illness of both the King and his heir, the Black Prince. When the Black Prince dies of his illness, Joan of Kent, his widow seeks out Roger and asks him to help her son, the nine-year old Richard, heir to the throne. He has recently fallen sick and she believes he has the same disease that killed his father. She thinks that the illness is caused by witchcraft. She says that the boy’s uncle, John of Gaunt, plans to seize the throne on the death of the ageing King Edward III.

Roger and Jake realise that Edmund must be the necromancer who aids John of Gaunt.

Jake returns in secret to St Brett’s to see if Margery can be freed, while Roger stays in London to help the mother of the heir to the throne. Jake helps free Margery and those townspeople who are still free of possession. They seek refuge in a nearby castle.

Roger saves Richard from his illness with the help of a demon, Bifrons, who was previously allied to Edmund. Bifrons feels unloved by Edmund now that the necromancer has other demons to do his bidding.  

After evading demonic and mortal threats Roger, Joan and Richard, together with Bifrons in mortal guise, escape from London and meet up with Jake and Margery at the castle. Richard is furious with his uncle and vows to reveal his plot to his grandfather, Edward III. Joan sends a message to her son’s vassals and to the King to help save them from Gaunt.

Edmund has a final plan to aid his patron John of Gaunt. Instead of killing Richard, they will replace his soul with that of a demon bound to their service, and so control the kingdom. Edmund first tests this on Margery and, when this works, also takes the soul of Richard. With the help of Bifrons, Roger journeys into hell to save the lost souls, while Jake fights off Gaunt’s army with a rag-tag group of townspeople. Roger with the help of Bifrons destroys Edmund and frees the souls of Margery and Richard. On their return Gaunt realises that his plot has failed and asks his nephew Richard for forgiveness, claiming that he only sought to protect him.