Takes place after Monk's Hood. Radulfus' thoughts as he rides into his Abbey for the first time, when the former Abbot Heribert introduces him.
Heribert had been quite a pleasant companion. True, Radulfus understood why he had been relieved of his task – the man didn't possess the leading qualities and sense of politics required these days, even of those who would much rather live a life of quiet contemplation. The old man had not told him much of the brethren residing in Shrewsbury, undoubtedly for fear he might persuade Radulfus's opinion in one way or the other.
But Radulfus was a man familiar with the worst and the best of the world, and was skilled in the art of reading between the lines. He had understood more of the personalities he was about to encounter from the old man's stories than Heribert had intended.
Keeping his face impassive, he surveyed the crowd before them. Ah yes, that couple in front, the tall Norman and the shorter sidekick – that had to be his new Prior with his aid…Jerome, he believed Heribert had called him. The one obviously recently returned from travelling outside the gates must be the infamous Brother Cadfael.
Keeping his face completely impassive, he couldn't help but smirk inwardly at the skill with which Brother Heribert informed the Prior of the change in command. The man may not have the skills to lead, but he was no fool, and this was his revenge. Officially, he supposed he should reprimand the former Abbot, but really – the man was only human. Let him have his moment of triumph.
It wasn't hard to see what kind of man this prior was. Ambitious, of noble birth, quite honestly not suited at all for a cloistered life – an Oblatus, no doubt. They really should abandon that practice, as it led to many second sons spending their lives in what should be a calling, not an alternative to a worldly career. A man too happy to see the splinter in the eye of his brother.
His suspicions were confirmed when almost immediately, before he had even properly descended from his horse, the Prior filed a complaint against that brother Cadfael Heribert had mentioned frequently. A bit of a rogue in the cloister as well, but at least came of a calling. Heribert held him in high esteem and while Radulfus disagreed with Heribert's reign on many counts, he would not disregard the advice and opinions, however veiled, the man had given him on their journey together.
He needed two things – a good relationship with the Law outside the cloister, and at least one ally among the brothers who understood the ways of the world to provide valuable advice. His almost cheerful suggestion they should all go inside and sort the matter out came very close to making the proud Prior pout like a schoolboy, he wagered. The other monk had no such objections and came instantly, more than willing to defend his actions that he clearly felt were justified.
Yes, this Brother Cadfael might turn out to be a very useful ally indeed.