The story begun in THE UNDEPARTED DEAD Part 1 continues.
Having disposed of the decomposing revenant that was tearing priests and monks limb from limb, Mariana now returns to Colchester and the brothel where she has been working undercover. Her "mission impossible" this time is to put an end to the wraith haunting north-east Essex and ripping out the throats of "sluts like her" (who, of course, in the eyes of many good people, deserve all they get).
Is she, though, in reality, being used as live bait, and is her survival of no importance to those commissioned by the Regent, John o'Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, to trap and permanently eliminate this undead monster?
The following day I went straight to the Green Unicorn.
I didn't speak to anyone, just went into my own little room, changed and left. I wanted to be in boy's clothes this time for my meeting with Muriel.
There was no sign of Rosa Love or the other girls, but Muriel was up and welcomed me with a tisane of various herbs.
'I like the clothes. Your dress like that often?'
'A habit I picked up in Paris.'
'Nice. But don't people see? I mean the way you walk.'
I laughed. 'I try not to walk like that when I'm dressed as a boy.'
'I suppose they take you for a badling. Now, listen. The court sentenced Alfwin to death by hanging for plotting rebellion, for murder, for robbery, for rape, and for stealing the Host, which in their eyes – it was the Bishop's court – was by far his worst crime. And Brother Hamon went along with that on condition that after the hanging the corpse be staked and buried down at the sign of the Cross Bones, in unconsecrated ground, along with us whores.'
'He was staked and buried? Not burnt?'
'Not burnt, no. Not that it would have made any difference. Either was too little, too late. Before Alfwin was taken down from the gallows, his soul had already flown to the body of his son and taken possession of it. And it is difficult to see how that could have been avoided.'
By sealing his soul in, I thought.
She looked at me, then went on with what she was saying. 'I discussed the whole question of revenants with Brother Hamon, and this is what we agree on.
'When a person dies, the soul can go through the tunnel of light to whatever awaits it there. This is what should happen.
'Or the discarnate soul may hang around, unable to move on, a shade, a ghost, either anchored to a particular spot or floating free as a bird but congregating in unseen flocks wherever blood is shed.
'Or the soul may remain attached to the dead body. The body will then become a revenant if it is possible for it to emerge from its grave. Hence the deep graves, the heavy grave-stones, the cairns and so on.
'Or the soul may attach itself to another body, one still alive or but recently dead. This may occur if the person's own body is unusable – staked or whatever.
'In the two cases where a soul quickens a dead body, imparts a semblance of life to it, the creatures are not vampires, like the ones we hear of in the Balkans and Venice and Bohemia, but putrid and disgusting eaters of human flesh. Nevertheless, they are dead and cannot be killed again, not in any ordinary way. What causes this? According to the Church, a curse from a bishop or a mitred abbot – or from a parent – or excommunication. Or suicide. Or being a heretic or a witch. This traps the soul. It can only be released by a priest at the grave with the body in it. Or so Brother Hamon maintains.' She paused and grinned. 'But that is all nonsense, for the body no longer returns to the grave ... Sealing an evil soul within its body, though? I'd give a great deal to be able to do that.'