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The final book in his medieval adventure trilogy

It's safe to say that when Unbound launched, five years ago, we could not have done it without Terry Jones.

He launched his collection of stories, Evil Machines, and went on every form of media to help us launch the business, brilliantly communicating what was new and exciting about Unbound. Here was one of the country’s best loved comic writers and performers - a Python! - entrusting us with a brand new book and pushing our start-up for all it was worth.

First and foremost, though, Terry has been a friend, not 'just' a driving force and collaborator. So the news of his illness has hit us hard.

We launched this book in the hope that we could get it to him for his 75th birthday in February but the announcement of illness gives us all pause for thought. We have considered whether we should remove the project but after speaking to the family we have decided we still very much want to publish this book because it completes the trilogy and because it meant a great deal to Terry that we should. So we hope you’ll agree that we should continue to fund and publish the final fictional work from an old and dear friend.

Justin, Dan & John

Terry Jones is a legend. Not in the sense that he’s a long-dead or semi-mythical figure about whom stories are told around roaring log fires (although that might still happen). No, Terry Jones is a legend because he’s achieved more than ten men might reasonably expect to do in a lifetime. And because we know attention spans are short, here are ten Jonesian highlights:

• Being unable to stop laughing when doing the read-through of the sketches he and Michael Palin wrote for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (he was the one usually in a headscarf or a bowler hat).
• Co-directing Monty Python & the Holy Grail (1975), a film so funny it made all subsequent films set in the Middle Ages seem like comedies.
• Directing The Life of Brian (1979) a film so funny it was banned in Norway (according to the Swedes).
• Writing his adaptation of Starship Titanic (a game devised by Douglas Adams) entirely in the nude.
• Allowing his son Bill to do the Director’s Son’s Cut for the DVD of his movie Erik the Viking (he’d originally written the book for Bill in 1983).
• Convincing us Chaucer himself was murdered by a naughty Bishop, and that the oh-so-perfect Knight in the Canterbury Tales was a rotter.
• Allowing his love of real ale to lead him to set up us own brewery, Penrhos, in 1977 (it’s inaugural ale was 'Jones’ First Brew').
• Reminding us that you can’t force an abstract noun to surrender in Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror (2004).
• Becoming a father for the third time in 2009, when he was quite a lot older than people who do this tend to be.
• Writing and directing The Doctor’s Tale (2011), an opera in which he imagines a dog that has trained and now practises as a doctor.

Chapter 1

Milan 1385

“If only life were as simple as you think it’s going to be,” thought Tom, “it wouldn’t be nearly such fun. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous either.”

And at that precise moment it was the dangerous aspect of life rather than the fun aspect that Tom was experiencing - although he wasn’t quite sure which bit of it was more dangerous: the drop that had suddenly opened up beneath him or the animal that was at that moment banging its tusks a few feet above his head.

Goodness knows why the boar was banging its tusks against the trunk of a tree, but there it was - doing it. Maybe it was a case of sheer bad temper – after all, the creature had just been cheated of its quarry – which happened to be Tom. It was one of those curious reversals of roles of which life is full. At one moment, Tom had been the pursuer, hunting the wild boar, and yet the next moment one of his co-hunters had given a piercing whistle, Tom’s horse had reared, Tom had fallen off, and the wild boar had started chasing him.

It was just possible that the wild boar simply had poor eyesight and had mistaken the tree for Tom. In which case, thought Tom, as he watched large gobbets of bark flying off the tree in all directions, poor eyesight in wild boars was definitely something to be encouraged.

The more he thought about it, however, the more it seemed to Tom that the drop below him represented the most immediate danger. The small branch onto which Tom was pinning all his hopes of a future existence in this world was really more of a twig than a branch, and even that seemed to be in the process of coming loose from the ground out of which it was growing.

As for the ledge, onto which Tom had leapt, as he escaped the wild boar’s leading tusk, that was even now still tumbling down the cliff face as a shower of earth and stones. It had not, it appeared, been the right thing to leap onto…but then he hadn’t had much choice – or much time to choose.

Tom was, in every sense of the word, in the middle of a cliff- hanger.

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