Twelve linked tales, 197890, only one of which, ``Crusader Damosel,'' may be familiar to fans, from an English author who- -except for a well-received Arthurian trilogy in the 1970s-- published relatively little before her death this year at the age of 97. Set in England and Outremer (the Holy Land) in the 12th century, during the time of the Crusades, these are the adventures of the fearless and pragmatic Hodierna, Abbess of Shaston Convent. The Abbess, equally at home in the English damp and Outremer's blistering heat, uses her wisdom, some dabs of magic, her kinship with royalty and with the Pope, and her feminist sensibilities to solve the problems that come her way. Among them: a howling mermaid who demands to be given a soul; the career of the mysterious and invincible White Knight; a murder mystery; numerous temptations by the devil himself; a battle of wits with the Old Man of the Mountains; a young satyr's formative years; the unwarranted jealousy of a young Moslem wife; an English maiden and wannabe Crusader; another confrontation with the devil; a werewolf; and a devilish Pandora's box that, despite dire warnings, the inquisitive Abbess just has to peek into. Light, charming, evocative.