Part 7 of my Crusades novel. #SampleSunday #Histnov

The next morning the Ferriers climbed up to the battlements by the Golden Gate at the eastern part of the city.

John had spent a restless night, tormented by the sight of Agnes in the courtyard and tormented even more by his thoughts concerning her.  It was imperative that he find some sense of salvation, however feeble.

They walked north for a few paces until John stopped and looked towards the east.  His hands grasped the stone of the walls as though he was holding on to them for fear of falling.

‘The Mount of Olives,’ he said, in a voice made thick with emotion.

The sun shone on the trees which crammed the slopes of the mount.  It looked a rich and wholesome place.  John felt he should avert his eyes from this and stare down instead to Gethsemane to try to snatch a glimpse of Christ’s agony the night before the crucifixion.

He bent his head and gasped.

‘It looks lovely,’ he said in surprise.

‘The mountain?’ Simon asked.

‘No Gethsemane.  I thought it would look bleak and awful, tortured by the memory of Christ’s anguish.’

‘You seem disappointed.’

‘I am.’  He shook his head.  ‘I came to Jerusalem to seek redemption for my sin.  How can I do this when the city is rich and pleasant, the sights a marvel and a wonder?’

Simon drummed his fingers upon the battlements.  ‘Perhaps you are misguided John.  Perhaps you can get redemption from things of beauty as much as from the ugly and the bitter.’

John shook his head angrily.  ‘Beautiful things are a danger, the snares of Satan.’

‘Yet God put them on the Earth.’

‘As a test.’

Simon sighed and closed his eyes.  ‘I can’t agree with you, John.  Beauty is to be enjoyed and loved.  Even Christ chose to spend his last night on Earth in the garden below.  Who are you to be different?’

‘I am a sinner.  Christ was not.’

‘We are all sinners.’  He smiled.  ‘I for one would very much like to sin with a certain woman.’

John straightened.  ‘Who do you mean?’

‘You know.’  He paused and grinned at John.  ‘The lovely Agnes.’

John did not answer.  His mind raced, his thoughts skittering like starlings in a flock.  ‘She is married,’ he said at last, coldly.

‘That does not stop her being beautiful.’

‘You must not think such a thing.  She belongs to another.’

‘That does not stop her being beautiful.’

’She is the mother of two children.’

‘That does not stop her being beautiful.’

‘We are guests in her home for God’s sake.’

‘That gives me opportunity.  And by the way, you just blasphemed.’

John was speechless with rage.  He turned away from Simon.  Christ help me, he thought, Christ help me.  Simon agreed to come on this pilgrimage with me, he has been my loyal and constant companion.  Christ help me, Christ help him.

His thundering heart began to calm.  He turned back to Simon and held out his hand.

Simon stared at it.  ‘What is this for?’

‘Take it.’

‘You offer me your hand as if you had done me wrong.’

John hesitated, desperately thinking of something to say to hide the truth.  ‘I offer you my hand because I love you and I do not wish you to seduce the lady Agnes.’

Simon smiled.

John could not tell whether it was a smile of friendship or mockery.  Or perhaps of gratification that he had guessed the state of affairs correctly.

After a brief moment Simon took John’s hand.

 *****

They arrived back at the inn in time for the noon-day meal.  They were accosted by a blind man sitting by the entrance.  John pulled out his purse and began to search for a suitable coin.  Simon took the opportunity to slip straight into the inn.

As soon as he entered Bernard called him over.

‘I’m glad you’re here, Simon,’ he said.  ‘Some English pilgrims have arrived and they are drinking like they’ve never seen ale before.  I’ve told them to quieten down but they don’t understand.  Will you talk to them?’

Simon strolled over and listened for a while before returning.  ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I don’t understand them.  They speak English.’

‘But you are English.’

‘Yes.  But I only speak French.  Both my parents are of Norman stock.  John may be able to help, his mother was English.  He can speak the language like a native though he pretends not to.’

Bernard frowned.  ‘Is speaking English something to be ashamed of?’

‘It’s nothing to be proud of.’

Bernard shook his head.  He saw John walk in and hurried over to seek his aid.  Simon could see that John was reluctant but in the end he agreed and went over to the Englishmen and spoke to them.  There were lots of jeers and cat-calls but, nevertheless, they quietened down and even agreed to pay for the ale they had already consumed.

‘Thank you,’ Bernard said.  ‘Some of us in Jerusalem speak Arabic as well as French but I had not realised that it was the same in other lands.’

‘England is a bit like Jerusalem,’ John said.  ‘It was conquered by foreigners and now the English feel like strangers in their own land.’

‘He always says this,’ Simon said.  ‘But it doesn’t stop him acting like a Norman when it suits him.  Nor his brother Hugh who is one of Prince Richard’s right-hand men.  And you can be sure that Richard has little time for the English.’

‘So are you English or Norman?’ Bernard asked.

‘Our ancestor came over with the first King Henry,’ John said.  ‘He was an ordinary man, a blacksmith.   He never called himself English though.  His son, our grand-father was the first to do so.’

Bernard shook his head and pointed out the loud party of English pilgrims.  ‘And what would they think of you?’ he asked.

‘They would think we were their betters,’ Simon said.

‘But they’d be wrong,’ John said.  ‘We are no richer than they and have no greater power or influence.’

‘But we speak French, cousin,’ Simon said.  ‘And that still makes a difference.’

At that point John saw Alexius, the money-changer, and pointed him out, anxious to change the topic of conversation.

*****

The novel will be published in ebook format later in November.

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About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
This entry was posted in Books, Crusades, Heroes, Historical fiction, history, War, Women in historical fiction, Writer, Writing for e-books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Part 7 of my Crusades novel. #SampleSunday #Histnov

  1. Pingback: Part 8 of my Crusades novel. #SampleSunday #HistNov | martinlakewriting

  2. Pingback: Part 10 of ‘Outcasts’. #SampleSunday #HistNov | martinlakewriting

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