Friday 15 December 2017

Diamond Tales: Diamonds In The Desert by Charlene Newcomb

Our tale today: The place - the desert, near Jerusalem, the time - night, June 1192

from Men of the Cross
Charlene Newcomb

THE WINDSWEPT CLIFF STOOD like a lone sentinel guarding a gate. The horses pawed the ground nervously. Henry stared across the darkened valley. Lights glimmered on the horizon to the east like a thousand torches guiding them home. Jerusalem. 
Henry tightened his grip on Sombre, wound his hands through the reins. For the second time in six months the army lay within reach of the Holy City. Twelve miles. A day’s march, mayhap two. His heartbeat quickened, and he thought he heard the war drums…but it was only the whispers of the knights around him. 
King Richard was silent. He wore a white surcoat with the Templar cross over his mail. He’d pushed his hood back to the dismay of his companions. His crimson cloak billowed out in the wind, revealing a gilded scabbard and the jewel-encrusted hilt of his sword. Watching him, Henry could see that Jerusalem might well be a hundred miles away. A thousand. A sudden sadness, mayhap regret, tinged Richard’s eyes. 
Robin dismounted and drew up beside the king. Richard heaved a heavy sigh. He slid from Fauvel, his Cypriot warhorse. Robin took the reins, handed both mounts to Henry’s care. 
“Saladin mocks us.” Richard’s powerful voice carried on the wind. He swept his hand to the north. “He sees us. Knows we grow weak. He might swoop down and cross the plains at any moment, cut our supplies from Jaffa.” 
“But why risk his men?” Robin asked. 
Richard stood motionless, a deep frown creasing his face. Henry knew the answer before the words spilled from the king’s tongue. “He will not,” Richard said. “He needs only to wait us out. I would swear that he whispers into the ear of Burgundy and his French, blotting out all sense of reason. They will not heed the advice of the Templars and Hospitallers. Why should the French believe those who have lived here twenty or more years? What reason would those men have to suggest that laying siege to Jerusalem is foolish?” Richard grabbed the hilt of his sword. “Yet here we find ourselves within a few miles of the Holy City. If we advance, Saladin will poison every watering hole from here to there. Our animals will die. He can strike from the north, from the east and at our rearguard. Then what will we have gained?”
Nothing, Henry thought. Only more dead. Each stronghold the crusaders took, like the one at Darum a few weeks earlier, made little difference in Saladin’s daily raids. The king’s scouts estimated Saladin had fifteen thousand men in the hills and thousands inside  Jerusalem’s walls. Keeping the lines of supplies and communications open between the port cities and the casals along the route to the Holy City was a deadly business. 
Richard had not expected an answer from Robin. He’d settled it in his own mind. “In the morning, we shall convene the council and put an end to this.” 
Henry sat rigid in his saddle. Was this journey truly over? He tipped his head eastward. “The lights of Jerusalem flicker like a candle in this wind.” 
“A beautiful sight,” Stephan said. “It reminds me of nights on the galleys when we would see lights from villages along the coasts.” 
 A candle?” Richard eyed the Holy City. “Saladin would squash that flame. He could destroy all that is holy to us and we would be left here in complete darkness.” He whipped back into his saddle and spurred Fauvel west towards the army’s campsite.
Robin grabbed his reins from Henry, swung onto his horse’s back and galloped after the king.

Stephan scanned the diamond-studded sky. The waning moon washed the knights in pale golden light. “We can remember we stood here under the same stars that light Jerusalem.”
“And what of the men who died?” Henry asked. “Was all this for naught?” 
Stephan shook his head. “They trusted their king. And their God. And, if I am to believe you, they have found heaven.”
“And you?”
“I trust my king. Heaven?” Stephan’s eyes reflected the soft light of the moon. “Is it not here, with friends like you?”

Author's note: Diamonds were unknown to 12th century Englishmen. The first instance of the word appeared in the 14th century according to the Oxford English Dictionary. But Helen asked for diamonds, and we agreed that a little poetic license was all right. The wording in the published novel is 'star-studded' skies, but for this blog hop I give you 'diamond-studded' and hope this excerpt gives you a sense of war, love, hope, and friendship during the Third Crusade.

© Charlene Newcomb

About the Author:

Charlene Newcomb. Char. That’s me.

Navy vet.
Mom to 3 grown, amazing children.
I live in Kansas. Yes, Toto. Kansas.

Born & raised in South Carolina, I wanted a life of adventure and travel. I realized that dreams of hitting the big time with my all-girl rock band Liberation were just that – dreams. And becoming an astronaut wasn’t in the cards. So I joined the Navy to see the world and spent six years as a communications technician/voice language analyst. I fit college into my life (BA in History, and many years later an MA in Library Science). That desire to travel in space translated into writing science fiction: I published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many featuring a Rebel underground freedom fighter named Alex Winger. I have published 3 novels, one a contemporary drama, Keeping the Family Peace; the others, Men of the Cross and For King and Country (Books I & II of Battle Scars), allow me to share my love of history with readers. Book III of the series will be published in late 2018.

Special offer!
Men of the Cross is only $.99/99p 
from Dec. 12-24 on Amazon
(other e-books formats available)
Available on Amazon, along with Book II the series
Connect with Char: 

Follow the Tales…and Discover some Diamonds

3rd December     Richard Tearle Diamonds

4th December     Helen Hollick  When ex-lovers have their uses

5th December    Antoine Vanner  Britannia’s Diamonds

6th December    Nicky Galliers  Diamond Windows

7th December    Denise Barnes  The Lost Diamond

8th December    Elizabeth Jane Corbett A Soul Above Diamonds

9th December    Lucienne Boyce Murder In Silks

10th December    Julia Brannan The Curious Case of the Disappearing Diamond

11th December    Pauline Barclay Sometimes It Happens

12th December    Annie Whitehead Hearts, Home and a Precious Stone

13th December    Inge H. Borg  Edward, Con Extraordinaire

14th December    J.G. Harlond The Empress Emerald

15th December    Charlene Newcomb Diamonds in the Desert

16th December     Susan Grossey A Suitable Gift

17th December     Alison  Morton Three Thousand Years to Saturnalia

18th December      Nancy Jardine   Illicit Familial Diamonds

19th December      Elizabeth St John The Stolen Diamonds

20th December      Barbara Gaskell Denvil Discovering the Diamond

21st December       Anna Belfrage   Diamonds in the Mud

22nd December       Cryssa Bazos    The Diamonds of Sint-Nicholaas

23rd December        Diamonds … In Sound & Song 


  1. Excellent, atmospheric piece, Charlene. Thank you!

  2. Great excerpt! And an inspired choice - a moment alone with the characters, rather than an action-packed scene allows us to meet these people and wonder about where they've come from and what's going to happen next. Thanks Char, I really enjoyed this!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Annie. As soon as Helen asked me to participate, I knew this was the scene I needed to include.

  3. Beautiful and I loved the last sentence. Perfect for this time of year and for any other time too. Thank you.

    1. That's one my favorite sentences too - from the whole novel. I'm glad you enjoyed the scene.

  4. Your write so beautifully, Char. In all the 'bash and crash' of war, there are always contemplative moments like this one. Thank you

  5. Your story transports me to the harsh desert that can be brutally burning by day yet equally chilly in the diamond studded skies- mirroring the fiery enthusiasm that propelled the crusaders though the cold and dark taste of defeat must have been crushing for them too. The 'starry night' image is just a perfect compliment to your excerpt, Charlene.

  6. Great choice of excerpt - and one can really feel just how frustrated Richard is. You know, of course, that I love Henry and Stepha to bits. Looking forward to the third instalment :)

  7. An atmospheric piece and interesting exploration of the moment even an ambitious king has to face reality and make the decision to turn back.


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