Our tale today: The place - the desert, near Jerusalem, the time - night, June 1192
DIAMONDS IN THE DESERT
from Men of the Cross
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.”
“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.
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.
Men of the Cross is only $.99/99p
from Dec. 12-24 on Amazon
(other e-books formats available)
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