Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Understanding Ourselves by Understanding the Past.


My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"The Disinherited" -- Excerpt 4

On October 1, I released "The Disinherited," a novella set in the Languedoc during the Albigensian crusades. It is one of my ten Tales of Chivalry, and part of the sub-series "Tales from the Languedoc." It is, however, a stand-alone novel that can be read without reference to the other books in the series, although some characters overlap.

Here is a fourth excerpt:


Lady Adèle’s screeching voice woke Julienne. From a fitful sleep on her pallet, she roused herself in the pitch dark of the tower room. “Julienne! Julienne!” the old woman screamed, as if she were being assaulted.
          Julienne flung back her covers with a sigh and stood. “I’m coming, my lady.” The tiles were cold under her bare feet. She looked for her slippers, but the old woman was howling more furiously. “Julienne! Come this instant!”
          Julienne abandoned the search for her slippers and went to the high bedside. “My lady?”
          “The bedpan, you stupid girl! Why else should I wake you in the middle of the night?”
          There was no point remarking that she often woke Julienne because she wanted something else: a potion to ease the pain in her crippled legs, or something to quench her thirst, or even a snack. Re­signedly, Julienne took the bedpan from under the bed and held it under the old woman. When she was finished, she emptied it in the chamber pot, washed her hands in the bowl beside the garderobe, and then returned to her thin pallet.
          She listened to the old woman snoring and felt the light of dawn crawl slowly up the eastern sky. Another day was about to begin. It would soon be sixteen years since she had come here. Sixteen years of sleeping on the floor of this woman’s chamber. Sixteen years at her beck and call. Sixteen years of servitude …
          Julienne felt deadly tired. She wished she could go back to sleep, but no matter how she tossed or turned, she found herself on edge and strangely nervous. The stale air in the chamber oppressed her, and she decided that fresh air would do her good. Stealthily she rose and dressed herself. She then took her cloak off a hook on the wall and slipped her feet into soft leather shoes. Carefully she pulled the door open and started down the spiral stairs, past the chamber where their curious guest slept, and out onto the wall walk.
          The sky was now decidedly gray, even faintly pink in the east, and around her the towers stood out in sharp silhouette. Then a part of the wall before her moved and she gave a cry of alarm.
          “Don’t worry; I only rape women after noon.”
          The hair stood up on the back of her neck, and she turned to flee back into the hall.
          “I’m sorry.” His voice followed her, and she stopped and turned back.
          “Why do you say things like that?”
          She could see him shrug. “I only say out loud what people are thinking.”
          “I was just startled. I didn’t even know it was you.”
          Gerard considered her. Her hair had come half out of its braid and hung in soft loops beside her face, with one wisp falling across her cheek. With surprise, he registered that she was not so bad-looking after all. Yes, her nose was pointed and her lips thin, but she had wide-set eyes under arching eyebrows, high cheekbones, and a lofty forehead. “You too are from the Languedoc,” he said at last. “I hadn’t expected that. I thought Thury would have his own people around him, but almost everyone is from hereabouts, it seems.”
          “I am from the Minervois,” Julienne found herself saying. How long had it been since she admitted that, remembered that?
          She saw his head jerk. “Were you at Minerve?”
          She swallowed. Oh, God, why had she started this? Her heart was beating against her chest, and now she remembered she had had the nightmare again. That was why she had slept so poorly. “Yes,” she managed.
          “You were there,” Gerard asked in horror, “during the siege? But you must have been a child.”
          “I was nine.”
          Gerard cursed himself. How could he have mocked her with a threat of rape? “You weren’t―molested―surely not even they―” He couldn’t finish. He knew it had happened. He knew it had happened more than once. But Minerve had surrendered. Its citizens should have been immune ….
          “No,” she managed tightly. “I was―lucky.”


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