Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Disinherited" - An Excerpt

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.

Over the next few weeks I will be publishing excerpts here:


Sir Amaury de Marly, the royal constable of Aguilar, strode into the room. Sir Amaury was a tall, hefty man, now nearing fifty. He had been a companion-in-arms of the great Simon de Montfort in his youth, and was a loyal son of the Church. He had been personally responsible for the destruction of countless heretics and their protectors. But that was years ago. Now he was dressed for leisure in a loose, knee-length woolen gown belted at the waist. He greeted his  unexpected Cistercian guest warmly. “Brother Lucas, an unexpected pleasure. Are you alone?” (It was rare for monks to travel singly.) Without awaiting an answer, he shouted after the departing page: “Boy! Bring wine and a snack for Brother Lucas.” Then, turning back to his guest, he asked, “What brings you here this time of year?”
“Father Theobald is dying, and the abbot sent me to fetch one of your knights.”
“One of my knights? What does the good Father Theobald want with one of my knights? Surely no earthly power can help the good Father now!”
 “He wants to see a certain Sir Gerard. He was very insistent and the abbot said we should do as he asked.”
 “Sir Gerard?” the constable repeated in astonishment. “Do you know the man?”
 The monk shrugged. “How should I know him?”
 The constable snorted and remarked curtly, “A mercenary. As godless as he is fearless. He comes from hereabouts, and it is said he has heretic relatives.”
“So do the good Father Theobald and many other true and devout Catholics. A man cannot be judged by his relatives.”
  The constable snorted in apparent disagreement, but did not contradict the monk. Instead he strode to the door and shouted into the hall beyond, where several men of the garrison were engaged in a desultory game of dice. “Mar­maison! Fetch Sir Gerard immediate­ly!” He turned back to the monk. “Father Theobald is dying, you said? I’m sorry. He is a wise and pious man.”
  “Indeed,” the monk agreed, keeping his opinion to himself. Brother Lucas was only twenty-two and he had suffered during his novitiate under the harsh tutelage of Father Theobald, who had then been the Master of Novices. Father Theobald was widely credited with near-saintly wisdom. Certainly he was very learned and a brilliant scholar, but Brother Lucas had also seen his petty, selfish, and self-righteous side.
  “And how is Abbot Berengar? I trust he has recovered from the illness that afflicted him last summer?”
  “Abbot Berengar has a delicate stomach, sir.” Most disrupted by the increasing influence of the Dominicans at the expense of the Cistercians, Brother Lucas added mentally. It was an outrage that the younger order was being entrusted with unheard-of powers, quite free of all episcopal oversight, while the Cistercians were pushed more and more into the background. Brother Lucas personally thought that as the abbot of one of the wealthiest and most renowned abbeys in the Languedoc, Father Berengar ought to be more active in protesting the encroach­ments of the pushy Dominicans. But Abbot Berengar was far too weak for confrontation; instead he developed stomach trouble and withdrew into his cell for prayer and contemplation.
  “He should eat more meat,” the practical-minded soldier replied, and without hesitation gave Brother Lucas other dietary tips, which the young monk patiently ignored.
  The sound of boots pounding up the stairs finally released him from the tedium. The man who entered the chamber was dressed in knee-high black boots, brown leather hose, and a chain-mail hauberk, over which he wore a quilted leather brigandine. He had a mane of unruly red-brown hair streaked with grey, which fell to his shoulders. His only facial hair was a long, thick mustache that almost concealed a scar running from the corner of his mouth to his chin. His light-brown eyes were sunken in their sockets, and a network of deep wrinkles in the weathered face gave it an expression that was perpetually wary. “You sent for me, my lord?”
  The constable nodded. “This is Brother Lucas of the Cistercian abbey at Fontfroide. He has a message for you.” The constable indicated the monk, who lifted his head to address the soldier.
  “Father Theobald, our honored sacrist, is very ill. He requested that you come to him as soon as possible.”
  The knight lifted his eyebrows as if in disbelief, and remarked as much to himself as to the others: “How odd.”
  “You know Father Theobald?” the constable asked pointedly, suspecting some mistake.
  “No,” the knight answered. “He is my father.”
 
 
 
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