Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

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, May 9, 2014

The Fisherman: Excerpt from St. Louis' Knight

What am I doing here? Geoffrey asked himself with a searing flash of guilt.  The images from Mansourah clamored in the back of his brain. The screaming of the wounded horses, the shouts of the triumphant enemy, the gasping of Master de Sonnac in his arms… They were all dead. All of his comrades, and the King of France was a prisoner…. How could he be standing here on a peaceful beach listening to the laughter of simple fishermen, as if there had never been a crusade? Much less a catastrophic defeat?

The most dangerous thing on earth is a man who thinks he talks to God, Master de Sonnac said inside his head.
Geoffrey reached for the hilt of his sword, wrapping his hand around the crystal vial holding St. John’s bones and tried to feel the presence of the Saint. But how could he expect the saint to favor him with Grace and presence, when he was still so bitter about what had happened in Egypt? When he did not want to accept God’s Will? Because that was the real problem: he didn’t want to believe that God could want what had happened….
Someone seemed to be approaching him from the beach. Had another boat put in later than the others? Geoffrey made a quick count. Yes, there were now seven boats moored side-by-side.
The man coming towards him was dressed like the other fishermen in a loose linen shirt, bound with twine at the waist, over baggy trousers rolled up to the knee. He walked barefoot toward Geoffrey with an uncanny self assurance, as if he met armored knights at the village shed every evening. “God be with you, my friend,” he greeted Geoffrey in a deep, melodic voice.
“And also with you,” Geoffrey replied automatically.
The man smiled gently. “Will you not join me for the feast?” He asked.
“Of course,” Geoffrey answered confused. How could the late comer know about the feast? Then again, the smell of roasting kid reached all the way to here, as did the laughter and the voices. Geoffrey looked around for Petrus and fisherman answered his gesture by pointing to the shadow of Petrus already scampering up the incline to the village, “the boy has gone ahead.”
Geoffrey nodded absently and fell in beside the fisherman.
When they reached the tables, the fisherman gestured to an empty space at the very end of the table, and asked, “Will you break bread with me?”
“Of course,” Geoffrey answered without thinking.
“Wait for me here, I’ll be right back.”
Geoffrey did as he was bid, while the fisherman withdrew into the darkness beyond the range of the lamps on the table.... 
The fisherman returned to Geoffrey. “You are Sir Geoffrey de Preuthune?” He asked.
“Yes,” Geoffrey conceded.
“Ah! Then I beg you to bless me, sir.”
“Bless you? I’m a knight, not a monk. I did not take my vows,” Geoffrey admitted, nervously aware of his guilt.
The man smiled, “But you carry St. John the Baptist’s hand with you. I would be honored to be blessed by the hand that has held the saint’s in his.”
Geoffrey was embarrassed, conscious of his unworthiness. “I assure you, good fisherman, I am not fit to bless you. The sword was only loaned to me until it can be returned to its rightful owner. I am a sinner.”
“As are we all,” the man answered knowingly. “Here,” he had brought a loaf of bread with him and a jug of wine. He tore the end off the loaf and handed it to Geoffrey. “Eat this in remembrance of Him that gave His flesh for the sake of all sinners.”
Geoffrey was so startled by this mockery of the Mass that he knocked over his cup. The red wine splashed onto the table and splattered his white surcoat with bright red drops. “His blood that was shed for thee,” the fisherman intoned.
“This is not the Mass!” Geoffrey reproached the fisherman sharply.
“Isn’t it?” He answered calmly. “Didn’t Christ break bread on the banks of Galilee with the fishermen Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John? Didn’t he drink wine with them and laugh together as the stars grew bright in the night sky?” He gestured to the glittering heavens overhead. “Do not seek God only in the houses men have built for Him, sir; seek Him rather in the cathedral He built Himself,” the fisherman opened his arms wide in a gesture that took in the world around them.   


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