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, June 5, 2015

A Destrier's Tale: Part VI -- Ibelin

A Destrier’s Tale
Balian d’Ibelin’s Destrier “Centurion” Tells his Story
Part VI: Ibelin




I went willingly with the black man, striding out for the first time in a long time. He led me through the town and then to a deep, dry ditch surrounding a castle. To get to the castle, I had to cross a bunch of wooden boards laid across the ditch. It didn’t look all that safe to me, so I stopped. Well, alright, I balked.

The black man looked back at me, and I started to back up as fast as I could anticipating his anger. This was not a good start, I realized, but how could I step on boards that were obviously going to break and send me crashing down into the ditch?

The black man did the strangest thing: he let go of my lead! I broke free and ran a few strides back toward the town. Then I stopped and looked over my shoulder confused. He was standing there with his hands on his hips just looking at me. Then he shook his head and walked over to me, talking to me as he came. “It’s all right. Haven’t you ever crossed a draw bridge before?”

I thought about that. I supposed I had going to the other castle, but then I’d been with the other horses.

He stroked and patted my neck, and finally took the lead again but rather than trying to drag me across the bridge he walked over to the guard house on the nearside of the drawbridge and handed the lead over to a soldier who’d come out to watch.

“What have you got here, Master Mathewos?” the soldier asked.

“A new destrier for Lord Balian.”

The soldier shook his head. “Doesn’t look like a good buy to me.”

“We’ll see what Lord Balian says. Hold him for me will you.”

So his name was Mathewos, and he now crossed that draw bridge and disappeared inside the gate to the castle. The soldier let me graze on the grass growing around the ditch until Mathewos returned with a second man, who looked so much like him that it could only be his son. They were both leading mares. I mean mares. Not broken down old female nags, but pretty little fillies. You know what I mean: high stepping little fillies that mince around flicking their tails at you and waggling their backsides while pretending to be totally indifferent to you! These two were not only foxy, they were so well groomed their coats absolutely gleamed in the sunlight and their hooves were oiled black, while their manes and tails were so fine they blew in the slightest breeze. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I’d left home, and I just stood there gaping at those two beauties until I got so excited everyone could see.

Mathewos and his son (later I learned his name was Dawit) brought those mares over the draw bridge and then turned around and walked them back over the drawbridge right in front of me. That did it. If both of those fillies could be on the bridge at the same time — and cool as cucumbers! — then it was sure to hold me. I mean, each was smaller than me, but together they weighed more. And if they weren’t afraid, how could I be?

Once I was through the gatehouse into the castle, I knew things were going to be alright. The place was clean, and the humans were happy. You could tell. Some boys were sweeping the yard and they were chattering and laughing together, and children were playing on the top of one tower, laughing as they chased each other. A woman was wringing out laundry and hanging it up to dry and singing as she did so. Yes, I said, this is a happy home and if the humans are happy, surely they’ll be good to the horses. Besides, I had Mathewos to look after me and those two little fillies sure the hell hadn’t been mishandled by anyone!

Mathewos led me into the stables and I stopped dead in my tracks out of sheer wonder. Every horse had his own box stall! And it smelled of wood shavings, hay and sweet-feed. I was taken to a stall (at the other end of the stables from the fillies, mind), and everything was ready for me.  Fresh wood-savings so deep and fluffy I sank right into them and the sound of my hooves were silenced. There was a hay-net stuffed to over-flowing with hay and clover, and a water trough that had clean, cool water. It was wonderful.

Over the next several days, Mathewos and Dawit got me cleaned up. They brought in a farrier to re-shoe me with better fitting and lighter shoes. They oiled my hooves twice a day to spur the heeling of the tear. They trimmed my mane and tail. Before long those fillies and their friends would look up and nicker when I was lead past, proving I was still a stud — even if I’d never had a filly yet.

After several days, I was taken out to a pasture behind the castle and allowed to run around in a field that was green with long grass and dotted with flowers — even though it was the middle of the summer. The air here had a unique smell that unsettled me at first, but the other horses laughed it off and just said. “That’s the sea.”

“What’s the sea?”

“Water that stretches to where the sun goes down. It puts the sun out at night.”

That sounded pretty far-fetched to me, but they said I’d see it eventually, and went back to grazing.

So everything was fine — except the nagging memory of Mathewos saying he’d bought me for his lord. It was pretty obvious from this castle that his lord must be like the man who’d owned the last castle I’d visited: that is, he had to be important. And if he was important, he would be demanding and expect a lot of his horse. Although I tried not to think about it, I was nervous about meeting Lord Balian.

Lord Balian and Centurion are characters in my three-part biography of Balian d'Ibelin staring with:


A landless knight,

                     a leper king,

                                 and the struggle for Jerusalem!

Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, Book I, is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and finalist for the 2014 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.

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A divided kingdom,
                       
                         a united enemy, 

                                                  and the struggle for Jerusalem!


Defender of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin

Book II

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or Kindle!




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