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.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"I'll Make You a Queen" - An Excerpt from "The Last Crusader Kingdom"

 In this episode, Aimery's bid to become Lord of Cyprus is not going well. The insurgency appears to be gaining strength and his wife of roughly 20 years, Eschiva, has just miscarried his child.


Aimery sat crumpled in a chair with his face in his hands. Balian stood opposite him, and he interrupted himself at the sight of [his wife] Maria Zoe. As Balian's voice fell silent, Aimery sat bolt upright and twisted around to look at Maria Zoe, an anguished look on his ravaged face.

"She's fine, Aimery," Maria Zoe assured him, coming closer and laying her hand on his shoulder.  "She's miscarried a child, but she's fine. The bleeding has stopped; the afterbirth has discharged cleanly; she has no fever.... Eschiva's problem is not physical, Aimery. It's emotional. She seems to think you will not forgive her for losing this child."

Aimery scowled. "Where does she come up with nonsense like--"

"That doesn't matter. The point is, she thinks you will blame her for this dead child, so much so that you will set her aside--"

"That's ridiculous! I--"

Maria Zoe held up her hands. "I'm only telling you so you know what to say to her when you go to her.... Come. Eschiva needs some rest, but she won't be able to sleep until she's been reassured you still love her and do not blame her."

Aimery nodded and then remembered to ask, "How do I look?"

"Terrible," Balian answered, "which is just the way you should look. She should see how distressed you have been."

Aimery nodded absently; in his mind he was already preparing his words. Maria Zoe led him through the corridors, and as he approached the chamber containing his wife, he was pleased by the way the women all went down on their knees and bowed their heads nearly to the floor -- until he realized it was for Maria Comnena, not himself. Damn it, he thought, but then he was inside a room gleaming with wet marble and smelling of roses. The sheets were so white they seemed to glow. There were even fresh hibiscus in a glass vase beside the bed. Eschiva was all but lost in the puffy pillows, and her huge eyes followed him as he approached the side of the bed. She reached out a hand to him tentatively; it appeared to plead more than welcome.

Aimery fell on his knees beside the bed, took her hand and kissed it, and then held it to his cheek. "Forgive me, Eschiva," he croaked out. "I should never have allowed you to risk your own life and that of our child by coming with me."

"Aimery, my love," Eschiva assured him, struggling to sit up  more, and Beatrice at once came to help her. "Aimery, it's all right as long as you aren't angry," she told him.

"Why, my love, should I be angry with you? You have done nothing wrong. You risked your life and that of our child to support me, and any setbacks we have are my fault -- but believe me, Eschiva." Aimery's voice was getting stronger as he spoke, reassured by how serene, self-possessed, and loving Eschiva looked. "I swear to you, Eschiva," Aimery declared, "I will make you a queen. They will recognized you as their queen.  And, so help me God, our children and our children's children will rule this island kingdom for the next three hundred years!"


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