Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the author of 24 historical fiction and non-fiction works and the winner of more than 53 literary accolades. More than 34,000 copies of her books have been sold. For a complete list of her books and awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight into historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Destrier's Tale Part XII: The Rival

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

Over the next two years, the army mustered twice more, and both times we went to the desert near the dead sea that was close to the home of the Black Knight. That awoke horrible memories, of course, and made me nervous. I kept looking for the Black Knight, afraid he would recognize me and try to claim me back. I was fairly confident that Lord Balian wouldn’t let me go, but you can never be sure about humans. They have different laws and customs than we horses do.

Although we mustered, the Horse-Haters didn’t dare face us in battle. Both times they slipped away in the night rather than risk open conflict. The second time they did that, however, they withdrew by way of Nablus, and Lord Balian was frantic about Queen Maria. We saw the flames and smoke from miles away, and Lord Balian drove us through the night without rest. When we finally got there the whole place was a wreck. Some fires were still burning and most of the houses had been broken into. I expected to see horse-corpses all over the place, but the castle had held out. Queen Maria had saved every single horse in the whole town!

Unfortunately, that long march had left me pretty exhausted and I was stiff in the morning. No more than Lord Balian, really, as he admitted to me candidly. “Neither of us are as young as we used to be,” he remarked, patting me on the shoulder as I was led stiffly out to the trough. I agreed with him with a snort, and he laughed and patted me again. And then he said the horrible words: “I guess I better think about finding a replacement.”

After successfully beating off the ambitious of that punk bay (who’d died of colic in the meantime), Lord Balian himself was talking about a replacement! I lifted my head and arched my neck and stamped furiously to try to express my indignation, but humans can be incredibly dense sometimes. They expect us to understand their language, but never really bother to try to learn ours! Lord Balian was better than most. He understood me a lot of the time. I think he even understood me then, but it didn’t stop him.

Three months later a black stallion called “Thor” was brought to the stable at Ibelin and lodged directly next to me — until I’d almost broken through the side of the stall with my kicks in his direction. Then they separated us, putting Rufus between us.

Rufus tried to get me to calm down. “Look, you’re almost completely white these days,” he told me. Adding, “just how old are you, any way?”

I tried to work it out, but I’m bad with numbers. Rufus answered for me. “Look, you were seven when you came here, right? And you’ve been with us seven winters. That makes you fourteen. Destriers rarely last that long — not like we palfreys.” (He made it sound like it was more honorable to be a palfrey, the idiot!)

“I’m different!” I told him indignantly and the next time Thor was led past my box, I made a rush at the door with my ears flat back and almost tore a chunk out of his sassy ass!

Thor was still a colt, really. Well, he was four but he hadn’t been backed very long and he needed a lot of training. He was still skittish and jumpy. He’d take fright at a sparrow! I told myself he was too silly to make a good destrier and decided to bide my time and wait for him to fail.

The problem was that Lord Balian seemed determined to make him a destrier and spent more and more time with him. Not that he stopped riding me altogether. He valued our relationship and spent at least an hour with me every day, but I could see the way he took an interest in Thor’s training and was doing everything he could to make Thor my replacement, jousting with him almost daily although he didn’t win with Thor as often as he won with me. 

Those were quiet years, when the Horse-Haters left us in peace, and Thor was six the first time he joined a muster. Lord Balian took both of us with him, and we mustered at the Springs of Sephorie, where we had several times before.

It was high-summer again and terribly hot — though not as hot as it had been at the battle where I was wounded. After a day long march, I was thankful to be able to drink deeply, even if the other horses had already churned up the edges so I sank right down to my fetlocks in the muck as we approached. I drank more than usual, but Thor was so excited by the sight of so many strange stallions that he wouldn’t drink at all. Every time Ernoul tried to lead him to the springs, he started fighting with the other stallions. Nothing but a stupid show-off!

I told him he was acting like a baby, but he just sneered back that I was a “broken down nag” who didn’t have any nerves left.

It was beneath my dignity to answer that. I just put my nose down and drank more water to show my contempt for him. Little did I know where his stupidity would lead.

Centurion is a character in: Defender of Jerusalem, the second book in a three part biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin.

A divided Kingdom,
                          a united enemy,

                                        and the struggle for Jerusalem!

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The first book in the series Knight of Jerusalem: A Biographical Novel of Balian d'Ibelin, Book I, is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and won "First in Category" for Historical Fiction set in the High Middle Ages of the 2014 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.

A landless knight,

                           a leper king,

                                                and the struggle for Jerusalem!

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