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Authors: Kevin Crossley-Holland

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King of the Middle March

BOOK: King of the Middle March
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Kevin Crossley-Holland
King
of the
Middle
March

New York   Toronto   Auckland   Sydney
Mexico City   New Delhi   Hong Kong

FOR JUDITH ELLIOTT—WITH LOVE

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Dedication

THE CHARACTERS

1 SWORD AND SCIMITAR

2 GOD'S ARMY

3 HOVER, THEN SWOOP

4 SEA–FEAST

5 CHIN–PIE AND A MISERABLE WOOD LOUSE

6 GALLEYS AND TRANSPORTS

7 GLASS VENETIANS

8 HOWEVER HARD WE TRY

9 NOTHING IS EASY

10 FIGHTING–FEAR

11 ENEMIES OF GOD

12 OF THE BODY, OF THE HEART

13 SOMETHING VERY NASTY

14 CATCHING FEVER

15 A MOTHER TO FIND

16 SARACEN TRADERS

17 MY SHINING PROMISE

18 A LITTLE MARCH MIRACLE

19 WINNIE'S LETTER

20 THE GREATEST NAME OF ANY KNIGHT

21 WAX AND DIAMOND

22 MERLIN, QUESTIONING

23 SIR ARTHUR

24 STILL BURNING

25 AT THE STORK

26 LIFEBLOOD

27 AT LAST

28 INSTRUMENTS OF THE DEVIL

29 YOUR TRUE BELIEVER

30 THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE

31 THE YOUNGEST AND THE OLDEST

32 SEEING EYE TO EYE

33 DEEP WATERS

34 TO LEAD YOU AND LOOK AFTER YOU

35 CHEEKS AND STRUTTING PEACOCKS

36 NOT ASKING THE QUESTION

37 THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS

38 LOVE AND LEMON

39 EMBARKATION

40 THE VERMILION GALLEY

41 HEAVEN'S MESSENGERS

42 DISASTER

43 BLEEDING BY NIGHT AND DAY

44 SO MANY TONGUES

45 TWO BALLS

46
LACRIMAE RERUM

47 MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE

48 THE POISONED APPLE

49 ACCUSATIONS

50 A BAG OF WINDS

51 HEELS OVER HEAD

52 OLD WOUNDS

53 SIR URRY

54 NIGHT–LIGHTS

55 ZARA

56 TACT AND TACTICS

57 BEHIND OUR BACKS

58 FEET FIRST

59 GOSSIP–WIND

60 READY TO DIE

61 A LITTLE, FLAILING, BITING, WHIMPERING THING

62 THROWN

63 GRIM AND UGLY AND VILE

64 INTO THE FLAMES

65 THE DARK–EYED DOLL

66 DIVIDED IN ITSELF

67 THIS IS GOING TO HURT

68 JIHAD

69
MISERERE MEI

70 THE SPIRIT–GARDEN

71 LADY, WE THANK YOU

72 THE HEART–IN–WAITING

73 IVORY AND GOLD AND OBSIDIAN

74 NOTHING BUT PAWNS

75 AN OLIVE BRANCH

76 THE POPE'S LETTER

77 BYZANTINE EYES

78 COMBAT

79 DESERTERS

80 HALF A HORSE BLANKET

81 BLOOD–BLADE

82 A LITTLE WE DIE

83 HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF MILES

84 NOTHING LASTS

85 GIVE THEM HOPE

86 ALIVE!

87 BY FAIR MEANS OR FOUL

88 BOY–GIRL

89 MY OWN SON

90 HEAD–LINE AND HEART–LINE

91 GREAT BEDS, AND OTHER WONDERS

92 WAIL AS YOU WILL

93 IN MY BLOOD AND BONE

94 AT SEA

95 HIRAETH

96 A PATH OF FEATHERS

97 VESSELS OF THE SPIRIT

98 IN YOUR GREEN CARE

99 THE VOICE OF AN ANGEL

100 KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

101 THE MOST BITTER DAY

102 I JUST DON'T KNOW!

103 DOWN TO THE WATER

104 HOME

105 WHERE ARE YOU TODAY I KEEP WONDERING

106 MOTHER SLIM AND SISTER GRACE

107 DIGGING

108 THE KING WHO WAS AND WILL BE

109 SUCH HIGH HAPPINESS

110 MY MOTHER

111 EACH ONE OF US

112 THE KING IN YOURSELF

WORD LIST

CALENDAR

AUTHOR'S NOTE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

About the Author

Copyright

THE CHARACTERS
ON CRUSADE

ARTHUR DE CALDICOT
, aged 16, author of this book

LORD STEPHEN DE HOLT

TUROLD
, the armorer

RHYS
, the stableman

SIR WILLIAM DE GORTANORE
, Arthur's father

LADY CÉCILE
, Sir William's mistress

SIR SERLE DE CALDICOT
, Arthur's foster brother, aged 19

TANWEN
, a chamber–servant

KESTER
, her two–year–old son

MILON DE PROVINS

BERTRAND (BERTIE) DE SULLY
, aged 13, Milon's nephew and squire

GENNARO
, a Venetian councillor

ENRICO DANDOLO
, the Doge of Venice

SILVANO
, the Master Shipwright

SIMONA
, his daughter, a translator, aged 21

WIDO
, Milon's armorer

GIFF
, one of Milon's foot soldiers

GODARD
, one of Milon's foot soldiers

SARACEN TRADERS FROM ALEXANDRIA

PAGAN
, Milon's priest

CARDINAL CAPUANO

GEOFFREY DE VILLEHARDOUIN
, sometime Marshal of Champagne

MARQUIS BONIFACE DE MONTFERRAT
, leader of the crusade

ODD
, a Venetian crusader

PIERO
, a steersman

COUNT SIMON DE MONTFORT
, a French leader

ENGUERRAND DE BOVES
, a French nobleman

ROBERT DE BOVES
, his brother

TADDEO
, the Doge's surgeon

ABBOT GUY DE VAUX

A SHOEMAKER FROM MILAN

A ZARAN BOY

CHRÉTIEN
, a miner from Provins

GISCARD
, a miner from Provins

A FRENCH SERGEANT

NASIR
, a Saracen singing teacher

NASIR'S TWO WIVES AND HIS DAUGHTER

ZANGI
, Nasir's assistant

SISTER CIKA
, a Benedictine nun

HAMADAT
, captain of a merchant ship

A WANDERING SCHOLAR

A LOMBARDIAN KNIGHT

A TRADER IN PIACENZA

IN THE MARCH

SIR WALTER DE VERDON

LADY ANNE DE VERDON
, his wife

WINNIE DE VERDON
, their daughter, aged 14

LADY JUDITH DE HOLT

IZZIE
, a chamber–servant at Holt

RAHERE
, the musician and jester at Holt

SIR JOHN DE CALDICOT

LADY HELEN DE CALDICOT
, his wife

SIAN
, their daughter, aged 11

OLIVER
, the priest at Caldicot

GATTY
, Hum the reeve's daughter, aged 15

SLIM
, the cook at Caldicot

RUTH
, the kitchen–girl at Caldicot

ROBBIE
, the kitchen–boy at Caldicot

LADY ALICE DE GORTANORE

TOM DE GORTANORE
, aged 17

GRACE DE GORTANORE
, his sister, aged 15

THOMAS
, a freeman and messenger at Gortanore

MAGGOT
, Thomas's wife

MAIR
, Arthur de Caldicot's mother

MERLIN

IN THE STONE

KING ARTHUR

QUEEN GUINEVERE

SIR LANCELOT

KING PELLAM
, Guardian of the Holy Grail

THE LADY OF THE LAKE
, Sir Lancelot's foster–mother

LADY GISÈLE

SIR KAY

SIR GAUTER

SIR GILMERE

SIR ARNOLD

SIR SAGRAMOUR

SIR ECTOR DE MARIS

SIR UWAIN LE BLANCHEMAINS

SIR GAWAIN

SIR PERCEVAL

NASCIEN
, a hermit

SIR MADOR

SIR BORS

SIR AGRAVAIN

SIR MORDRED

SIR URRY OF THE MOUNT

AGATHA
, Sir Urry's mother

FYLELOLY
, Sir Urry's sister

SIR TOR

SIR GAHERIS

SIR GARETH

THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

SIR LIONEL

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

SIR GALAHAD

SIR LUCAN

SIR BEDIVERE

YGERNA
, King Arthur's mother

ANIMALS

BONAMY
, Arthur de Caldicot's warhorse

SHORTNECK
, Sir Serle's warhorse

STUPENDOUS
, Lord Stephen's warhorse

PIP
, Arthur de Caldicot's horse in England

KINCALED
, Sir Gawain's horse

A LEOPARD
, in a Croatian church

A LEOPARD
, belonging to a Lombardian knight

STORM AND TEMPEST
, two running–hounds (or beagles)

1
SWORD AND SCIMITAR

A
WAY EAST OVER THE THOUSAND-TONGUED SEA, WITH ALL
its sweet promises, its stabs and sudden rushes, one silver-gold blade of light.

A sword. No! A scimitar. That's what I saw when I lifted the salt-sticky flap of our tent.

Lord Stephen and I reached Venice at noon yesterday with Turold, our armorer, and our stableman, Rhys. Saint John's Eve. The day when Winnie kissed me right on the mouth, two years ago, long before we were betrothed.

We weren't allowed into Venice herself. All the crusaders are billeted out here on the island of Saint Nicholas. But we've been invited to a sea-feast in the city, and so have Milon de Provins and his squire, Bertie, who is only thirteen.

Frenchmen wearing red crosses, Germans and Italians, Flemings with their green crosses: There are thousands and thousands of crusaders on this island, but we haven't met any other Englishmen yet.

All night I slept and stirred and slept to the sounds of water. They washed away our seven-week journey.

The sun rose; I was newborn.

2
GOD'S ARMY

I
T WAS ONLY WHEN I RODE BONAMY DOWN THE SPINE OF
this island today that I understood what an army really amounts to.

And I'm part of it!

Saint Nicholas is very long but no more than half a mile wide, and Lord Stephen and I and Rhys and Turold have a very small camp right at the northern end. About a quarter of a mile away there are fifty men from Provins, led by Milon, and beyond them I came to the encampment of hundreds of Italians. As I rode in, a trumpeter played. His trumpet caught fire in the sunlight, and I stood up in my saddle and shouted.

Then I saw a monk standing in the middle of a crowd of sitting men.

“Lei!”
he called out.
“La Francia? La Germania?”

“English,” I said.

“Inglese,”
the monk shouted.
“L'Inghilterra!”

He put his staff between his legs and waddled round, with a waggling tail, and everyone laughed. I've heard that the Sicilians and Greeks think all the English have tails, but I didn't know the Italians do as well.

I dismounted and the monk forefingered me. “I say crusade is a new kind of warfare,” he called out. “A holy fight. Here are soldiers like monks.”

The Italian soldiers didn't look like monks at all. Greasy. Half-shaven. They looked like bandits.

“They say no like San Niccolo,” the monk told me. “No much women. No much wine. I say, put on the armor of God.”

“The whole armor of God,” I replied. “The belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, the helmet of salvation!”

“Bravo!”
exclaimed the monk. He reached into the pocket of his gown and pulled out a little wooden box. Then he stepped towards me, and opened it.

Inside, there was a leathery brown stick of a thing with a black tip, lying on a pad of scarlet silk.

“Finger,” said the monk. “Finger of San Runcimano. Kiss!”

He closed the box again, and held it up. I closed my eyes and held my breath. I kissed the lid.

Next, I rode into the encampment of some soldiers from Picardy. They were all yelling and jeering. When I came close, I could see two men having a swordfight. One was on his knees and gasping. His left arm was dangling beside him and blood was dripping from his hand.

Then I recognized Milon's squire, Bertie, standing just a few steps away.

“Bertie!” I called out. “What are you doing here?”

Bertie jerked his head, but his eyes never left the fighting men. “Look at them!”

“Does Milon know?”

“I don't care.”

“Why are they fighting?”

“It's a test. He won't surrender.”

“How can we beat the Saracens if we start shedding each other's blood?”

“You can't have a test without a winner and a loser,” Bertie said. “He's lost two fingers. So far. Look!”

I didn't want to look, and I don't know why the man on his knees didn't surrender. I wheeled away fiercely and Bonamy snorted.

“Where are you going?” Bertie shouted. “Arthur!”

All the way down the island there were encampments—conical tents and pyramids, marquees and flapping makeshifts that looked as if they'd blow away as soon as the sea wind opened its mouth. And milling around each encampment there were knights and squires and soldiers, and a few women and children.

I saw pairs of squires wrestling and practicing at quarterstaff, I saw little groups running races and trying out sword strokes against the pel, and suddenly I heard in my head the voice of Alan, Lord Stephen's first armorer: “You won't last long on a crusade. You'll get mulched!”

But I've grown three inches since then, and I've practiced hard, even when I didn't want to; even when Lord Stephen was away. I'm much stronger than I was before.

I saw some men praying, some sharpening their weapons, shaving each other with cutthroats, watering their horses, singing raucous songs; I saw a chain of men unloading dead chickens and thousands of loaves from a Venetian galley. Two whole mounds of them, side by side on the beach! I saw a Flemish falconer loose his bird, and watched the falcon climb and stoop on a seabird. Turold says gulls
are stringy and taste fishy, and even more salty than our salted pork at the end of winter.

I'd just left the German camp when the devil whispered in Bonamy's right ear.

Bonamy snorted. He almost screeched. He reared up on his hind legs. Then he leaped forward, and it was all I could do to stay in the saddle.

“Bonamy!” I yelled. “God's gristle! Stop!”

It was no use.

Bonamy charged straight through the Angevin encampment. He uprooted one of the kitchen-tent pegs, and dragged the guy rope behind him. The whole thing collapsed.

I could hear people yelling and dogs snarling and cooking pots clanging, but I couldn't stop Bonamy. He kicked off the rope and galloped back up the spine of the island past the Flemish and Norman encampments before I was able to pull him up.

One of the Angevin cooks screamed oaths and shook his ladle at me. God help me! I'm not riding anywhere near that camp again.

When we got back, Bonamy looked at me with his damson eyes as if absolutely nothing had happened. He gave me a friendly neigh.

I inspected his hooves, and then his genitals. I looked into his mouth, his left ear, his right…It was puffy and almost closed. A wasp, maybe, or a hornet. Anyhow, a devil's sting!

I could tell something was worrying Lord Stephen. “What's wrong, sir?” I asked.

“Two knights from the çle-de-France have just arrived. They've told Milon that five other knights have broken their oaths.”

“But how can they?” I asked. “They've taken the Cross.”

“Exactly,” said Lord Stephen. “They say they're going to make their own way from the port of Marseilles.”

“Well, that's not too bad then,” I said.

“It is very bad,” Lord Stephen replied. “We asked the Venetians to build ships for thirty-three thousand men. But nothing like that number have arrived, and Saint John's Eve has already come and gone. If many more knights are going to make their own choices instead of bringing their men and money here, we'll be unable to pay the Venetians for their ships.”

“What would happen then?” I asked.

“There would be no crusade,” Lord Stephen said bluntly.

“No crusade!”

“We can't launch the crusade without ships,” Lord Stephen said, “and the Doge won't provide us with ships unless we pay him.”

“But after taking the Cross,” I cried, “and all our preparations, and all our journeys, surely, sir…”

“All for nothing,” said Lord Stephen. “Anyhow, how are we to achieve the land oversea? Tell me that. By the front door? Or should we try to cut off the Saracens' supplies?”

“What do you mean, sir? Are you saying we wouldn't go straight to the Holy Land?”

Lord Stephen gave me a watery smile. “How many miles to Bethlehem?” he asked me.

“That's what Gatty asked me,” I said.

“Who?”

“Gatty. At Caldicot.”

“Ah!” said Lord Stephen, half-smiling. “Yes. She walked all the way to Holt, didn't she. Love-dumb for you!”

“No, sir,” I said. “Anyhow, she told me once—”

“Another time!” Lord Stephen said briskly. “Come on! You've been out all day, and you haven't even told me what you've seen and heard. And after that, Turold has some job for you and Rhys wants you to wash down Bonamy.”

“Seawater dries sticky,” I said.

“It can't be helped,” Lord Stephen replied.

When I rode down Saint Nicholas today, I thought there must be more than thirty-three thousand men. Not fewer, as Lord Stephen says, but many, many more! Three times thirty-three.

Surely there are enough knights here to raise the money for the Venetian boats.

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