Authors: Kevin Crossley-Holland
New YorkÂ Â Â TorontoÂ Â Â AucklandÂ Â Â Sydney
Mexico CityÂ Â Â New DelhiÂ Â Â Hong Kong
FOR JUDITH ELLIOTTâWITH LOVE
ARTHUR DE CALDICOT
, aged 16, author of this book
LORD STEPHEN DE HOLT
, the armorer
, the stableman
SIR WILLIAM DE GORTANORE
, Arthur's father
, Sir William's mistress
SIR SERLE DE CALDICOT
, Arthur's foster brother, aged 19
, a chamberâservant
, her twoâyearâold son
MILON DE PROVINS
BERTRAND (BERTIE) DE SULLY
, aged 13, Milon's nephew and squire
, a Venetian councillor
, the Doge of Venice
, the Master Shipwright
, his daughter, a translator, aged 21
, Milon's armorer
, one of Milon's foot soldiers
, one of Milon's foot soldiers
SARACEN TRADERS FROM ALEXANDRIA
, Milon's priest
GEOFFREY DE VILLEHARDOUIN
, sometime Marshal of Champagne
MARQUIS BONIFACE DE MONTFERRAT
, leader of the crusade
, a Venetian crusader
, a steersman
COUNT SIMON DE MONTFORT
, a French leader
ENGUERRAND DE BOVES
, a French nobleman
ROBERT DE BOVES
, his brother
, the Doge's surgeon
ABBOT GUY DE VAUX
A SHOEMAKER FROM MILAN
A ZARAN BOY
, a miner from Provins
, a miner from Provins
A FRENCH SERGEANT
, a Saracen singing teacher
NASIR'S TWO WIVES AND HIS DAUGHTER
, Nasir's assistant
, a Benedictine nun
, captain of a merchant ship
A WANDERING SCHOLAR
A LOMBARDIAN KNIGHT
A TRADER IN PIACENZA
SIR WALTER DE VERDON
LADY ANNE DE VERDON
, his wife
WINNIE DE VERDON
, their daughter, aged 14
LADY JUDITH DE HOLT
, a chamberâservant at Holt
, the musician and jester at Holt
SIR JOHN DE CALDICOT
LADY HELEN DE CALDICOT
, his wife
, their daughter, aged 11
, the priest at Caldicot
, Hum the reeve's daughter, aged 15
, the cook at Caldicot
, the kitchenâgirl at Caldicot
, the kitchenâboy at Caldicot
LADY ALICE DE GORTANORE
TOM DE GORTANORE
, aged 17
GRACE DE GORTANORE
, his sister, aged 15
, a freeman and messenger at Gortanore
, Thomas's wife
, Arthur de Caldicot's mother
, Guardian of the Holy Grail
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
, Sir Lancelot's fosterâmother
SIR ECTOR DE MARIS
SIR UWAIN LE BLANCHEMAINS
, a hermit
SIR URRY OF THE MOUNT
, Sir Urry's mother
, Sir Urry's sister
THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
, King Arthur's mother
, Arthur de Caldicot's warhorse
, Sir Serle's warhorse
, Lord Stephen's warhorse
, Arthur de Caldicot's horse in England
, Sir Gawain's horse
, in a Croatian church
, belonging to a Lombardian knight
STORM AND TEMPEST
, two runningâhounds (or beagles)
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.
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.
he called out.
“La Francia? La Germania?”
“English,” I said.
the monk shouted.
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!”
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 encampmentsâconical 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 rightâ¦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 Ã§le-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.
“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, sirâ¦”
“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.
“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 onceâ”
“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.