Publication date: 12 April 2020
Publisher: Whispering Legends Press
From the sweeping hills of Argences to the port city of Cologne overlooking the River Rhine, Etienne and Avielle find themselves drawn by the need for redemption against the backdrop of the First Crusade.
Heeding the call of His Holiness, Urban II, to free the Holy Land from the infidel, Etienne follows Duke Robert of Normandy across the treacherous miles, braving sweltering heat and snow-covered mountain passes while en route to the Byzantine Empire.
Moved by Peter of Amiens’ charismatic rhetoric in the streets of the Holy Roman Empire, Avielle joins the humble army of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Mentz, the peasant Crusaders do the unthinkable, destroying the Jewish Community. Consumed with guilt, Avielle is determined to die fighting for Christ, assuring her place in Heaven.
Etienne and Avielle cross paths in Constantinople, where they commiserate over past misdeeds. A spark becomes a flame, but when Avielle contracts leprosy, Etienne makes a promise to God, offering to take the priest cowl in exchange for ridding Avielle of her affliction.
Will Etienne be true to his word if Avielle is cleansed of the contagion, or will he risk eternal damnation to be with the woman he loves?
In the stillness, Avielle reflected on Peter’s decision to join a seasoned Army, which rekindled her desire to free the Holy Land from Muslim rule. She could ride with the camp followers, tending to the women and children if not the embattled soldiers.
Surely, they would not turn me away. With so many men, there are never enough healers, she thought.
Avielle wanted to take Brother Joseph into her confidence, seeking his wisdom and blessing should she decide to take up the Cross once again. Before leaving, she would teach the novitiates, and holy sisters and whoever else wished to learn the healer’s craft. Avielle did not want to leave Brother Joseph just as she had not wanted to leave Brother Dacien. An inner voice directed her steps, the Lord’s voice, perhaps.
Since the Army of Christ needed permission from His Holiness before setting out, she also had to obtain the Bishop’s approval by obeying the laws of God. And Urban spoke for God. Whichever Army she chose needed His Holiness’s blessing to take part in this Holy War, and she believed Peter never received Urban’s approval. Avielle thought Peter preyed on the vulnerability of people without hope, his dynamic speeches a distraction. The truth was hidden behind their expectations as he reminded them the Holy Ghost was the guardian of the soul and body.
Peter was not a military leader. He battled the evil one, a spiritual undertaking, and of no use when facing starvation, disease, and death. The holy monk probably meant no harm to those participating in such a daunting task, yet he should not have left without proper funding. Peasants did not have many possessions, and they lacked warfare instruction and self-restraint. Peter’s impatience left him grieving for what might have been; his Army marching behind him as they entered Jerusalem triumphantly, ahead of the wealthy and powerful, the poor and lowly, accomplishing what Kings could not.
You are being unduly harsh, Avielle.
Staring at the dying man, Avielle felt an uncomfortable tingling and prickling sensation. Opening and closing her fingers relieved the feeling, but her wrist hurt. Pulling up her sleeves, she carefully examined her arms, looking for redness, bumps, and spots, which were difficult to see in the darkness.
You are clean, do not think otherwise.
Avielle tried to remember when the contagion changed her father’s outward appearance. How long had it taken them to return to her uncle’s home? How long before Brother Dacien gave them succor? How long before they buried him?
Should she take the veil while still unblemished? The Abbess could not cast her out after final vows, but she might lock her away, alone in a cell for the rest of her days. Solitude destroyed minds, no matter the lineage. Avielle had observed such horrors wandering the countryside with her father when condemned prisoners pleaded for death, freeing them from their suffering.
You can care for the lepers and beg alms for a hospital. Find a patron. With men of great wealth visiting the city, maybe, someone seeking redemption?
Best to think of something now, before it is too late, and you are condemned to walk the earth, ringing a bell to warn people of your coming.
Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration. Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009. In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire.
Her latest endeavor is Crusader’s Path, a story of redemption set against the backdrop of the First Crusade.
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