In the dingy harbor-side tavern, despair hung in the smoky air. These
men had survived to fight another day. They had taken heart when Conrad
de Montferrat had sailed into Tyre harbor and spat defiance at the
victorious Sultan. They had fought with him and for him, and they had
believed that not all was lost after all.
But now Jerusalem was lost. The site of Christ’s Passion. The home of
the Holy Sepulcher. Lost. What was there left to fight for?
A youth with a lute in his left hand shoved his way between the tables
toward the serving counter. He was thin and bony. His light-brown hair
was overlong, as if he couldn’t afford a barber, and his face was
marred by acne. One shoulder hung distinctly lower than the other, and
when he tried to hoist himself up to sit on the countertop, he gave a
gasp and his face screwed up with pain. The innkeeper shook his head in
annoyance and warned in a low growl as he helped him onto the counter,
“This better be good, Ernoul.”
Ernoul didn’t answer directly. He sat on the countertop with his feet
dangling and settled his lute under his right arm, grimacing slightly as
he lifted his left to the neck of the instrument. Then his face cleared.
He took a deep breath and played a few chords.
Some men were talking or dicing, but most had come here to drink
themselves into oblivion. They were in no mood for entertainment. The
young man on the counter elicited indifference at best and aroused
hostility from many. One man called out resentfully: “Go back to your
great hall, puppy! Your lord might like a love song, but we’re in no
mood for it!”
“How can he? His lord was in Jerusalem!” the man across from the
speaker retorted bitterly.
On the counter, Ernoul cleared his throat and began to sing:
“Salah ad-Din, you have the grave, And you have made our brothers
slaves . . .”
Instantly the squire had their attention. Across the room a dozen
desultory conversations stopped and men glared at the singer. Hostility
hung in the air. They didn’t need to have their noses rubbed in it by
the likes of this puny, shabby squire!
Ernoul appeared not to notice. He sang in a low, soft, melodic tenor:
“But we survived, we are alive . . .”
Excerpted from "Envoy of Jerusalem" by Helena P Schrader. Copyright © 2016 by Helena P Schrader. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.