Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusadeby Nicole Galland
In the year 1202, tens of thousands of crusaders gather in Venice, preparing to embark for Jerusalem to free the Holy City from Muslim rule. Among them is a lowly vagabond Briton, rescued from damnation by a pious knight who burns with zealous fire for their sacred undertaking. And so they set sail, along with dedicated companions—and with a beautiful,
In the year 1202, tens of thousands of crusaders gather in Venice, preparing to embark for Jerusalem to free the Holy City from Muslim rule. Among them is a lowly vagabond Briton, rescued from damnation by a pious knight who burns with zealous fire for their sacred undertaking. And so they set sail, along with dedicated companions—and with a beautiful, mysterious Arab "princess" whom the vagabond liberates from a brutish merchant. But the divine light guiding their "righteous" campaign soon darkens as the mission sinks ever deeper into catastrophe, disgrace, and moral turpitude—as Christians murder Christians in the Adriatic port city of Zara, tragic events are set in motion that will ultimately lead to the shocking and shameful fall of Constantinople.
Impeccably researched and beautifully told, Nicole Galland's Crossed is a stunning tale of the disastrous Fourth Crusade—and of the hopeful, brave, and driven who were caught up in and irrevocably changed by a corrupted cause and a furious battle beyond their comprehension or control.
The unnamed hero of this epic historical adventure, an itinerant musician from Britain, joins the Fourth Crusade in Venice where his fate becomes inextricably linked with those of Gregor of Mainz, a steadfast German knight; Gregor's father-in-law, marquis Boniface of Montferrat, leader of the Crusade; and Jamila of Alexandria, an Arab princess the musician rescues, unaware that she is really a "Jewess" who is trained in the healing arts. Unable to finance the massive undertaking, the Crusaders are continually diverted from their goal-the liberation of Jerusalem. As mercenaries, they first sack the Christian city of Zara and lay siege to Constantinople. The musician, Jamila and the increasingly disillusioned Gregor try to do good, but find themselves thwarted by the villainous Boniface and the tragic inevitability of 13th-century realpolitik. Despite characters that fail to engage fully and dialogue that fails to sell the period, the novel still succeeds in being a true guilty pleasure, a rousing shout-out to those past masters of bestselling historical fiction, Frank Yerby, Samuel Shellabarger and Lawrence Schoonover. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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A Tale of the Fourth Crusade
From San Nicolo, that sweltering sandbar of an island off the coast of Venice, rose a strange tent city milling with ten thousand unwashed soldiers and their unwashed squires, whores, cooks, priests, horses, heralds, armorers, and smiths. They called themselves pilgrims, having taken the cross, having sworn to carry out the pope's wishes. This meant they were going to an unknown desert, to wrest an unknown city from its unknown inhabitants.
Their transports and warships, waiting in the lagoon—heavy, strong, capacious, lethal—had been built by the Venetians, would be sailed by the Venetians, and at this moment were being stocked with food and water by the Venetians. In two days, the army and its fleet would finally—finally—set sail, after a season of political and financial delays, to do great good for Christendom.
But before they decamped, this would be the site of a gruesome murder-suicide, of such ferocity men would speak of it in fearful whispers, crossing themselves, for years to come.
At least, that was my plan.
As with so many things in this life, I was mistaken.
I leapt from Barzizza's boat when the water was ankle-deep, trudging angrily through the oily green until I had splashed myself to dry land and the edge of the army camp. Venice was mostly paving stone and water; this was the first time in a month I'd been on living soil. Earth felt comforting under my bare wet feet, but I didn't want comfort—I wanted death, and was panicked at the thought of being cheated of it. I'd learned half a dozen languages, taughtmyself to play music I did not like, and eaten food I could barely stomach, grown my beard and my hair, and woken up every day forcing myself to go on, for three years, to prepare for my exquisite, redemptive death—a death I now feared I'd been robbed of.
I had no weapon, just a spit of iron small enough to fold my hand around: a spike with a hook on one end, stolen from Barzizza's house, some sort of fishing spear. I don't remember how I learned which pavilion was the high commander's or what trick I used to distract the guards at the door, but the trick was fast accomplished; I was still seething as I scrambled inside, I could still hear my heartbeat pulsing in my temples as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.
There were only two men in this cool, open space: the army commander himself and a large young knight kneeling to his right, presumably his bodyguard. Both wore tunics decorated with broad gold braids. They were whispering together. Neither was the man I wanted.
"Where are the English?" I shouted.
The two men started, stared at me; the knight lumbered to his feet, grabbing for the dagger in his belt, as the leader responded, in a droll voice, "They are in England, I imagine."
So it was true, what Barzizza had told me; this final trek had been for nothing. A howl of humiliated rage escaped me. Across my mind flashed the journey back to Britain. I would never survive that. My one chance for revenge had been illusory; my intended victim had never even been in reach. With the warped logic of despair and rage, I decided then that I would still forfeit the one life that was yet mine to take: my own.
Both of the men staring at me now were armed. This would be simple, then: I had only to hurl myself upon the leader, and the bodyguard would kill me instantly.
When you know this one is your final heartbeat, time slows for a final savoring of the senses. In less than a blink I noticed more about my surroundings than I had in years: the feel of the woven-grass mats under my feet; the elaborate, bright decorations on the tent walls; the smell of rose water and woolly must that pervaded the pavilion; the commander's aristocratic handsomeness; the likable face of the young man who was about to skewer me. He had both sword and dagger in his belt; I wondered which he would use.
I also noticed, in that flicker, that I was interrupting something significant. Although the knight had been kneeling, there was an informality between them, as if they were kin. The lord looked oddly relieved by my interruption—until I raised the spike above my head and threw myself at him.
The young man was quick for one so large, but he was nowhere near as quick as I was, and I realized that I could accidentally kill the lord. The lord cringed, but he did not move to protect himself, trusting his knight. I myself did not trust his knight, and as my hands descended, I shirked, pulled back a hair, so that the hooked point of the spike just missed the lord's skull and only my knuckles glanced off his bald brow; by then the knight had me, huge left paw grabbing me around the throat, huge right one shoving the dagger point against my liver. So this was it: I was over now, finally and despite everything. Suddenly I was flooded with euphoria, and involuntarily, I grinned at him—my executioner, my liberator. His hair and beard gave his face a golden glow. I literally loved him more than my own life.
Our eyes locked; all my weight rested in his clenched left fist around my throat, the knife at my gut, as I waited for him to plunge it in.
He yanked the blade away and shoved me hard to the matted ground, where I choked on a mouthful of straw.
Something had gone horribly wrong: I wasn't dead.
The knight said something in a garbled language to the lord, who answered similarly. There was a brief debate, which to this day I cannot remember understanding. Listening in stunned outrage, I gradually recognized it as a Lombard dialect I was familiar with; at that point they could have been speaking in my native tongue and it would have sounded like so much nonsense. I was removed from my own skin, too dazed to understand what was happening.Crossed
A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Copyright © by Nicole Galland. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Nicole Galland's five previous novels are The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago, and Godiva. She writes a cheeky etiquette column for the Martha's Vineyard Times. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.
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