On their way to the Holy Land after the fall of Jerusalem to Salah al-Dīn, Christian armies gathered in Messina, Sicily. Today, I am guest posting on English Historical Fiction Authors about the political background, intrigue, and events that led to Messina’s capture by Richard the Lionheart. Many thanks to Debra Brown for inviting me to contribute.
Two years ago, I participated in #luckyseven, a writers’ exercise making the rounds on Twitter. I was still working on my first novel, Keeping the Family Peace (published Dec. 2012), and noted that Battle Scarswas no more than a 5 page short story! (Wow!) Here are the rules for #luckyseven:
Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
Go to line 7
Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
Tag 7 other people to do the same
If you haven’t looked at Battle Scars (book 1): Men of the Cross, there are several chapters posted in the Amazon sample. But what about p. 77, line 7 + 7 sentences? (Okay, okay – I know #luckyseven says post from your current manuscript, but Battle Scars II doesn’t exactly have a p. 7 (1st ch. not yet written) and p. 77 is still in rough draft form – I promise I’ll share some of that manuscript in the future.) But for now, let’s see what Knights Henry de Grey and Stephan l’Aigle are doing whilst exploring Messina, Sicily. King Richard’s fleet and army will spend the winter months here until it is safe to sail to the Holy Land, but they must deal with local merchants who have jacked up prices!
Messina was a busy seaport in normal times. With Christian armies using it as a gateway to the Holy Land, it had become like a pot of water on a fire, near ready to boil over. It was a pot with many unfamiliar faces, darker-skinned people like Saracens, Greeks, and others from the East—some local, some passing through—and despite the unethical business practices, Henry was intrigued.
“Enough!” Stephan lifted the small sack he carried, waving it at the plump, dark-haired baker at the counter. “The merchant up the street charged that for this meat and cheese.”
“That will last us all of a day,” Henry muttered.
Stephan chuckled. “Less if Little John gets hold of it. God be praised that King Richard helps feed us all. When he hears of these prices, baker and butcher best turn their voices to the good Lord and ask to be spared his wrath.” He turned back to the bread maker. “Two pennies.”
I hope you like the excerpt (though it’s slightly more than 7 sentences). Maybe you’ll consider getting your own copy of Men of the Cross now: available in print and for Kindle on Amazon & Amazon (UK) and other Amazon sites worldwide, and for Nook via Barnes & Noble.
Last #luckyseven point: tag 7 others: Can I get Matthew, Steven, Rob, Marie, Cathy, Sara, or Raji to play? Marie & Cathy – I know you don’t usually post your fiction updates on your blogs, so I’d be glad to post & host them here. 🙂
Messina is a thriving Sicilian port in the 12th century. Galleys and trading ships of every shape and size were common to its people. But surely the arrival of King Richard’s fleet – some 100+ ships strong – must have been an incredible sight.
The chronicler of the Itinerarium describes the scene…
“…the people rushed out in crowds, wanting to see [the king]. Pouring on to the shore, they struggled to stand where they could see him coming in. …the sound of war trumpets echoed in their ears… Galleys…adorned and laden…with weapons, with countless standards… The prows of the galleys were each painted differently, with shields glittering in the sun hung on each bow. You would have seen the sea boil as the great number of rowing oars approached.”
In Battle Scars, Henry de Grey watches the spectacle from the deck of one of Richard’s ships:
Henry’s admiration for the king grew a bit more as he watched Richard greet Messina, steady and proud. The king’s face didn’t betray his concern for his sister Joanna. She should be among the crowds waiting to greet him. But there had been little word of her since her husband, the king of Sicily, had died. King Richard expected to find Queen Joanna well taken care of.
And if he didn’t there might be hell to pay.
Does the king find his sister? Her late husband William had promised Richard support – monies, goods, ships, and more – for the crusade. Tancred, the new king of Sicily, has seized Joanna’s dowry and her lands. Would you really want to piss off Richard the Lionheart?
You could easily discover how this ends by checking Wikipedia, or you can wait and read about it in Battle Scars: Men of the Cross! Read other teasers from my novel here.