Crusader's Torch Page 34

"How unfortunate," said Rainaut, sheathing his sword and holding out his hand to this Templar; he knew he could not offer the same courtesy to Foxa.

"Certainly it is a good thing no one was seriously hurt," the older Templar went on with pointed determination. He approached Rainaut carefully. "If I may be sure you are not badly hurt?"

"My back is cut; Foxa's shoulder is cut," Rainaut said with no particular emotion. He could feel blood matting what was left of his clothes, but he was not able to associate it with the ache that had taken possession of him.

"I would like to determine this for myself, Sier Hospitaler," said the older Templar, more forcefully than before.

"Yes," Rainaut agreed. "If you must." He took a deep breath, then started to turn.

Foxa, who had been watching this with growing wrath, hissed, "Look at his arm!"

The older Templar glanced once at Foxa. "His back is where you cut him."

"But look at his arm, his arm, "urged Foxa, openly staring now. "Christ Fasting! The man's a leper!" He drew back, terror blending with the fury in his eyes.

"What?" Rainaut said, dread and denial warring within him.

"The skin. It's white, there's no hair." Foxa blessed himself and moved further back. "God save us."

Several of the other Templars blessed themselves; the jugglers disappeared into the crowd, leaving nothing behind but a little pile of torn cloth.

"I am not a leper. I have an infirmity that does this. Because of the sun." Rainaut's voice, belligerent and too high, convinced no one.

"Lord Jesus, a leper," muttered another one of the Templars, moving away from Rainaut.

The older Templar looked closely at Rainaut. "There are places on your arm, on your shoulder, that have no hair, where the skin is white as a scar. I must report you as unclean."

"But I'm not," Rainaut insisted, though he was not certain this was true.

"We have to report it," the older Templar said. "We are required to report it." He came a step closer. "There's a place on your cheek as well. I should have noticed it earlier, but I thought it was just a scar."

"I tell you, I am not a leper." He wanted to sound reasonable, and sensible, but he could hear the stridency and the panic in his words.

The older Templar shook his head. "I'm sorry. Where are you staying?"

"I… at the inn, by the Old Market." He paused. "I have been ordered to report to Reis Richard and to my Order. If I do not—"

"I will see word is sent. Foxa knows you; he will—"

Rainaut interrupted. "I am Sier Valence Rainaut from Saint-Prosperus-lo-Boys in Aunis."

"A Hospitaler," added the older Templar. "Very well. I will attend to the matter at once. You need not be worried that your honor is in question. I give you my word." He looked at Rainaut. "Are you alone? Have you a squire or—"

"I am providing escort for a Roman widow. We were shipwrecked and have not been able to…" He raised one hand in a gesture of acquiescence. "Not that it matters now."

"You have been in the company of this Roman widow you escort?" the Templar asked.

"Yes," said Rainaut defensively.

"Then I must report her as well—"

"No!" Rainaut protested, starting forward, then checking his movement. "No. She is not concerned in this. She is not to be—"

The older Templar shook his head sadly. "I must report her as well. It isn't a decision I will make; you know that. It is out of your hands and mine now." He looked around at his men, then pointed to Foxa. "You will have to be taken to the infirmary. The Hospitaler has damaged your shoulder. While you are there, you are to say nothing of this to anyone. It is for the Hospitalers, not the Templars, to determine what is to be done with Sier Valence." He paused, giving his men the opportunity to argue. "I will tend to all these things before I retire for the night."

"So soon," Rainaut said flatly. "Very well."

Some of the Templars had already faded into the night; now, at a signal from the older Templar, the rest of them moved on. Three of the Templars went with Foxa, one of them already making jokes about the fight.

"Will you post a guard on me?" Rainaut asked, resigned now to what he knew would happen. He had broken his oaths, he had given himself to damnation and turned from his salvation, and now he was about to reap the whirlwind, as Scripture assured him he would. He thought about Olivia, and as much as he wanted to blame her, to place all the responsibility on her shoulders, he could not. He had wanted Olivia. Even when he had not sinned with his flesh, he had sinned in his thoughts, in his heart. She had not corrupted him, he had damned himself.

"If you will give me your word there should be no need for a guard yet. It may be that the Hospitalers will require it, or Reis Richard may decide he wants one for the protection of the people." He made a face. "If it were up to me, you would not be under guard at any time."

"Thank you," Rainaut said simply.

* * *

Text of a report from the physician Theodates to Ioannes of Rhodes, monitor of the Knights Hospitaler of Saint John, Jerusalem.

To my most reverend superior and valued advisor, the physician Theodates is much saddened to have to give you the following report. My prayers come with it, and my most fervent wish that you will not deal harshly with this afflicted knight, but grant that he be provided the protection of the Order. I am aware that this is an unorthodox request, but I truly believe that if Sier Valence Rainaut must be cast out of the society of Christians in the usual manner, his faith will be lost to him.

As you have surmised, it is apparent that this Hospitaler is unclean. I have examined his body and I have found that there are four distinct areas—the side of the face and onto the neck, the arm, the upper chest and the top of the hip—where the skin is hairless and white. Although there is no indication of the rotting away of fingers and toes, I fear that will come in time. The eyes have an odd cast to them, and Sier Valence complains of great sensitivity to light. While I have not encountered this symptom in lepers before, I fear it may mean his eyes are rotting, which will leave him unclean and blind. Another odd aspect of his affliction is that his urine has changed color, being now a brownish color. What that may bode for Sier Valence I cannot bring myself to consider.

Sier Valence has admitted that he has been aware of these whitened and hairless areas of his body for some time, but because there were no other indications of leprosy, he hoped it was a different condition, for the whitened areas are much more like scars than is usually encountered in lepers. He has also said that he is aware that he had condemned the widow he escorts to share his fate, for they have been close companions for more than three months, which assures that the contagion has gone to her.

She, upon being questioned and superficially examined, declares that she does not have leprosy and will never have it. It is true that on cursory inspection there is no sign of it on her limbs, and I take the word of the female slave Sannah that there are no other signs of it elsewhere. This widow, Bondama Clemens, has insisted that Sier Valence does not have leprosy either, but some other disease that is dangerous to no one but himself. That is the fidelity of a woman speaking, for Sier Valence has already said that he has abjured his oaths for the sake of this woman, and she does not deny it. Perhaps she will provide Sier Valence some consolation before his body ceases to function properly, or hers fails her. For it must fail her, not only for contagion, but for her sin, which is very great.

Let me repeat my petition that Sier Valence be provided some protection through the Order. He has been subjected already to the darkest despair, and I am ashamed to say it, but I cannot deny that it is possible he will, in such a state, take his own life. In order to spare him the occasion for greater sin than he has already brought upon his soul, let me suggest that he not be cast out, that he not be abandoned to the jackals and wolves, as so many others have been. This forsworn Hospitaler has none of the defiance and contempt we often see in such unfortunates.

Also, since he is a vassal of Reis Richard, he is entitled to some protection for as long as the English King is on Crusade. It requires that you release him from the Hospitalers and present him as a common English knight, part of Reis Richard's forces. It is not a gesture the Templars would approve, but in this one instance, I believe it is the greatest charity we can provide to this suffering man.

If you decide that you must cast him out, I would ask you not to make his banishment complete, that he retain some access to the English and French forces. If he is ruled dead, he will be without any protection in this place of war. I beg you to consider his plight and at least keep his name among the living.

In the Name of God and in the hope of His Mercy, I commend myself to you and to the Knights Hospitaler. May you be given victory over the enemies of Christ. May you serve God with a humble heart in triumph.

Theodates, physician


By my own hand, one month after the marriage of Reis Richard and Barengaria of Navarre, the 12th day of June in the Lord's Year 1191.


Atta Olivia Clemens

Text of the Will and bequests of Sier Valence Rainaut.

Knowing that my days in the company of men are ended and that my name is to be enrolled among the dead, I pray God now to guide my thoughts that I may dispose of my worldly property in a way that will bring honor on my House.

Those possessions I have as one who was a Hospitaler: my armor and my one surviving horse I leave to the Knights Hospitaler, knowing they will find use for them far wiser than any I might name. My weapons I have been given the right to retain, and because of the uncertainties that face me, I have elected to keep them.

That portion of my inheritance of lands and revenues in Saint-Prosperus-lo-Boys I bestow half upon the church of Saint Prosperus, half upon my oldest surviving nephew, Geoffroi, with the admonition that it be kept and passed to his heirs as long as Rainaut is a House.

Those personal possessions I have still in Saint-Prosperus-lo-Boys are to be disposed of in this way: my horses and their tackle are to be given to my two nephews, Geoffroi and Willaume, with the admonition that they are to be used with honor and to fight for the honor of God and Reis Richard. My three wooden chests I leave to my sisters, to be added to their dower, and to be preserved for their daughters. My other property is to be distributed to the poor, with the single exception of the mantel lined with marten fur, which I wish be sent to the family of my comrade-at-arms, Aueric de Jountuil, who drowned off Cyprus during a battle with pirates.

May God pardon my sins and bring me to His Feet on the Day of Judgment when all the earth will give up its dead and everything will be revealed. Since I am already to be numbered with the dead, I pray that my family will offer Masses for the repose of my soul.

In the knowledge that this will stand as my dying wish and cannot be countermanded, I fix my name and sigil.

Sier Valence Rainaut

By the hand of the scribe Eugenius, on the 9th day of August, in the Lord's Year 1191, at the monastery of Saint George, Cyprus.

- 1 -

There was a knock on the door that brought Rainaut's head up from where he had rested it on the prayer stand. "Yes?"

"It's Huon," called the youth who had been given the task of serving him as squire this last time.

"So soon," murmured Rainaut as he blessed himself and got to his feet. He was dressed as if for battle, his arms bordered in black on his chest, his mail shined beneath the surcote. "The door is open," he said after a moment of hesitation.

Huon, too, was formally clothed, his surcote blazoned azure, bendwise three scallops argent. At thirteen, he was awkward, shy, and puzzled by what he saw around him. He bowed to Rainaut. "The priests are ready."

Rainaut nodded, picking up his mantel; this one was a simple dark brown with fur trim, for he was no longer entitled to wear the black Maltese Cross of the Hospitalers. He kept his face averted, so that Huon would not have to look at the white patch on his cheek and jaw. "So am I, almost." He looked around the room. "That case, there, is all I am entitled to take with me when the Mass is over."

"Must you leave the armor?" Huon asked, still puzzled.

"Yes. Dead men have no use of armor, being in the hands of God or the Devil." His manner was remote and very polite. "We must not keep them waiting." He slung his mantel around his shoulders.

Huon stood aside in the open door, taking care not to let Rainaut touch him for fear that the leprosy would be passed to him, and he, too, would be cast out of the society of men. "I will see to it that you are—"

"You will see that I have what I am granted, and nothing more, or you will suffer for it needlessly." He looked back at the young squire. "You mean well, but it will not help me and it will hurt you."

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