Crusade by Linda Press Wulf

By Linda Press Wulf

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None of the three fields belonged to him. Like the rest of the land that spread as far as the eye could see, the fields were owned by King Philippe Auguste and managed by his bailiffs. As payment for his heavy labour, he was allowed to take the crops from the smallest field for eating or selling. Soon after their father left for the fields, Gregor rolled off his straw pallet, his mood almost always black in the mornings. He shovelled a double helping of porridge into his mouth in surly silence, washing it down with the lees of the wine from the previous night.

She cleaned the hut, sweeping the trodden-earth floor with a worn straw besom and putting the straw mattresses outside to freshen on sunny days. Then she hurried down the hill to the priest’s house, where she repeated most of these tasks. Except that Father David had little appetite as he grew older, and the food she made for him lasted more days than it should have. Georgette urged him to eat more, but he said old men had small stomachs, digestion was not easy for him, and he wanted no more than the good bread she baked and a mug of boiled buttermilk.

Only recently a young lout in the village had made a remark as she passed and, although she did not hear what he said, she was startled into understanding by Gregor’s roar of anger as he hurled himself at the much bigger boy head first, beating him only because of the surprise of the attack. The subsequent round was more predictable. After that second bout, Georgette hovered near Gregor with a cloth soaked in healing plants she had gathered and boiled herself. But Gregor wouldn’t let her touch his black eye.

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