The Scribe: The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour.
All Henri of Maron wanted was to stay with his family on his country estate, surrounded by lemon groves and safety. But in 13th century Palestine, when noble-born boys are raised to fight for the Holy Land, young Henri will be sent to live and train among men who hate him for what he is: a French nobleman of an Arab mother. Robbed of his humanity and steeped in cruelty, his encounters with a slave soldier, a former pickpocket, and a kindly scribe will force Henri to confront his own beliefs and behaviors. Will Henri maintain the status quo in order to fit into a society that doesn’t want him, or will fate intervene first?
The first book in The Two Daggers series, The Scribe takes readers on a sweeping adventure through the years and months that lead up to the infamous Siege of Acre in 1291 CE and delves into the psyches of three young people caught up in the wave of history.
The Land of God (Book 2))
Pain. His sister’s screams. And a beautiful face in the jeering crowd. When Henri of Maron woke, he had only a few memories of his brutal flogging, but he knew the world had changed. He had changed.
Now, as he grapples with the fallout from his disastrous decisions, war with the Mamluk army looms closer. To convince the city leaders to take the threat seriously, Henri and the grand master of the Templars must rely on unlikely allies and bold risks to avoid a siege.
Meanwhile, Sidika is trying to find a way to put her life back together. When she is forced to flee her home, her chance encounters with a handsome amir and a strangely familiar old woman will have consequences for her future.
The Land of God weaves the real historical figures with rich, complex characters and an edge-of-seat plot. Readers who enjoyed the Brethren series by Robyn Young and The Physician by Noah Gordon will appreciate this immersive tale set in the Middle East in the Middle Ages.
Torture, violence, sexual assault, sexual content.
Excerpt from The Scribe (The Two Daggers, Book 1)
Lord Rogier Maron thundered into the courtyard of his estate in a cloud of dust. Hopping down from his horse, he handed the reins to a groom who had come rushing to his aid, hastily wiping the crumbs of a late lunch from his chin.
“Where is my son?” Rogier asked, unbuckling his sword belt and pushing his woven mail coif from his sweaty forehead.
Salih, the groom, bowed. “Young master Henri is out hunting. He has been gone since the morning, my lord.”
Rogier growled and spun on his heel. “Inform me as soon as he returns, Salih, and please send Ibrahim to my study.”
Salih bowed again at the retreating back of his employer. “Yes, my lord,” he said, and led the magnificent horse through the courtyard and towards the stable.
Rogier strode on long legs through the empty courtyard, his pale eyes scanning for signs of his family. “Emine!” he hollered, and a petite serving girl in a white dress appeared from the kitchen, her brown apron stained with pomegranate juice.
“Yes, my lord?”
“Prepare a hot bath and a knife for shaving, and please find me when you have everything ready,” he said, walking through a heavy wooden door and into his study.
The room was cool and dark, the walls covered with delicately embroidered tapestries. Chests of books and parchments were stacked neatly in a corner away from the glass-paned window, and more books were piled on a table in the center of the room.
Despite the coolness of the house, Rogier removed his black surcoat, his mail hauberk and gloves, and wiped a greasy slick of sweat from his graying temples. His head ached from too much time riding in the dust and unrelenting August sun. Tomorrow he would host a celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration for the notables of Acre. The young new king, Henry Lusignan and his household, the grand master of the Templars, and the wealthiest merchants and nobility in the city would all attend. Rogier pressed his fingers against his aching head and wished he could call the whole thing off. He sighed, nudged the thick, glass-paned shutter open, and looked out toward the rooftops of Acre. This was almost all that was left of the West’s glorious ‘Kingdom of Jerusalem’ in Outremer.
Two hundred years earlier, bands of bedraggled knights and pilgrims from the squabbling villages of Francia and the Italian peninsula staggered into Jerusalem, claiming the inhabited city as their own, much to the astonishment of its Arab and Jewish citizens. Slowly, the locals fought back to push the Western invaders further north and toward the sea until all of Christian Outremer clung tenuously to a few small coastal settlements and the wealthy trading city of Acre. Despite the whittling away of the Western conquests and the loss of the city of Jerusalem, the ideological “Kingdom of Jerusalem” was still alive in Outremer and still preached from the pulpits to the town squares in the West. This hot, contested Holy Land was where the residents of the West aspired to die in order to be closer to God.
A gentle knock at the door brought Rogier back into the room, and Ibrahim entered. Slightly built, with expressive hands and kind eyes, Ibrahim was a stable, calming presence who had managed the family’s estate for nearly twenty years as a steward. He wore a white turban wrapped neatly about his balding temples, and a crisp, indigo robe of buttery soft linen, belted at the waist with a thick sash of brown and white striped cloth. He bowed slightly and waited for Rogier to speak as he paced near the window.
“I’ve just come from a meeting with Brother Georges de Languedoc. Where is Henri? I must speak with him,” Rogier asked.
“He is hunting, my lord.”
“Can he be found? Will he come back to the house, or is he going straight into the city?”
“I know not, my lord. I suppose it depends on his success.” Ibrahim spread his hands apologetically.
Rogier continued to pace. “That boy spends far too much time taking his ease and visiting married women,” he muttered. “It is time to send him away from Palestine.”
“Is everything well, my lord?” Ibrahim asked. Moving to a cloth-covered pitcher of wine on the table, he poured a small cup and handed it to his master.
“No, all is not well. Can you take down a letter for me? I must write to my brother.”
Ibrahim raised an eyebrow. Rogier was a viscount of Acre and master of many villages outside of the city, but he was also marquis of a modest fief in Francia, whose ownership had been contested by his twin brother for twenty years. Ibrahim, priding himself on his professionalism and discretion, withheld comment and began collecting paper, quills, and ink, seating himself at the heavy wooden table in the center of the room.
“What will you say to your brother, my lord?”
Rogier exhaled heavily and turned from the window. “Gaspard, let us cease this foolishness and return to our normal relations as when I was still with you in Maron-en-Ruergue. There is nothing to be gained in arguing, for it only divides the strength of our claim. In a year’s time, I will send my son to you for his protection, so that he may begin to familiarize himself with the fief in the event that he shall collect his inheritance, an event that may be near…”
His words drifted, and Ibrahim set his quill down.
“Pardon me, Lord Maron. Surely you are not suggesting that you will perish soon?” He asked, concern clouding his normally placid face.
“I am not aging in reverse,” Rogier said, just as the door to the study slammed open and his son entered, dirty with sweat and dust from a morning of riding.
Henri stood as tall as Rogier, green-eyed, and brown-skinned, and seventeen years old. The other young nobles of Acre chafed that Henri had riches, status, and the favor of every woman who crossed his path, and the city leadership rolled their eyes at his aloof attitude towards his civic duties as a member of the noble class. Aware of his good looks, he frequently wore a mocking smile that enraged every older man in his presence with its implied insolence. He was the kind of youth that filled men with the desire to hit him in the face, even if he committed no crime.
“Do you require something?” Henri demanded, tugging his leather gauntlets off and dropping into a chair.
“Were you in the city last night?” Rogier asked, “I did not see you come home.”
“I came home after you were in your bed,” Henri said, yawning. “I need to bathe. There has been little rain, and the roads are dusty.”
“You will not travel to the city tonight or any other night until I tell you that you may,” Rogier said tersely. “Now go upstairs. Emine has already drawn you a bath.”
“What is this? You cannot forbid me from going into the city without reason,” Henri protested.
Lately, everything that his son did or said irritated Rogier. “Get up,” he commanded, pushing Henri out of the study toward the mosaiced chamber where the family bathed. Emine was there with a manservant, a steaming copper tub, a sharp knife, and a stack of woven towels.
“Please shave him,” Rogier said to the servant. “Emine, you may leave us.”
As Emine exited the room, Rogier noticed his son’s eyes follow her. Henri put a hand to his face, covering his fledgling beard protectively. “Will you explain to me why you are acting strangely? You cannot shave a man’s beard without his permission!”
“Hamza,” Rogier said, switching to his son’s familiar name, “I would treat you like a man if you acted like one. You will shave your beard because it is not safe for you to wear it, nor for you to go into Acre at night.”
Henri looked at Rogier, confused.
“Did you see anything when you were out last night? Any violence in the streets?” Rogier demanded.
Henri shook his head, no. In truth, he had been gambling at an inn, and after losing a considerable sum of silver bezants he sought solace in a pitcher of wine with Amalric and one of the lesser Lusignan cousins. He didn’t return to the house until the monks were beginning their matins in the monasteries and the street sweepers were making their way through the dim alleys.
Rogier dragged his fingers through his silver hair. “The new Sicilian troops that the King ordered have become unruly. They are roaming the streets of Acre at night and killing men with beards. Arab men with beards,” he said significantly, noting how his son’s smooth, brown skin contrasted with his own perennially sunburned, freckled complexion. “I met with Brother Languedoc and Grand Master Beaujeu this afternoon to learn what is to be done. It seems the Templars are unable to stop the murders, for there are more Sicilians than knights in the city right now.”
“Well,” Henri said, standing, “I am only a half-Arab man with a beard, so no harm should come to me, and if you would knight me, then there would be one more in the city to combat the Sicilians.”
“Sit down and shave your beard or else I will have Salih lock your horse in her stable, and I will send you to the Ruergue in Francia to live with your uncle,” Rogier said through clenched teeth. “Men are dying in Acre. Innocent men!”
“Poor men,” Henri said bluntly. “Saracens and Jews. Why do you care about them?”
Rogier eyed his son dangerously, and Henri sat, scowling at the servant as he approached with the shaving knife. He pouted, and for a while, the only sound in the room was that of the knife rasping over his chin.
“I saw you looking at Emine, Hamza. Have you touched her?” Rogier broke the silence.
“No,” Henri shot back, and Rogier could hear the lie in his voice. Rogier dismissed the servant, and Henri rubbed his bare jaw in annoyance.
“Well then, since you say you have not bedded the servants and you are clearly lying, I think it is time for me to tell you how I really met your mother.”
(The Scribe, Book 1)
(The Land of God, Book 2)
Elizabeth R. Andersen’s debut novel, The Scribe, launched in July of 2021. Although she spent many years of her life as a journalist, independent fashion designer, and overworked tech employee, there have always been two consistent loves in her life: writing and history. She finally decided to do something about this and put them both together.
Elizabeth lives in the Seattle area with her long-suffering husband and young son. On the weekends she usually hikes in the stunning Cascade mountains to hide from people and dream up new plotlines and characters. Elizabeth is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
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