“Even the priest has succumbed to our wicked influence.”

Kabul, spring 1323


“Emeralds,” Shasha said. She hesitated. “Copper? I’ve never seen so much copper for sale in one place as I have here in Kabul.”

“Heavy,” Jaufre said. “Depends on how much copper and how far we have to carry it. We should take counsel of Grigori the Tatar.”

“One camel can carry five hundredweight,” Félicien said. “The profit on that much copper ought to pay for the camel’s feed with more than enough left over to make such a venture worthwhile.” The other three looked at him in some surprise. He reddened beneath their scrutiny. “I have been traveling with you for over a year,” he said with asperity. “Even an idiot would have picked up a little knowledge by now.”

Jaufre gave him a buffet on the shoulder that nearly knocked the goliard over. “You have fallen in with traders, Félicien. Who knows where it will end?”

Hari caught Félicien and helped him regain an upright position. “I have been speaking to the teacher in the madrasa,” he said. “He knows of a man with a great store of maps, some old, some new.”

Jaufre laughed. “Even the priest has succumbed to our wicked influence,” he said, winking at Félicien, who reddened again. “I would look at these maps, Hari. Maps, old and new, are always valuable to someone. And light in weight.” He paused, and exchanged a look with Shasha. “You are both continuing with us, then?”

“I am,” Félicien said. “I have been five years in the East, and I would see the shores of the Middle Sea again.”

“Hari?” Jaufre said.

“By all means, young sir,” Hari said, bowing. “The Nestorian patriarch here in Kabul has told me that no seeker after truth can cease from looking until he sees Jerusalem.”

Dana here — I well remember being taught in history in high school that in the Middle Ages nobody never went nowhere, except for Crusaders. I know now that that was the Cliff’s Notes version of history and highly inaccurate, to put it mildly. Reading Margery Kempe’s autobiography was an eye-opener for sure. My characters only antedate her by 50 years and she made it all the way to Jerusalem on her own. She was not a easy travelling companion and I continue astonished that her fellow pilgrims didn’t put her out of their misery one dark night long before they bent the knee before the Holy Sepulchre. You will encounter a woman based on Kempe before long, but only briefly. I find her hard to take, too.

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Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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