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Daughter of Venice: Clarinda’s World

The Grand Canal, Venice

BOOK EXCERPT: “Chapter 13, A Grand Master Makes His Move”
from A.J. Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1: The Mariner’s Daughter and Doomed Knight
(Copyright 2012, A.J. Carlisle)

“Chapter 13, A Grand Master Makes His Move”

Earlier in the week, Clarinda sloshed through the wavelets of Caesarea’s harbor and began running onto the beach with two members of her crew beside her. Rapier in hand, she focused on fury instead of grief and sprinted on the wet sand to the closest cement stairwell that would get her back to the top of the wharf.

A glance upward and to her left showed that Kenezki still fought with Alex on the quay in front of the shipwrecked galley, but the sound of their clashing blades was lost amid the shouts of men and clamor from dozens of sword fights taking place throughout the port city. The chaos of war engulfed Caesarea, from the roaring of fires that erupted after the ship-based trebuchets of the Calypso and Maritina cast burning pitch into buildings to the neighing of horses driven semi-mad as their riders galloped them through the streets of the blazing city.

“Mario! Raul!” she shouted to her companions as the three reached the top of the stairs and began running back to the ruin of the Genoese galley, “When we get there, flank Alex and me, and this time don’t worry about any of us! I want Kenezki taken alive, but in any event don’t let him escape.”

“Si, Signorina,” both men said in unison.

She appreciated her sailors’ loyalty, but would’ve preferred that the two men had stayed with Alex instead of diving into the harbor after her when Kenezki had kicked her overboard! Her left side still ached from the pirate’s booted heel, but she ignored it as she had everything else since discovering Kenezki on the Genoese galley.

Outrage turned into molten savagery as Clarinda ran harder on the limestoned cement of the wharf, closing the distance to the two fighting men.

The realization that her father might be imprisoned on the shipwreck changed the strategy she’d crafted the night before with Fatima and Khalil. Namely, while Clarinda’s two ships would still provide naval support to the bedouin and Guy of Lusignan’s land forces, she and Alex boarded the shipwrecked galley to find her father. They’d made their way back to the pier in a dinghy just as Pasquale ordered the first of the Greek Fire launches from catapults on the Maritina and Calypso.

Clarinda’s orders for Pasquale were that his men should target anything combustible in the port city and, if possible, to aim most of the payloads at two areas: the Templar castle of Evremar of Choques and the Church buildings of Archbishop Monachus.

The burning naptha and saltpeter missiles that arced overhead showed her that Pasquale’s men were firing at will, the booming explosions and ensuing fires destroying Caesarea.

No time worrying about civilian casualties — with Kenezki, its kill or be killed, only you need him alive. Focus!

She’d almost reached Kenezki and Alex, and all reflections ended as she loosened her sword-arm and prepared for renewing the battle. She felt overwhelmed by an urge to kill Kenezki, but there were too many mysteries that needed solving first.

[A.J. NOTE:  I deleted a ½ page here in this section to avoid ***spoilers!!!*** buy the book below!  Oh, fine, here’s a bit more, but this is a crucial chapter for Clarinda, so only so much can be revealed here…]

…Now there was nothing for it but to subdue Kenezki and force him to talk as a captive. Clarinda knew that Alex had understood this, even if he’d looked at her as if she’d lost her mind when she’d first shouted not to kill the pirate. As matters stood, though, she could tell that both men were fighting for their lives.

That feeling of disassociation, of unreality, of being in two places at once, got more pronounced as Clarinda closed on Kenezki. As had occurred at the feast, her normally linear thoughts fragmented, splitting the logical foundations on which she’d built her life into shards. She wiped her free left hand under her nose, smearing blood, but pressed forward, as if by bringing her sword into range of his she might prevent the internal collapse that began to cascade within her whenever he was nearby.

Clarinda tried to ignore the vision that began to layer itself onto the pier, descending like a warped curtain between the two realities she was seeing simultaneously.

Not now, Urd! I don’t have time for this — he’s wickedly fast with a blade and I need to concentrate!

She might as well have wished that she and her parents were together again, playing backgammon on a cold winter night where they lived in the Castello district as they sipped at Mamma’s hot apple cider. As with all the dreams featuring Aurelius, some wishes couldn’t be denied.

In this vision, she saw a large campfire appear on the pier before her, and the Hospitaller knight was sitting near it talking to two shadowed figures, a heavy cloak over his shoulders and his body steaming from the heat of the blaze. Steaming because he was thoroughly drenched and air seemed laden with icy vapors and danger.

Why am I not with him? Where am I watching this from?

Then reality — the present reality — came to the foreground, and the vision dissipated.

The world had become a waking nightmare of war. Blood was being shed all over Caesarea, and fires raged in the heart of the waterfront stores.  She closed upon Alex and Kenezki. The blades of the pirate and hoplitarch seemed natural extensions of their bodies as they slashed, thrusted, and parried in a conflict of shimmering metal whose glinting arcs and horizontal-and-vertical strokes sparked like fireworks.

Then Clarinda was in the midst of them, but somehow Kenezki sensed Clarinda’s approach and jumped backwards onto the galley’s gangplank. He laughed at the drenched Venetian girl and said something crude in a harsh Scandinavian language.

Alex pressed forward, intent on not letting the pirate regain the wharf. When Clarinda’s sword joined his own, their combined momentum forced Kenezki backward to a hatch that led belowdecks…

[A.J. NOTE:  Need to delete another “spoiler” here…then,

…“Clarinda exclaimed. “You and Evremar are going to pay for this!”

“Oh, Ho, and la-di-dah!” The corsair grinned again, mischievously saying, “Give the girl a taste of Norn’s Sight, and suddenly she’s making threats she’ll never be able to keep.” He bowed low and dropped his sword. “Dear me, I find that I’m… underwhelmed by you two, and tiring quickly of disguises.”

His next action caught both Clarinda and Alex off-guard, because in the hesitant half-second when they both reflexively lowered their swords to better see what Kenezki was doing, the pirate moved with a speed faster than either of them would’ve credited anyone capable.

Kenezki lunged forward into a somersault that surged upward into Clarinda and Alex, catching them on the upsurge with left- and right-handed jabs to their abdomens.

Blackness enveloped Clarinda as sight and breath fled from her. She collapsed next to Alex, gasping for any air at all, but unable to get it into her lungs. Kenezki barked a victorious laugh and clamped a bloodstained hand over her mouth and nose. She convulsed, panic taking hold as she smelled nothing but copper and dirt and sweat and a primal hunger from him that threatened to devour her mind. Distantly, she felt a hand grab her chin, and Kenezki’s breath hot on her cheek….

[End of Excerpt by A.J. Carlisle]

BOOKS AVAILABLE ON ALL MAJOR e-PLATFORMS, AND PAPERBACK FROM AMAZON

The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1: The Mariner’s Daughter & Doomed Knight
http://www.amazon.com/Codex-Lacrimae, Part 1
The Codex Lacrimae, Part 2: The Book of Tears
http://www.amazon.com/The-Codex-Lacrimae-Part 2

 

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