Although they had remained below deck and out of the way through most of the storm, they had scrambled on deck in panic when the ship was thrown on her beams’ ends. Not being sailors, they had been convinced she was about to capsize and sink. After that, they had remained on deck, clinging to the stern rail of the sterncastle, which meant wave after wave had broken over them. Both men had become completely drenched long before the storm died down and the sun came out.
“Let’s see if we can find a prayer against freezing to death while awaiting rescue from a shipwreck,” Gerold suggested, hooking an elbow around the railing and opening the soggy pages of his beloved prayer book. The ink and paint were running where too much water had seeped inside and it made him want to weep, but he turned to pages that were more intact.
Bernard, however, asked in a distant voice. “Do you not wonder if this is His judgment?”
Gerold looked up sharply. “On what? The Venetian shipmaster for overcharging us? Or my refusal to submit to that man calling himself Holy Roman Emperor?” His voice was sharp and defensive now.
“It is my job to probe your conscience, Gerold,” Bernard reminded him gently.
“Fair enough,” Gerold answered evenly, “so hear me. If I die out here, it will be in greater peace of mind and soul than had I set my sails to match the winds of politics. I would not want to face Him after abandoning my convictions for the sake of some secular advantage. If I do not die, then I will continue to Rome to put my case before his Holiness in person. Most of his Holiness’ complaints come straight out of the mouth of our dear brother in Christ, Eustace de Montaigu. And his purpose in slandering me is clear: to get himself named Papal Legate in my place. That’s why I need to go to Rome.”
“God would appear to think otherwise,” Brother Bernard noted wryly, pointing at the wreck of their vessel awash with water and cluttered with the remnants of rigging and tackle.
“Is that what you think?” Gerold snapped back, feeling betrayed by his closest friend.
“To be honest, I don’t know. I just find myself wondering. . . . ”
“And I wonder more about why He allowed a materialistic cynic—an atheist—to become Holy Roman Emperor!” Gerold replied indignantly.
“Your Grace!” The voice was that of the Chief Mate, the captain’s eldest son, and he was waving from the windward side of the ship.
Gerold grabbed a fistful of his sodden robes and staggered up the sloping deck to where the captain stood with a spyglass to his eye. As Gerold approached, he brought the eyeglass down and turned to the churchman. “Your Grace, a galley appears to be approaching from windward.”
“From the West, or rather northwest.”
Gerold waited for further explanation but when this was not forthcoming, he prompted. “So, is she likely to be Christian or Arab?”
“We believe she is most likely Christian, although she is too far away to make out her hull, much less her banners.”
Gerold nodded mutely. In his own mind he admitted that he would indeed start to believe God was angry with him if he were taken by Arab slavers. That would be one indignity too many, but he refused to panic. Instead, he stayed where he was, grimly staring at the dark speck on the horizon that the captain claimed was an approaching galley.
Meanwhile, one of the sailors climbed up the stump of the main mast and clung to it precariously to get a better view of the approaching ship. “Lusignan!” he sang out at last, cupping his hands around his mouth and holding his position with his legs wrapped around the broken mast. “It’s a Lusignan ship!”
Gerold crossed himself in relief.
“And you are right again,” Bernard reflected with a faint smile and a sneeze. “God is on your side.”
“I wouldn’t go that far, Brother,” Gerold answered with a wan smile. “But it would appear He is not ready to abandon me quite yet.” Then he and Brother Bernard turned to watch the approaching galley in silence.
The Lusignan galley was under sail and was clearly not heavily laden. She seemed to skim over the surface of the waves on the following wind, but the low freeboard meant that she was nevertheless awash with water. It filled the middle deck, empty of rowers, and poured off both sides each time she came out of the troughs to briefly ride the crests of the waves. When she sank down on the back of the next swell, spume flew into the air in two great arcs on either side of the bow. It was an impressive sight and the Patriarch admitted, “I didn’t know King Henry had a fleet.”
The captain, overhearing the remark, explained. “It’s quite small. Five or six vessels only, and like this ship, small and designed for communication and passengers, rather than cargo. This ship is too light to tow us. The best she can do is take you off and bring you to safely to port. It would be a load off my mind.”
Gerold nodded. “I understand, and we would be grateful.” He looked again toward the approaching galley. He could see two men leave the quarterdeck and take hold of the lifelines running fore-and-aft down the center of the ship. Clinging to these, they waded waist-deep through the water on the main deck to haul themselves up onto the foredeck. Their oilskins shook and fluttered around them as they grasped the forward railing. They were at last close enough for one of them to raise a horn to his lips and shout across the seething waters still separating the two ships, “Who are you? Where from and where bound?”
“Santa Theresa of Venice, bound from Acre to Venice,” the captain of the wreck answered.
“Do you wish to abandon ship?”
“No! Ship is salvageable! But I have two important passengers I would like to transfer to you.”
The captain of the galley waved agreement, then turned to give orders to his crew. The captain of the wreck turned to the Patriarch and Brother Bernard. “Is there anything you wish to try to take out of the cabin?”
“Yes,” Brother Bernard answered and set off without discussion or instructions. Meanwhile, the captain led the Patriarch to the leeside of the ship, where the deck disappeared into the sea. Here he told the Patriarch to sit at the very edge of the water and wait while the galley came up into the wind on the leeside of the wreck. Once the galley was in the comparative calm of the lee, a small boat was launched from her quarterdeck. Six oarsmen strained against wind and wave to bring the boat against the slanting deck of the wreck. The Patriarch and then Brother Bernard stepped into the boat as sailors held it as steady as possible. As soon as they had settled on the benches, the crew pushed the boat away with their oars and returned to the galley.
As they came alongside the galley there was considerable shouting and gesturing as the sailors recognized two churchmen by their tonsures. Gerold and Bernard were far too drenched to be recognized as dignitaries of any sort. Gerold was grateful to see netting lowered over the side as he was all too conscious of his own inability to haul himself up by a rope hand-over-hand. As he started up the net with Bernard pushing him from behind, he was shaken to realize just how weak he was. His arms were soon shaking violently, and his robes seemed to trip him at every step.
The men on the galley must have seen the state he was in because a moment later two powerful Greek sailors were flanking him on either side. Between them they hauled him up onto the afterdeck of the galley. Even so, he fell headlong onto the deck, tripping over his soggy skirts as he tried to step over the railing of the far-from-steady galley. He was rapidly helped to his feet by a strong young man that sprang to his assistance with an exclamation of shocked recognition. “Your Grace! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Then shouting over his shoulder, “Captain Aronis! It’s the Patriarch of Jerusalem!”
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