Flower of the Desert: Book II of the Chronicles of Tancred
By Rosanne E. Lortz
The hole in the floor of the church grew deeper with each thrust of the soldiers’ spades. Twelve men, blessed with broad backs and brawny arms, had been digging in shifts since the light of dawn. It was now nearly vespers.
Over the last twelvemonth, the Church of St. Peter in Antioch had seen its share of abuse. First, the Mussulman governor had turned it into a stable for his horses. Now, the Crusaders, who had captured the city after a long and arduous siege, were tearing up the flagstones around the altar without any thought for the sanctity of the place. The pit was already shoulder-deep, and who knows how much longer they would have to dig?
While the twelve men grunted and toiled halfway underground, hundreds of observers watched impatiently. Row upon row of Crusaders lined the sanctuary. The lords and leading churchmen stood closest to the center and the lesser men-at-arms spilled out onto the porch and street outside. Every soldier who could be spared from manning the walls was there. The stifling air of June in the East left the spectators nearly as sweltering as the shovelers. The atmosphere was rank with sweat and anticipation.... (read more)