Alina: A Song For The Telling
by Malve von Hassell
Excerpt from Chapter 9 – "Arriving in Jerusalem"
I don’t know why I thought Jerusalem would be in a desert.
We had been climbing steadily along rocky terrain over the past few days, and I had imagined small, sad, stone buildings spread out across a merciless plain with the sun beating down.
Instead we were greeted by a vista of green hills with Jerusalem nestled among them, a densely constructed town with glowing white sandstone walls and imposing gates. I squinted up at the sky, marveling at the tall tower above the walls of the city.
“Thy neck is like the Tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.”
Startled, I turned around and saw Stephen had ridden up behind me.
“That’s beautiful,” I murmured, unsure where to look as my face flushed, but when I sneaked a glance at him, he smiled at me. It was a quote. I knew that much.
“The Song of Songs has some very apt descriptions,” he said before nudging his horse on.
My eyes on his straight back and my cheeks burning, I remembered how my father used to tease me like that with quotes from various works, delighted when I recognized them.
Soon we reached the gate and entered the town. After the days of quiet riding through the plains, it was strange to hear the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves echoing from the stone walls amidst the sounds of a busy town.
The streets were crowded, and we had to maneuver carefully around people leading donkeys with carts carrying carpets, fruits, vegetables, and large clay jars, and many others going about their business. Children ran alongside our group, shouting and calling out in their excitement. We rode on a central street up a hill and emerged on a plaza with another gate flanked by tall brick walls leading into a courtyard.
Laughter reached us as we came to a stop.
A girl clad in a flowing silver-grey robe, her long, dark hair loose down her back, stood in front of two young men smiling at her. The men looked relaxed, their surcoats tossed onto a bench, and the padded doublets knights wore under their armor open at the neck. She had her hands on her hips in a provocative pose. “You think I can’t do that?” she challenged. Her voice was surprisingly deep and husky.
The men chuckled.
Count Raymond, meanwhile, had dismounted and walked over to the group. The men looked askance, bowed hastily, grabbed their surcoats, and moved away.
“Sibylla,” he said, with a stern note in his voice.
The girl flicked her shawl as she turned to him, managing to look irritated and provocative at the same time. “Oh, Cousin Raymond, you have returned from Acre.”