The Flames of Prague
Sir Jakub doesn’t like to admit it, but his hair is more gray than black, and his squires are already faster than he is; soon they’ll be able to best him—the ultimate humiliation for a man who has spent twenty-three of his forty years on campaign.
But while out on a hunt, he stumbles across a lost young woman who rapidly captures his interest. Intelligent and beautiful, Alzbeta’s shy smiles become a balm which soothes his aching ego. He quickly decides it’s time to move on to the next stage of his life: begetting an heir.
But when he escorts her home to Prague--intent on asking her father for her hand in marriage--he discovers why she has been reticent about herself: she’s a Jew. And as lovesick as Jakub is for Alzbeta, he can’t bridge the gap between their two worlds. He leaves her with her father and returns home... alone.
But a few months later, news reaches Jakub that trouble is brewing in Prague for the city's Jews. Accused of desecrating the Host, they are caught up in a firestorm of words which soon turn into real flames, and Jakub must quickly decide if he will give up his beautiful Jewess a second time.
Scheduled for release in print and e-book November 2013.?>
Sample Chapter from The Flames of Prague
The matins bell was ringing by the time Jakub entered Prague. The city seemed to be silent and sleeping, but he had an uneasy feeling, nonetheless. It was almost as if it was too silent—unnaturally so. The entire city seemed to be holding its collective breath.
When Jakub got to the gates of the Jewish quarter, he found them locked and guarded by four men. He didn’t have to be told they weren’t Jews trying to keep people from entering.
“What are you doing out after hours?” one of the men challenged him.
“I’ve come to get Doctor Moshe.”
The men laughed incredulously.
“Let me through,” Jakub demanded.
“Nobody goes in, nobody gets out.”
“You will let me in.”
The challenger swaggered over to Jakub and put his hand on Papa’s reins. “I don’t take orders from you,” he sneered.
Jakub slipped his foot out of his stirrup and kicked the man viciously in the face with his heel. His spur caught on the man’s mouth, tearing his bottom lip and sending a spray of blood through the air.
Jakub jerked the reins out of the man’s hands—causing Papa to give a little rear—and he quickly unsheathed his sword. The other three men, who had started to advance on him, stopped as the light of their torches glinted on the steel sword.
“You piss ants, how dare you tell me where I will and will not go!” Jakub thundered. “Now open that goddamned gate or I’ll cut you all down and open it myself!”
One of the men hurried to comply. When he had the gate open, Jakub spurred Papa through it at a gallop, lest any of the men try to stop him again.
He found Bílek Street easily enough, but as he rode along it, he saw nothing that would indicate which house was Alzbeta’s. But he thought he was near where her father had come to meet her.
“Doctor Moshe!” he cried out in the stillness. “Moshe ben Shmuel.”
A moment later there was a rattling noise and then shutters were flung open. “Who do you call for?” an elderly man asked.
The old man squinted down at Jakub. “Why are you looking for him?”
“He sent for me.”
The man considered him carefully for a moment, as if trying to decide if Jakub was being honest.
“Three doors down,” the man finally said, pointing to his left. “Number fourteen.”
Jakub went down to the house indicated and leaned down, beating on the door with his fist. “Doctor Moshe. It’s Jakub.”
At last he heard a bar sliding in the lock and the door creaked open cautiously, someone peeping out through the crack. Then, suddenly, it was flung open and the white-bearded Moshe stepped out. Jakub noticed he was dressed; clearly he had been hoping Jakub would arrive.
“Thank you, Sir Jakub, thank you!” he said in a hushed voice. “They’ve already started taking people. Some have been killed. I don’t know when it will stop.”
They were interrupted by shouts down at the far end of the street. Both men whipped their heads around. A large mob, with torches, was coming down the street.
“I had to fight to get in here,” Jakub said. “Is there another way out?”
“Not by road,” Moshe said, his eyes wide with fear.
“Damn it all.”
Moshe turned around. Alzbeta and an older woman were huddled together in the doorway, listening. “Beta,” he said, gesturing to Alzbeta.
Alzbeta’s mother gave her daughter a quick kiss on the temple, then Alzbeta moved to stand beside her father. Moshe looked up at Jakub again. “Will you take my daughter with you? Just the two of you have a chance of getting out.”
Jakub offered her his hand, and with Moshe’s help, he pulled Alzbeta up on Papa, behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist tightly.
“Go down this street,” Moshe said, pointing the direction. “Turn right on Brehova. That will take you to the river. Maybe you can find a way out from there.”
“Here,” Moshe said, handing Jakub a fat purse.
“I’m not doing this for your money,” Jakub said.
“Take it for Beta, then.” He pressed it into Jakub’s hand. “They’ll just take it from us anyways,” he added. “Better you have it than them.”
Jakub took the purse and stuffed it down the front of his cote.
Moshe brought his hand to his lips, then touched Alzbeta. “God be with you,” he whispered.
Screams joined the shouts as the rabble surged closer. Without another word, Jakub spurred Papa down the street, away from the advancing mob.
Papa’s iron shoes clattered nosily on the narrow, cobbled streets, echoing in the darkness. “Where am I going, Alzbeta?” he asked.
She pointed over his shoulder. “Just past that shop on the corner—the one with the big sign.”
Jakub slowed the horse, turned right where she indicated, then spurred him back to speed. A minute later, though, he had to pull back hard, causing Papa to sit on his haunches and slide to a stop. The street ended suddenly at the river.
“Is there no way across?” he asked her.
“We can’t get to the bridges from here.”
“Is there a boat around?”
She turned and looked frantically up and down the edge of the river. “I don’t see anything,” she wailed.
More shouts and screams came sounding over the rooftops; it sounded as if the mob was still in pursuit.
“I’ve lived through more than a dozen wars; I’ll be damned if the commons in my own country take me down,” Jakub growled. He wheeled Papa around, heading back up the street. Then he wheeled him again, facing the river.
“Hold your breath,” he warned Alzbeta before kicking the horse into a full gallop. A moment later, Papa jumped the low wall that separated the street from the river, and they plunged down several feet into the icy waters.
© 2012 by Keri Peardon. All rights reserved.
Web design by Keri Peardon.
Background for the website and the header is from Lilium medicinae by Bernardus de Gordonio, translated into Hebrew by Moses ben Shmaya de Castro in Escalona, Spain, January 11, 1466. The original manuscript is housed at the Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The female figure in the header is from the Manesse Codex, which is housed at the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany.