National bestselling author and World Fantasy Award nominee Judith Tarr conjures a fascinating world of sorcerers and warriors in this dramatically powerful tale.
The year is 1191. The place is the Holy Land, where the knights of Christ are embroiled in a war with the armies of Islam. The prize: the holy city of Jerusalem.
Led by Richard the Lionheart, King of the English and Count of Anjou, the armies of the West are conducting a Crusade against the sultan Saladin. In Cyprus, the king's mother, Eleanor, has struck a devil's bargain with the sorcerer Sinan, the Old Man of the Mountain, to grant Richard victory at any cost. Only Sinan knows that victory will cost the king his immortal soul.
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May 14, 2003
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Excerpt from Devil's Bargain by Judith Tarr
The sun beat down on the plain of Acre. The heat was like a living thing. The battered walls, the loom of the siege-engines, shimmered faintly like an echo of the sea. Some of the engines bore the burden of names in the tongue of the Franks: Bad Neighbor, Wicked Cousin, God's Own Sling. They were silent now, their power gone still.
Just after sunrise, the army of the Franks had marched out of the city. They spread now over the plain, as thick as flies on a carcass, but as silent and as eerily motionless as the engines that had broken the city. There was no wind to stir their banners; the horses stood with heads down, hipshot, asleep. They stood in battle lines, in battle array, but made no move to charge against the army of Islam that held the hills.
Al-Malik al-Adil Saif al-Din, born Ahmad the Kurd, sipped sherbet in the shade of the sultan's canopy, high on a hill above the plain. The sherbet was somewhat sweeter than he liked it -- the servants never could understand his taste for lemon barely tamed by sugar -- but it was snow-cold. His brother's goblet languished forgotten except by the servant with the fly whisk, who kept it clean until the sultan should remember it.