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Only Sergeant William Godwin knows just how tense the situation in Cesena is. Ever since the multi-national army of His Holiness Pope Gregory XI retreated to the small eastern Italian city to spend the winter, relations between soldiers and citizens have been eroding, so that by February 1377 all trust is gone. Food is scarce and expensive, and the smell of defeat hangs in the frigid air. As the intelligence agent for the famous White Company, Godwin is responsible for keeping his captain, the English condottiere John Hawkwood, apprised of the local mood, yet his position has become uncertain. Hawkwood is strangely absent and no one is sure when he will return, leaving command in the hands of Papal Legate to Italy, Robert Genevois, a man frustrated by failure in the field and angered by the refusal of the Patrimony of St. Peter to submit to him. After two years of campaigning beneath the crossed keys of St. Peter with little to show for it but despoiled towns and the enmity of the populace, patience is wearing thin. The Breton brigade resents the high prices; the Italian band resents the foreign leadership of the campaign; the English company resents the sting of defeat. Then, a night of violence escalates into a confrontation that might lead to the deaths of thousands. Sergeant Godwin is a man of faith and fidelity, but he is not so blinded by strict devotion that he cannot see that he must make a choice. Should he obey the pope’s man in Italy and aid in the senseless ruin of the city? Would he be better served by standing by his now distant companion-in-arms, John Hawkwood, the man who paid him and once appreciated his talents? Or should he take the most selfish path and abandon all but the widow Maria, the person the most worthy of his trust?
Geoffrey Hotspur: A Squire’s Chivalry
For a squire to keep his place at court is no small trial, and if that squire has neither family nor fortune, his task is doubly hard. Geoffrey Hotspur is one of the most talented squires in the hall of the Duke of Lancaster, the famous Sir John of Gaunt, but his place rests on the good will of the lady of the hall, Anne de Roet, and she does not suffer fools gladly. As the seventeen year-old Geoffrey’s nears the end of his squire training, his thoughts are turning to knighthood, and this means ensuring the good favor of his patron. However, a rapid series of misfortunes befall the orphan squire, which test his character and conspire to threaten his place at court. Already insecure because of his low status, Geoffrey’s uncertainties mount until he hears a strange song sung by a famous troubadour, which challenges his narrow understanding of the roles men must play and leads him to confront his fears. He was brought up on the old ideals of chivalry, but having been cloistered for so long in training for war, does Geoffrey Hotspur really understand the virtues of knighthood? When does pride of place become sin of pride? He knows the oaths; he hears the songs; he listens to the tales of high adventure from the old knights at court. For the first time in his young life, Geoffrey has an important decision to make: should he strike or should he yield?