A Haunting Question, or How This Novel Began

Photo by Thomas Millot 

Photo by Thomas Millot 

It started over twenty years ago when I was reading Nicolas Cheetham's book on the history of the popes, Keepers of the Keys.  Well into the medieval years of the saga, I came across a heart-wrenching paragraph that wouldn't let me go.

The paragraph followed pages of tension, pages which related the slow and stubborn build-up of opposing human forces. The kind of situation in which observers shake their heads and say, "This is not going to end well."

History is full of these situations. But what made this one stand out to me was the unexpected response that followed the events.

[I would tell you what it was, but that would spoil the story!]

The response haunted me. And puzzled me. What would drive this group of people to respond in that way? Especially since they had been on the opposite side before? I asked myself this over and over.

I didn't want the answer of the historical eye, hovering as it often must from a thousand feet above in order to understand the way life was 700 years ago.

I wanted to know the answer from what it looked like to those on the ground.

An image appeared in my mind: Two curious, young boys climbing a tree in order to look over a friary wall to see what the friars were doing. How they lived inside the wall.

And here's the thing.

Both boys saw the same scene with their eyes. The same buildings, the same group of robed men talking together, the rows of the orderly garden. But in their hearts, each saw something different.

A difference that would direct their lives into opposing paths.

The boys' names showed up next. Fabrizio and Sereno. Details of their lives, their stories, began to emerge. What they hungered for. What they had lost. What they were blind to.

And that's when my heart started to bleed.

Photo by Matteo Fusco 

Photo by Matteo Fusco