THE CHISELING OF MASONS, THE CREAKING of cranes, the hammering of carpenters, and the squeaking of wagon wheels competed with one another in a cacophony of noise that provided commentary to the fine dust that filled the air. The Holy Roman Emperor wanted a castle here—yesterday. He didn’t care what Roman monuments were demolished to provide masonry, and he didn’t care what it cost. He wanted his castle.
Herman von Salza shook his head sadly at so much sound and activity. He had become used to the stillness of the Prussian forests, their unfathomable stillness pierced only by the call of birds—and the surprise attacks of the heathens. The noise of over-populated, prosperous, and urban Italy got on his nerves, and the heat of the Mediterranean was oppressive too, particularly in August and in this dust. He longed to be somewhere else where it was cooler, quieter, more peaceful. . . .
The wail of a muezzin cut through the clatter and rumble of the workers and Salza drew up to listen, letting the familiar melody of the call to prayer transport him back to the Holy Land. He had been away far too long. For all the successes in the Northeast against the pagans, the Holy Land was where he belonged. If he was going to sweat in the sand, then let it be in the land of Christ’s passion rather than here in this unnatural Muslim enclave in Italy. Again, he shook his head and sighed. The Holy Roman Emperor had peculiar ways of showing his Christianity at times . . .
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