Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #142, Batkol’s Tale, 3

Corsairs! Image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Greek Pirates Attacking a Turkish Vessel, 1916.1034, Cleveland Museum of Art, in the public domain.
Corsairs! Image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Greek Pirates Attacking a Turkish Vessel, 1916.1034, Cleveland Museum of Art, in the public domain.

In this episode… the crooked arm of the law.
Warning: there is a bit of unsavory language in this episode.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Nineteenth Era, Part 3, ~1432 C.E., Palma
Batkol’s Tale, part 3

Tho Reina’s heart might be impulsive, her eyes are sharp. Little she miss. She sees or feels or somehow grips the pain and fear and anxious distress many a women around her feels. And whenever I try to turn our talk to her life outside — the bishop, his men — she be just as suspicious of me as I of her. Were she a spy, serving the bishop to keep herself out of prison? Yet she knew well, the church not only hates Jews, but Muslims, mystics, prostitutes, witches, reformers, and anyone who dares question its decrees.

“All my friends be on the run for coolin’ the urge that drives men mad. And how many hypocrite priests laid between our legs and called out God’s name! More than one woman I known, threatened by prison, torture, death, has hung theirselves or cut their wrists. And how many more be stoolies now, servin’ as maids, nurses, and cooks.”
Was Reina one of these in our midst?

And then one day she lashes into me.
“Why the hell are you livin’ here? You been Jew when first we met, and you been a woman as honorous as any I known. Turnt my heart towards Jewish faith and Jewish ways. Yeah. Once you was noble and tall, and now see you, wormy and small. How did the church put a noose around you? An ant in an anthill, that’s all you are. Once like an eagle you flew on high.”
Oh how I want to tell her the truth of what I’m doing in this nunnery. But instead I remember my nunnish mask, and all I sneer is,
“What do you know?”

Were she trying to bait me on, til I exposed our secret work? Or were she ready to know the truth and join us in our godly ways?

After a secret Yom Kippur…
(We sent Reina up in the hills to collect some goatskin parchments and hides, so she been gone for three whole days…)
Enrique asks Reina to come with us to help carry fragile books. In a ramshackle alley we knock at a door, then wait in a kitchen till boxes be brought by a servant who fawns over Father Enrique.

The boxes are heavy. Our arms ache, and sweat be dripping down our backs by the time we return to the nunnery. Reina looks exceeding upset. Enrique tries to apologize:
“Sorry to make you work so hard. I didn’t know there be so many books.”

“Boxes? What do I care about that? Who were them people?”
Reina shouts.
“Reina. Batkol. Come with me back to my office!”

Locking the door, he turns to her.
“What did you see?”
“I thought we was at some hidalgo’s house, but that servant woman, her, I know from before, arrested by the bishop’s guard. Her brother been charged with treasonous plots. And now! She’s servin’ in that house. If she reconized my face today, the bishop’s guard will know where I be and soon be here. What should I do? Why in fuck did you take me there?”

“First, are you sure that woman you saw is the same one you knew from before?”
“Yes! She has that scar on her chin. And I’d know her voice anywheres.”
“Okay. Now think back carefully. Did you say anything? Was she looking at you? Did you get a sense she knew who you were?”
“I don’t know, but she didn’t seem to pay no special mind to me. And no, I didn’t say a word. Seein’ her, I nearly shit myself.”
“Hmm. You were dressed in a habit and hood, the room dim. I think you’re safe. But for now, I want you to stay in your cell. We’ll cut your hair like a penitent. And tomorrow I’ll speak with the senior there. I know and trust him very well. If you were noticed, he’ll have heard. Worry not. I think you’re safe.”

I lead her back to an obscure cell and sit with her til she calms down. All a-tremble like that first night when she latched onto me, that’s how she shakes. I don’t think she has a clue the danger all of us been in.

When I come out, it be afternoon. One of my sisters whispers to me,
“Father Enrique be waitin’ for you.”
I hustle myself to his privy room, and there sits Juan and Gabriel.
“We have been waiting hours, Nicole.”
“Sorry. That girl be mighty shook up, tho she don’t know the least of it.”
“You certain she was referring to Hagar?”

Vallseca closes his eyes; a bitter grimace wrinkles his face.
“I’ve been suspicious a long time. I only chit-chat when she’s around, and make her eat pork with the rest of us, which, being Muslim offends her. And thus upset, her eyes are dulled to our own distaste and sparing bites, hidden by our light talk. Still, she may have woven lies about us to save her family and herself. Nor can I simply cast her out. Indeed, the bishop sent her to us; ‘an act of loving friendship’ he boasted. Well, next week she takes her monthly trip to Cabrera to fetch a dozen goats. After that we’ll see what to do.”

And it seem a strange and terrible thing occurs on that voyage. Corsairs attack the ship as it leaves the castle docks. The captain and helmsmen know how to swim and make it back to Cabrera’s dock. As for the goats, only a few were lost; most jumps overboard and out-swim the captain back to land, while the corsairs haul off their prize, the ship. As for Hagar, we know not what. Taken captive, or drownded perhaps.

Not a day later, and who could it be but the bishop knockin’ at Juan’s door. With feigned surprise he’s welcomed in. Cordial as ever, he chats away…
“Much to discuss. Oh, this and that. Oh, sailors and trade routes and merchandise. And oh, I hope that maid or cook, oh, what’s her name, Addar or Agar? Oh, how’s she working out for you? Oh, you don’t say! Corsairs again? Oh, we must demand a stronger force of navy ships to protect our ports. Oh, let me find you another girl. So many hapless families here that come to me in their dire need. And you would bring them blessings from God to give them a roof and the privilege of work. I’ll count on your mercies. Oh, I must go. So, fare thee well my brother in Christ.”

*After these things the Judge of the World puts Enrique and Juan to the test.*
*-* Genesis, 22:1


In the next episode… perhaps time to throw Reina overboard?

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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