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Shire of Nord du Lac

Email Francesca

I was born in Trani, Italy in the year 1357 A.D. Trani is a small town on the East coast of Italy. My family built the town.

My mother was thirteen when she married my father (who was 50). There was never a great deal of love between them, but she was a good wife and devoted to him. My father was in the shipping business and Trani was a good port. He owned a hundred ships and the variety of fine things that made their way into our home was remarkable I now realize. We had cinnamon from the East and Persian carpets on the floors, my mother had a necklace of jade beads and I, well, I had just about anything I could desire. I being the only child and that when my father at 55 had given up all hope of having any heirs. He was so happy that I never lacked for anything and even learned to read and write , he brought me to the great museums of the world and I learned the points of drawing and painting. I was a forward woman and he encouraged it in every way, maybe because I was his only child. I even learned the basics of mathematics and geometry. The mason who carved the gateway to our city with statues of my mother and my father on either side, when I turned 16 he carved my likeness in stone and placed it over the entranceway... it still is there if you should perchance go to Italy and visit the town of Trani.

My father, God rest his soul, never realized that I was not his daughter and I fear that I would probably never have even come into this world had it not been for a chance encounter my mother had one day. The truth came out the miserable winter of the year 1375 when I was 18, the same age my mother was when I was brought into this world. That was a horrible year, the sickness came and many perished in our fair town. My father had been taken two winters past by the Ague and my mother had been courted almost ceaselessly by the goldsmith. It was in the winter of 1375 that the truth came out, my mother had developed the symptoms that were associated with the vile disease and she knew that she had but a day to live at the most. She called me to her side and gave me a parchment, I remember it well, the image of her is burned in my mind as she lay there so helpless, nothing that the doctors did caused any cessation of the illness. Her long dark hair unloosed upon the pillow and the tremble in her hand as she took my hand. Her hand was cold and even the fire in the grate failed to warm her. She had just set down the posset the doctors had given her and its aroma of fennel and wheat wafted up to me. "My darling daughter", she said, "I am sending you to find your father..." as I started to speak she only said, "no do not ask questions...but trust me and all will be well, go with the man who comes to our home in the morning and take this letter to hive to the one you find at your journey's end." I remembered it well because tat was the last time I saw her and those were the last words she spoke to me

Needless to say, I traveled with the entourage which my mother had so adroitly concocted. We ended up in far off England and this was where I found the truth of my life.

The lord high chamberlain had realized that my father was none other than one of the king's special guards. Unbeknownst to me he was called into court before the king while I was in audience. Would that I had known or I would have called a halt to so unseemly a display. But it was too late to turn back and the missive that my own dear mother had placed into my hands was read before the court. When the letter was read it was a shock to us all because I never realized the truth of my ancestry. My father (Trani) had been called off to a foreign port and had been away for many months when my mother had a chance encounter with my true father in the town. He had been smitten by her unknown to her and he found out who she was and where she bided her time, he then contrived to meet her as if by chance and try as she might she could not turn away from his advances. For you see, she was in a marriage with very little love and he was on Crusade and had not been home for years, she reminded him, if not of home itself, of the love of his home he left behind and the call was too great to pass up. They tarried for many a day in the olive orchards and vineyards and when he left he had no idea that I had come into being. True knight that he was, Sir John the Plain took me to his bosom as daughter and with his solemn pledge swore to be a guardian unto me. Many things happen in the courses of our lives that are neither planned nor coerced, and so was the love that grew between my deliverer and myself as we journeyed to seek my father. Lord Shaul ben Yisrael of Poznan was not an unwanted suitor and so our affection grew as each day waned and we approached England.

Lord Shaul proved in every way a true gentleman and upon arrival beseeched my father, once all above said business was done, if he could have my hand in marriage. Ah you say, but he is a Jew, what does your father say to this? Well, when my father tarried awhile with my mother, he came to understand the faith my family holds true, for you see my family are also Jews alike and thus the match would not be amiss. My true father was a crusader and as such encountered many strange cultures and peoples, when he first set foot outside of England he was very wary of other ways but as time went on he soon learned that other ways had as much validity as his own and was content to see that the daughter whom he had had thrust upon him was to be placed in such an advantageous match.

After we were married I went to Poland with my husband because England chose at that very point in time to cut themselves off from the world. England refused to trade or have any dealings with the outside world and we would have been forced to leave, so off we went.

Poland is not anything like Italy but there is one consolation, the sickness did not reach us there. And so I come to the end of my story so far ,and far away from the home in which I grew up. I do ply my craft of portraiture and while my husband is out at sea I am thankful that I was taught to read because it makes the time pass much more quickly. One day a family will be our fortune and we will want for nothing else in the world.

Written by Francesca da Trani

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