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To Have And To Hate: A Medieval Romance
To Have And To Hate: A Medieval Romance
To Have And To Hate: A Medieval Romance
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To Have And To Hate: A Medieval Romance

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A romance set in the Middle Ages.
"He wants to love her, she just wants to hate him."
It is the year 1158, Frederick I of Swabia has come to besiege and conquer Milan: Milanese fiefdoms are taken, nobles killed or imprisoned, and women used as bargaining chips.
Following the tragic death of her family, noblewoman Regina Celeste Balestrieri is now merely a spoil of war, gifted to a Swabian baron.
When he first sees her, Stephan Deinburg of Hezen, conqueror of lands and hearts, does not see her as a precious gift. The girl is clearly pretty, but she is scathing and far too proud for someone who is on the losing side. Locked in combat and determined not to be beaten, Stephan makes her his wife. He wants her body and soul, unaware of the fact that his own heart had already been conquered at first sight.
Regina cannot accept marriage to a warrior who brought death and destruction to her land. If ever she manages to return to Milan, how would she be received by her people? How could she bear to face Guido, the man to whom she was engaged to be married? She can't, but is forced to yield,  stubbornly ignoring the desires and feelings that could make her happy. She is too late to grasp that from hate quite a different emotion can flourish, that the heart knows neither homeland nor pride, and that one can kill for love.
This eventful novel is full of twists and turns, where the lives of conquerors and those they defeat are intertwined, along with their dreams and vendettas.
Data di uscita17 dic 2019
To Have And To Hate: A Medieval Romance
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    Anteprima del libro

    To Have And To Hate - Miriam Formenti


    Foreword by Maria Teresa Siciliano


    This novel was first released by Mondadori in 1991, although it was actually written before Capelli di Luna. Reading it again today, what strikes you first is the way the author depicts the struggle between the Communes and Frederick I. Moreover,at that time in particular, Formenti liked telling stories about love between enemies and reversing the usual perspective.

    Most Italians learned about that period of history from the pro-Commune (i.e. Italian nationalist) interpretations of Berchet and Carducci. Here, however, the author balances the Germanic and the Lombard points of view and in 1991, even though I greatly enjoyed the novel, this aspect was decidedly shocking.

    I am not sure when I noticed that the co-protagonist’s name is Bossi[1]. But there’s no need for a Lega Nord reinterpretation of the historical background: partly because I discovered that the choice of names is purely coincidental, and partly because in 1991 (and especially at the time when Formenti conceived the idea for the book) the Lega had not yet gained the notoriety and significance which it later acquired. Nor do I think that the Lombard rebels in the novel are given preferential treatment.

    At the heart of the story are Regina and Stephan: their love story is complicated not only by the fact that they are enemies but also by the girl’s status as a spoil of war and her previous engagement to Guido. A great many misunderstandings and difficulties will ensue, even more so since both will struggle to understand what they feel.

    Regina, in particular, is very young and confused: discovering passion or learning how to handle a man like hers will prove too much for her initially. Hence a few too many rash decisions on her part. Perhaps.

    On the other hand, despite being a man of the Middle Ages, Stephan has superior characteristics, especially when you consider the personality of his late father. The reader therefore always tends to find themselves on his side. Moreover, if you compare him with Francesco, the protagonist of Capelli di Luna, he seems all the more like the classical knightly hero.

    The other two characters, Guido and Rosa, are also interesting, though I won’t spoil it for you here by saying why.

    Formenti's approach is pacifist. This is seen most clearly in Hans, Stephan’s brother. At the beginning he appears to be a monstrous figure. We first encounter him in the middle of a bloody conquest and he is also seen from Regina’s point of view: she is in shock over seeing him kill all her relatives and he then treats her as a mere spoil of war. Later, however, along with Regina, we learn to separate the man from the side-effects of a war. And, if you think this is just Medieval stuff just think back to how armies behaved during World War II or, much more recently, during the civil war in Yugoslavia.



    22 September 1158

    Fiefdom of San Martino

    After the last twitches of life, the bodies of the three hanged men were abandoned to the wind, which, blustery like a March day, swung them pathetically to and fro.

    The girl knelt on the ground a short distance away from this ghastly group, unaware that the cruel grip on her hair, forcing her to witness the hanging, had gone; unsupported, her head fell forward.

    She no longer felt anything:neither anger nor pain. Not even the fear that had overwhelmed her less than half an hour before, when, escorted by German soldiers, she walked along the village street, following the proud steps of her uncle and two cousins.

    Less than half an hour before her heart cried out at the injustice of their fate. She was filled with hatred for that mob of soldiers who looted, raped, murdered. She seethed with indignation at the Milanese dignitaries who had surrendered after just a month of siege. They had given in to the blackmail of starvation and the brave young men who had sacrificed their lives — trying to prevent the advance of the Imperial army and defend the city to keep all the Milanese territories whole — had done so in vain.

    After the surrender, San Martino, like so many other earldoms, had become a prize to be claimed by Frederick I; and lords who rebelled, like her uncle, the Count, and his sons, had been condemned to die for what the Emperor considered treason.

    The body of her aunt, lying on the ground, almost severed in two by a soldier's sword, no longer made her tremble uncontrollably. There were no more screams or tears now; just an emptiness shielding her from everything that still lay ahead.

    A powerfully built man appeared in front of her, blocking her view of the hanging figures. He wore chain mail under a surcoat as red as the blood that had been shed, and he raised his sword as if about to shed even more.

    The girl did not react as the blade grazed her throat. She raised her face, meekly following the pressure of the weapon, to meet that of the Swabian who had ordered the executions. She submitted indifferently to his domineering gaze, which raked her expertly from head to foot as one might a horse to estimate its value. She, Regina Celeste Balestrieri, whose only crime was to be related to a rebel lord, was nothing more than a spoil of war.

    The Imperial soldier lowered his blade.On his signal a short, stocky man — from Lodi judging by his accent — ordered her to stand up.

    I said get up! he repeated, pulling her up roughly when he realised that she would not obey.

    He says you might be a Balestrieri, but you are still nothing but a harmless woman, he said, repeating in coarse Lombard the words that the Imperial soldier had said in his native tongue. And, glancing briefly at the poor woman lying in a pool of blood, he added: My lord, Hans Deinburg of Hezen, doesn't kill women, unless they turn against him. He will therefore be magnanimous and spare you your life, and if he deems it appropriate, he will return you to your people.

    In silence, her long black hair blowing across her face with every breath of wind, Regina heard his judgement, without understanding its significance.

    Are you slow-witted, girl? the man asked impatiently. All you have to do is tell me who my lord can negotiate with for your ransom. If someone is willing to pay to have you back, he will let you go.

    The dark veil, which had benevolently shrouded the girl's mind, lifted for a moment. Her family was hanging from the branches of a tree and the dead could not pay for anything. However, there was someone else who might attempt to pay her ransom; someone who loved her and would not abandon her. She tried to speak, but her tongue could not formulate the words and the thought trickled away, as the veil fell once more.

    Maybe she's taken leave of her senses ... said the Lodigiano uncertainly, looking at his lord.

    The Imperial soldier grimaced, cocked his head to one side and shrugged. He said something that made the people around him laugh and motioned to the Lodigiano to inform the girl what he had decided to do.

    My lord says he’s sorry that you have no value, he said, resigned yet sceptical. He paused, hoping perhaps to see some glimmer of fear in those dull eyes, then continued, though he knew that he would not be understood: He says you are quite pretty and, at the moment, you seem very biddable. He is going to give you to his brother, the Baron of Hezen. He has been wounded and will be in need of consolation when he comes to take over control of the castle. And as he pressed his hands down onto her shoulders forcing her into a bow, he translated for no-one as he said, I hope you will remain the rag doll that you appear to be. I very much hope so for your sake.



    Events of Autumn 1158




    Fiefdom of San Martino

    At the castle

    Stephan Deinburg, the Baron of Hezen, waited impatiently for the soldiers inside the walls to lower the drawbridge; then, followed by a dozen men, he burst into the wide courtyard at a gallop and pulled up his horse, which reared up nervously next to the soldier who ran to greet him.

    The man fell back a little but recovered immediately and gave a deep bow. My lord. he said we weren't expecting you so soon. I hope that your wound has healed well.

    The Baron leapt nimbly off his horse, and having entrusted it to his squire, stripped off his gloves, giving the soldier a displeased look. The wound had healed, of course, but his arm still ached where he had been struck and he found it difficult to hold a sword for any length of time. He was also annoyed: his brother had had to leave urgently for Pavia, so he had been forced to interrupt his convalescence in Lodi in order to take up his post at the garrison of San Martino. And he was all the more annoyed because Hans, during the temporary absence of both men, had left a man in charge of his command that he did not trust and of whom he meant to rid himself as soon as possible.

    I'm fine, he replied, curtly. Where’s Captain Ulthdrich, Hrodgard, why is he not here?

    He's injured, sir.

    Really? Stephan raised his eyebrows. I thought the bastard was made of iron. And how did it happen? I know for a fact that he was not injured during the taking of the castle.

    The soldier seemed embarrassed. That is true. You see... he stammered, then eventually, trying to find the right words. "The captain...

    It doesn't matter, I'll find out, cut in the Baron, irritated, accompanying his words with an imperious gesture. The uncertainty of Hrodgard, Ulthdrich's right-hand man and another treacherous character he did not want in his service, made him think that there was likely to be no honourable answer to his question. The captain was a great swordsman, but in every other respect he was a dim-witted boar without any conscience. It was possible, then, that a woman had tried to fight him off and had aimed a little better than the peasant girl in Hezen who, years earlier, had stabbed him in the buttock with a pitchfork while he was pulling up his trousers after raping her. He looked around him and stared at the walls. They are not sufficiently guarded. See to it, Georg, he ordered one of his personal guards who was at his side. And I want patrols around the boundaries of the castle. He looked back at Hrodgard. What kind of state is old Ulthdrich in that he has not seen to this? No one approached us when we arrived.

    Actually, sir, there is a patrol out. Unfortunately, we have been short of men since your brother and his men left. The captain was anxiously awaiting your arrival.

    Anxiously? the young Baron repeated, sarcasm in his voice, curving his lips in a tight smile that did not reach his eyes. I am astonished. In any case, we’ll soon put things right. My soldiers have stayed behind with the carts and will be here in a couple of hours. You will be my guide, I want to see around the castle.

    I'm at your disposal. If you want to see Captain Ulthdrich first... he can explain what happened better than I.

    I don't want to, not at present, interrupted the Baron. Let's begin by taking a look at the guard house and prisons. Hilda, he added, addressing the only woman in his entourage, a timid-looking servant of about forty years, find out where the prisoner is that you will be looking after and join her.

    The woman nodded, curtseying deeply, while the Baron turned again to look at Hrodgard, who appeared to be rooted to the spot.

    Well, what's wrong?

    My lord, I regret to inform you that the girl is dead.

    This news did not unduly upset Stephan Deinburg. He was not greatly concerned about the Lombard noblewoman, except in terms of potential profit, and he had every intention of surrendering her in exchange for a substantial ransom. In his message, Hans had described her as being a rare beauty, with eyes of amethyst and ebony hair, mild and meek as a lamb to slaughter. A real temptation! However, he had neglected to inform him that the bloody conflict during and after the capture of the castle had robbed her of her wits. The messenger had been quick to reveal this to him, a man from Lodi, who was faithful to him, having rescued him from death several months earlier. Without doubt his brother had thought to play a trick on him; both brothers abhorred madness because of what had happened to the third of the Deinburg brothers.

    It doesn't matter, he commented, casually. Did you hear that, Hilda? See instead to finding me a room with a comfortable bed.

    Hrodgard looked very relieved, rousing the Baron’s suspicions, he was sure that the other man was up to something.

    She committed suicide... the soldier quickly volunteered without having been asked, as they walked over to the guard house. And he told the story of the death of the beautiful Milanese woman with such a wealth of unnecessary detail that her suicide struck the Baron as increasingly unlikely.

    It seemed that the girl had tried to escape with the help of a servant and, when she was discovered after having stabbed Captain Ulthdrich with a dagger, had thrown herself out of the window.

    Deinburg pursed his lips. Perhaps she had been thrown out of the window. Damn it. He would never know the truth!

    The creak of a heavy door roused the small figure curled up on the pallet who instantly sat up, straining her ears to hear better.

    It was too early for that pigswill that her jailer brought her once a day, and the heavy steps that echoed off the stone floor of the dungeon were as frightening and certain as Death himself.

    For a moment she held her breath, her body strained forward, her gaze fixed on the cell door that opened to the darkness outside. Ulthdrich, damn you! It was not too soon now for the Swabian to come and take his revenge on her. Day after day she had felt the anxiety pressing down in her chest and fear clouding her thoughts. What would become of her at the hands of that monster?

    Trembling, like a little wounded bird, she hid her head under the protective wing of her arms. She had emerged too early from the confusion and apathy that had protected her after the death of her relatives. The fog that had invaded her mind had lifted suddenly, after only a single day, leaving her with the memory of every moment she had lived through on that dreadful day: the clang of blades that clashed against one other, the screams of the wounded, the hissing of the wind that seemed to carry the angry voices of the dead. Again and again she had seen the ropes hanging, felt the chill of the iron beneath her chin and the strength of the hands that had forced her to bow. And to that chain of dreadful memories more, no less terrible ones had been added when that filthy old man had entered her room with the intention of raping her.

    She had defended herself. She had done so with all her strength, avenging the wounds that she had suffered and trying to protect herself from those he wanted to inflict on her.

    She clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palms, recalling the arrogance of that body that crushed her, the violence of that mouth which sought hers, the frenzy of those calloused, sweaty hands that tore at her dress to seek the warmth of her skin. She still had that rasping voice ringing her ears, promising her squalid moments of ecstasy, and recalled, horrified, his terrifying threats after she had stabbed him with his own dagger. She knew that he would hold true to those threats. Though wounded, the man had shown his cruelty by slitting throat of the maid before her very eyes, who had run to her after hearing her cries,, ordering that poor lifeless body to be left to rot in the same cell where she herself would then be imprisoned.

    Four days. For four endless days she had been forced to share a cramped cell with a corpse, feeling fear, disgust, guilt, and even the desire to lose herself again; but that blessed apathy had not returned.

    She groaned, clasped her fingers together to pray and brought her fingertips to her lips.

    Oh Lord, keep that wretched man away from me! Give me just a little longer. Give me... She broke off when she heard a cell door opening. She let out a long sigh of relief and leaned wearily against the damp stone wall, lifting her face towards the arrow-slit that let in a strip of light. Thank you...she whispered.

    Thank God it wasn't for her.

    But for how much longer? If only the new lord of the castle would arrive before Ulthdrich's wound healed...

    She recalled the judgement passed upon her in every detail. Every word spoken by the Imperial soldier that had destroyed her family had stayed with her, frozen in a corner of her memory, waiting for her to regain her faculties. Now she was able to say the name of the person who might pay her ransom. Her fate was not yet sealed. She could still hope.

    She suddenly laughed, in that unnatural way that made her fear she was going mad. Hope... She had no hope! She could only sink and lose herself in futile dreams far removed from reality so she would not die of anguish.

    It was fantasy to think that her beloved Guido could get into the castle to save her. It was the delusion of a desperate creature to imagine the unknown Baron of Hezen to be a generous and fair knight who would save her from Ulthdrich's clutches and set her free to return to Milan. Perhaps that particular Swabian would turn out to be even more greedy, disgusting and cruel than the captain.

    The Swabians were worse than beasts. The Swabians were heartless bastards and she was already dead, dead, dead!

    No, I must not lose heart, she told herself to overcome her fear. She was still very much alive; holding out despite everything. She would pray and hope to the last. Until her final breath.

    She crossed her arms under her bosom and closed her eyes. She could not sleep, but thought back to all the wonderful, beautiful things that had been in her life before those terrible days. Guido's smile, his strong arms, his tenderness. Horseback rides in the countryside, laughing on the grass, their promises. Guido... imprisoned in Lodi after the battle at the ford of Corneliano. What had become of him after the surrender? She had asked herself that question dozens of times in those days. Was he still alive? Had his father been able to pay his ransom from prison? Had what had happened to him left him whole in body and soul? Would she ever see him again?

    She felt unease creeping into her again. I will not give up! she said fiercely, clenching her fists. I mustn’t... then, drained, she let out a deep breath and passed a hand over her face which came away dripping with sweat. Was that her hand? And her face? What state was her face in? She ran her fingers through her hair trying to unknot it, but by now it was just a bedraggled, tangled mass. She knew she had lost weight and felt a moment of satisfaction thinking that perhaps the voracious Ulthdrich would not find her quite so desirable now.

    By the grace of God! If she had to die, please spare her having to first endure congress with that monster!

    She wanted to cry, but the sound of approaching footsteps that then stopped outside her cell froze all her emotions.

    She saw the peephole open and after a short silence she heard male voices. Shortly after, the door was opened wide and a man bent down to enter.

    Opening the peephole to look at the prisoner locked in the cell, the Baron immediately recognised the strong smell pervading the air. He had smelt it many times before: it was the stench of death.

    There's a corpse in this cell! he said harshly, turning to Hrodgard.

    The soldier hesitated. This was a woman who was guilty of rebellion, my lord. I had her buried this morning once I had been informed of it.

    So what about this one? asked the Baron again, indicating the shadowy figure he saw curled up on the pallet.

    The servant I mentioned, Baron. She killed one of our men to help her mistress escape. She's as dangerous as the devil and... it would not surprise me if she was in his service. He hesitated again. If you'd like to continue...

    His hesitation and haste to move on once again made the Baron suspicious. What if events had not unfolded as the anxious Hrodgard had said? Old Ulthdrich’s enthusiasm/appetite for young girls was well known; tolerated with indifference by his father, but not by him, who had healthy desires and normal instincts and would never have tortured a woman to force her to accept him. But for that old, sadistic pig that vile foreplay before he possessed them was perhaps the most enjoyable part.

    Open up, he ordered. Once he was inside the cell, he gave Hrodgard a piercing look and added icily, From the stench that's still in here, I would say that your rebel had been dead for at least three days. He slowly shone the torch that one of the guards had given him around the cell, and stopped to cast light on the girl. He saw only a tangled mass of black hair that covered her shoulders and much of her face which blended in with her dark clothing.

    He approached and looked at her more closely. The girl had lowered her head, hiding the only part of her face that he might have been able to see, but he was sure that she was watching him. Was she a dangerous witch as Hrodgard had said? And in fact... a servant? The dress she wore was dirty and torn, but was not made of rough canvas. A servant dressed in silk?

    Without a word he passed the torch to the guard who had followed him in and lifted the girl, feeling her stiffen in his arms. He carried her out of the cell, away from the stench, and put her back down on the ground, pushing her back against the wall.

    Regina lifted her face, surprised, wondering if this was the new lord of the castle. Tall and imposing, he wore a dark tunic, cinched at the waist with a leather belt. He was young, definitely under thirty, and had light-coloured hair which he wore long and straight, almost down to his broad shoulders. He had a handsome face, tanned by the sun of the summer just gone, a firm chin and a thin, hard mouth. His eyes, topped

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