... And the love of Aldwin and Gertrude was known and celebrated by all.
On the night of Aldwin’s leavetaking, the two joined in prayer and held vigil until dawn. Bells rang out at daybreak, and their ringing shook loose a block of the chapel’s stone. It shattered between the two lovers and the altar.
Astonished, as the chapel was in all ways sturdy, they approached the stone’s remains. Among the grey pieces lay those that were darker. Another stone had nested within the first. This second, dark stone had split in two even halves. The cleft sides of this stone were smooth and black as polished glass, as if bisected by a blade of impossible sharpness.
Aldwin and Gertrude knew this to be a sign from the Lord, and each took a half as keepsake.
Lo, a miracle! For when they looked into the reflection cast by the dawn light on the stone’s smooth side, they saw not their own visages but each other’s, accompanied by their voices – small and hollow – from within their partner’s halves of the stone.
Once the blush of daybreak faded, their stones turned cloudy and quiet.
Aldwin and his countrymen began their march towards Antioch, and the pair were heartened. God had smiled upon them, and they would never be alone.
Upon waking each day, Aldwin would take to the privacy of his tent or lodgings, and Gertrude her chambers. They were careful to never tell another of their secret, which belonged only to them and to the Lord.
They rejoiced at seeing and hearing one another, though their voices were distant, and they each appeared like bodies submerged below the surface of a still, black bog.
Yet, soon the drudgery of Aldwin’s travels and of Gertrude’s routines and duties left them bereft of words to share. Before, their love had never been scheduled or restricted. Now anxiety, hectorings, doubt and fear were the only messages sent between the miracle stones.
Then, after a night’s carousing in the hospitable confines of a friendly earl’s hall, Aldwin failed to greet the dawn.
Gertrude did not appear in the stone without flushed cheeks and a sharp tongue for some time. When Gertrude was caught talking into a stone by her handmaiden, her mother and father talked of lovesickness affecting her reason.
Then, during his crossing, Aldwin’s half stone was swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea. Gertrude spent months beneath a veil without explanation. Until a messenger arrived with a letter from Aldwin, an apology for her stone’s darkness.
Two years passed, and the feast that greeted his safe return lasted days. Aldwin and Gertrude never parted again, and Gertrude’s half stone has remained dark since, without the trace of its miracle.
published 4 September 2013