My master named me Arion. It means war-horse who speaks with a human voice. I am a dappled Destrier, a horse bred for use in warfare. It is 1428 and I have just returned to my home in Domremy on the border between Lorraine and Champagne. I have returned from a grand parade in Reims where the Dauphine of France has been crowned King Charles VII of France.
I was injured in combat that helped bring this victory about. My left cannon bone is bruised, and I am lame. My master, Philipe, Duke of Domremy, is a good man and this is the story of how I came to be in his stable of 100 horses and to fight in the battle that changed France for ever.
As a colt, I would look out at the Guadalquivir River, running beside my pasture in southwestern Spain. Here, I would chase passing boats moving in the currents of the water. There, on the grassy bank I would run to beat them – wondering where they came from and where they were going.
The river carried them lazily upon the water, teasing me to run after them as dust teases the nose to sneeze. And, I would run to the end of the bank where I would stop to watch the boats drift out of sight beyond the horizon, swallowed by the sky.
I believed the river fell into a great chasm; and its foam would rise as clouds to bring rain and the water would circle back to begin all over again. Believing this, I would run to other end of my fenced paddock to wait the boats to chase once again.
Such was my world, small and neatly contained and as easily explained. But I was soon to learn that this is not the way of the world. It is far larger and not so simply understood. Rivers do not always fall into chasms but often flow into seas; and their boats often carried to greater destinies.
Such was the summer day in 1425 when a barge shored itself on the bank of my paddock. I was two at the time, saddle broke, curious and spirited. Two men lassoed and lead me high-head and rearing into a corral with a dozen other horses on the barge. We fought, we nipped, we whinnied – we were frightened; and as we drifted away from the shore, I learned rivers do not circle back upon themselves.
The barge made its way down the river to the Port of Cadiz. Here, I along with the other horses, were loaded on another ship, much larger and with sails. Stalled in a cargo hole, we made our way to Nantes, France where we were unloaded and once again transported on another barge down the Loire River.
Soon I was brought to Philipe’s 100 stalled stable in Domremy. In trust, I began my training that would eventually take me into a conflict between France and England that had been on going for almost a hundred years.
After my arrival, rumors surfaced of a possible assault on the nearby town of Orleans and Philipe agreed to lease some of his horses for the siege. We were well-trained; we were ready – prepared for anything except for a particular commander who walked into our stable one morning to choose their steed for the assault.
Dressed in white armor, it was peasant girl; a seventeen year-old warrior named Joan de Arc. She reminded me of my master’s children back in Spain. But her countenance set her apart; a divine conviction seemed to glow in her eyes; and when she spoke, her words, so certain, appeared to be from God.
I do not know it were fate or happenstance that she chose me over 100 others to be the stallion for her appointed battle in Orleans. But I could not have borne a rider more proudly nor have a more noble or brave soul sit my saddle. The grip of her hands on my reins was assured as of hands clasped in devout prayer. Her commands echoing pledged voices of the saints given to her at age twelve.
Carrying her into battle, I became as the river of Guadalquivir, flowing into waters, never to be circled back. I carried her as the river once carried me into a sea more vast than I could ever imagine – a river channeled by the very hand of God that by obedience and trust his will be done.
Note: Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was eventually captured and tried for heresy; she was burned at the stake in 1431. She was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1920.
At trial, when asked if she was in God’s grace, she gave this answer: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” So be it for all of us.
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