A Chinese sword and an embalmed heart
The hero Aimeric has a sword from China. I originally imagined this, knowing that it was not likely, and hoping that readers would forgive me for stretching the possible given that the story is fantasy.
Then I came across this image:
This is the tomb effigy of JEAN D’ALLUYE, a French noble, buried around 1248 in the Loire Valley, now on display at the Cloisters in NYC.
Helmut Nickel, Curator Emeritus of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, writes in his 1991 article on the effigy: ”Whether it was traded peacefully along the ancient Silk Road, or was carried by a raider on the conquering horses of the Mongols, whether Jean d’Alluye acquired it as an exotic collector’s item in the bazaar of some Levantine port, or took it as booty on a Syrian battlefield, we will never know.”
Also strange: this tomb effigy was lost for years because it had been turned upside down and used as part of a bridge.
I imagined such a sword -- and then discovered that such a sword exists! I want to visit the cloisters to see it.
A second object in story is something I could not have imagined. I came across an article that explained: Crusaders did not want to be buried far from home. However, it clearly wasn't possible to transport bodies back to Europe. Germans cleaned the flesh from the bones of aristocrats so that their bones could be sent home for burial (mos teutonicus). The French often embalmed the heart. and placed it in a metal box. As soon as I read that, I knew that this had to be part of my story! Richard the Lionheart's heart was placed inside a small trunk-shaped box; I am not certain whether these heart shaped boxes were used during the Crusades, as the examples I have found seem to be from later centuries.
In Journey of Souls, the Comte brings his son's embalmed heart back from the Crusades in a metal case shaped like a heart.