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Taking the Cross

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A short story set in during the 7th Crusade.

Adventure / Other
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

February 9th, 1250

Dry hot wind whistled through the visor of my helmet. Sand clung to every part of my body and the rancid smell of death lingered in the air. I heard groaning from not far off and the sound of someone sobbing. The memory of how I had got here evaded me. My head ached with a deep throb, my throat dry and hurting. My faceplate felt dented in, it pressed against my forehead. I tried to open my eyes but the sun filtering in through my warped visor blinded me. My back felt damp, it must have been sweat from the godforsaken heat.

March 14th, 1245

A memory of France came to me. Mass had begun, light poured in through the stained glass windows of the Cathedral. We stood and sung the ritual hymn, its sound reverberating from the walls. The priest was old and wrinkled. He shuffled his way up to the dais. The priest began his homily, he spoke of the Saracens. A horde of them had surged from the desert and swarmed over the Holy land like a plague of locusts. They had massacred the Christians, put grand churches to the torch and had taken the Holy Land. Fury overtook me, how dare they, this was an insult not only to Christendom but to those Christians who had spent their blood to claim it. Rumor spread that Louis IX King of France was to launch a crusade on the holy land and drive the Saracen hordes back into the desert. I remember the smile on my face that day. I knew what I was to do. I was going to fight for God and the King.

February 9th, 1250

I tried to think of how long I had been lying here. I had to find the remnants of the army; they would be making their way back to the main body in Cairo. I began to lift myself up. Pain burnt through my lower body. I cried out, tears of pain formed in my eyes and I dropped back to the ground. I decided to take a different approach I lifted my arms and fumbled with my chin strap. My gauntlets made the attempts clumsy. I couldn’t get it off. I yelled for help. My voice sounded so weak in my ears. I called out but no response came.

April 12th, 1247

I remember my father the day I told him I was to take the cross. I could see the pride in his eyes; his son would become a crusader just like him. He told me tales of his crusade, the glory of taking Jerusalem, the Saracens fleeing before the soldiers of God. The holy land once again in the hands of the Christians. I felt reassured in my decision. It was any good Christian’s duty. Paintings of Saracens committing all kinds of barbarous acts now filled France, they were demonic figures wrapped in strange cloth with evil pointed beards and sharp untrustworthy eyes.

February 9th, 1250

I came in and out, fever dreams plaguing my mind. I saw the image of Christ and saw him hung upon the cross. I saw all manner of devilry and trickery. Satan had come for me. He meant to claim me for my sins. I tried to get up many times. Once in a moment of clarity I got to my knees and almost stood. Intense pain in my lower gut stopped me and I fell with a crunch. I blacked out. When I awoke my legs felt numb and the slit in my helm no longer let in light. There was some relief however, the hot sun had faded. Night had fallen.

January 16th, 1249

We had finally crossed the sea into the lands of the Saracens. We took the port city of Damietta with ease. Theses barbarous Saracens with their false god had no chance against the might of Christendom. We fight with the lord God on our side. Some spoke of angels fighting alongside us, I didn’t see them but I believed it to have been true. I was assigned under my father’s liege lord, Robert the good, Count of Artois. His army was accompanied by a small force of the Knights Templar, their burnished armor and heavy horse made for a grand sight. For our attack on Cairo, the Lord God did not look on us with favor. We were not prepared for the desert and made our retreat. Around this time a Saracen Christian came to Count Robert. He told us the Christians of this land supported us, he told Count Robert of a Saracen leader’s whereabouts. With his capture or death, we could do a great blow to the Saracen forces and turn the tides in our favor. We rode the desert in the night. We came upon a Saracen encampment. The camp was not just soldiers there were women and children. They were Muhammadans; even so what I have done bothers me greatly. I saw not the glory of God in our actions but something else entirely. The blood and carnage of that day still haunts me. I pray to the Lord God and Jesus Christ to give me clarity.

February 10th, 1250

I awoke to heat. The sun had come to greet me. I felt like death, my body ached, my mind dulled and sluggish. No one had come to my call or my aid. My throat was dry and aching, how long had it been since I had drank. My will failed and I began to weep. I don’t know how long I laid there as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I woke to the sound of clinking armor and boots crunching in the sandy ground. I tried to call out but in my fall and subsequent fever dreams my helmet had moved, my mouth now covered by the visor. I heard sobbing and someone pleading, then a scream, I started to panic. I pushed at my helmet and tried to force it loose. I didn’t budge. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. I decided to take another approach and worked at my gauntlet to free my hands. I fumble at the clasp to my helm. It eventually came loose. The dint in my helmet dug into my forehead as I tried to force it loose.

February 8th, 1250

The Saracen guide told Count Robert of Al Mansurah a town lightly garrisoned. We again rode upon it in the night. The gates stood ajar and Count Robert had us move in to seize the town. The town was empty and unguarded or at least it seemed so. A deep feeling of unease overcame me, there was something entirely wrong. A horn broke the silence of the night. Saracen soldiers filed from the buildings within the town. We were surrounded. They fell on us and we fought hard I saw many of my fellow Christians fall. Our ranks scattered, Count Robert was nowhere to be found. We needed to get out. A quick-thinking Templar called for a charge. Those of us still horsed followed. We crashed into the men holding the gate with heavy horse and heavy armor. The fighting was thick but we cleared the gate. Their forces still surrounded the town. The Templar found a weak spot in their ranks and we charged again. As we came at them I remember the spear coming at me. I remember the horse falling away underneath me and then a sickly crunch.

February 10th, 1250

Blood trickled into my eyes from the deep cut my helmet caused. The moans and stench hit me strong no longer shielded by the barrier of my helm. I looked around, dead and dying men littered the battlefield. I propped myself up, the pain seemed to be numbing. What I saw terrified me, my leg splayed sideways at an odd angle and a broken shaft of a spear jutted from the middle of my stomach. I realized it was not sweat that dampened my back, it was blood. I tried to move my legs but nothing happened. I couldn’t help it. I stared at my ruined body and began to cry. A scream woke me from my self-pity, I looked around and saw a group of Saracens, one drove his sword deep into the body of a wounded pleading Christian. He casually bent to check the man’s possessions before pulling his curved sword clean. One of the men wandered in my direction, a bloody sword in his hand. He saw me and I scrambled trying to get away, I looked wildly for a weapon but there were none close to me. My strength failing I collapsed, I was so weak all I could do was lie there and watch his approach. He stood over me. I didn’t see rage or hatred in his eyes. I saw pity. He raised his sword.

“Please... no” I whimpered as I weakly raised my hand to fend it off.

He said something in his strange tongue as his sword plunged into me.

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