previous threads: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=crusader+quest
Thread 5 didn't archive fully: http://archive.4plebs.org/tg/thread/34542810/#q34542810
character sheet: http://pastebin.com/rZQ8vVBd
It is the Year of Our Lord, 1135.
You are Wilhelm, Lord of Ramla.
And as ever you found yourself bordering on a crisis. Your brother Hugo has done the unthinkable, abducted a princess, child-ruler of Antioch no less, and found shelter behind the walls of Saracen Damascus. Diplomats in service to the Queen of Jerusalem have gone to the neutral city to petition for the return of Constance and her abductors, your brother and Raymond of Tripoli.
While this goes on, your brother's life possibly in peril, you still had to organize the muster for Ascalon. New men were arriving every day, in your own Ramla and in your lord Count Hugh's Jaffa. Levantine soldiers, soldiers from Germany and Italy, Frankish levies, some from stranger places. The word seems to have spread fast in Christendom and was attracting adventurers like flies to a stinking carcass. This was a boon in some measure, in others a frustration. Who commanded some of these freebooters come up from parts unknown?
And not just soldiers, for where soldiers marched others followed. Journeymen smiths, armourers and fletchers, tinkers and jacks, and pimps with gangs of whores in service who were generals in their own right. Women with scampering children, the families of some men who were loathe to leave them behind. Merchants with trinkets who knew soldiers were an easy mark with ready pay. Priests and surgeons who would make it their duty to care for the body and soul.
A roving nomad town with no lord or reeve to manage them.
Supplies would need to be reallocated. You had food stuffs and supplies coming from the north in slow moving caravans. Your own crops have been harvested, animals slaughtered and salted, water gathered and barreled (for the land was a thirsty country, and water the most necessary of supplies). You may need to make a contract with some other grain port lest your army eat itself into starvation in the opening days of your campaign.
Wagons were being commandeered. Not just for food but for the parts of war machines and towers that would be assembled before the gates of Ascalon. Achilles' clever war machines upon which all success relied. Those you had guarded by your best men, one-eyed Bayard in command. Let not misfortune spell doom for your campaign at so late an hour.
You stalked the halls of your tower going from one task to the next, your squire Alexius a nervy shadow behind your man Sir Etienne, who spoke on word of Count Foix's arrival in Jaffa.
"He brings a body of Spaniards with him," Etienne was telling you, "The man Rodrigo and some companions. You'll recall Rodrigo from the tournament." Which served only to remind you of Hugo's peril, which made your guts tense enough to give you pause, leaning upon the wall for support. Teeth of God, this whole affair would make you grey before your time.
Your majordomo put a hand to your shoulder, squeezed reassurance. Etienne seemed without fatigue in all this. You were glad to have him.
"I shall make preparations to start moving some of our guests to Jaffa," he said. You nodded. Your hall was growing crowded with noble and half-noble guests whom manners dictated you could not turn at the gate and force to occupy the growing camp sprawling outside your walls.
"Ho, Wil!" you looked up to see three young men approach down the corridor. Old friends had come calling as well, young knights of the Rhine like yourself, whom last you'd seen as squires. Gerhard, Ludegast and Karl. The four of you had been known as the 'Squire Hellions of Trier' and had commandeered many a street for horse racing or plagued the village girls at fair time. Your blood quickened at the sight of the grinning boys, who had called on you just yesterday. Gerhard's eye followed a passing serving girl before his attention was back on you.
"Brothers," you clasped hands with each in turn as you'd done in younger days. "You've met Sir Etienne."
"Hail, old man," Ludegast said with something like a snicker. Etienne frowned i disapproval at the swaggering swordsmen.
"Come drink with us brother," Karl said, grabbing your shoulder, "We're making a game to see who'll bed the most girls before we must leave. Faw, if we'd known the Holy Land had so many beautiful women we'd have come sooner."
"So far Gerhard leads," Ludegast said, "But only because our captain is absent." He knuckled your chest marking you as the captain.
Etienne's frown deepened. The Hellions' smiles grew. You felt it infecting you, the energy of your comrades as it had done in yeas past. Truth, you could use the distraction for at least one evening.
> go with them
> duty first, leisure later
> "We're making a game to see who'll bed the most girls before we must leave. Faw, if we'd known the Holy Land had so many beautiful women we'd have come sooner."
Wilhelms already won this
> duty first, leisure later
>sending our sister on campaign
silly Anon a woman's place isn't on the battlefield, it's like you want her to raped by filthy Saracen rapists
[/spoiler]seriously this is not something we want happening AGAIN and we don't want to encourage her unwomanly behavior[/spoiler]
We should probably leave her behind. Need to make sure to focus and that no one can really use the fact that we have a pagan lover against us politically.
Ofcourse before we leave we will fuck her brain out.
You look to each in turn, sharing their grin.
"Lads, you don't know how much you tempt me," you said, "But duty comes first. If I've the time though, I'll come find you once the chores are done."
It was as if Etienne and the Hellions had swapped faces, his frown grew into a smirk, while their grins slipped to disappointed frowns.
"Chores," Gerhard blew at his mustache, "You sound like an old dogsbody." He took you rough around the neck. "But if you do finish early, find us down in the common house and we'll stand you a drink. You keep working like this and you'll become an old man before your time."
You untangled yourself from him with a fond smile. "An old, rich man," you said, pushing him away, "Fortune isn't won through drinking games."
"Maybe so," Karl said, his eyes roving as Maggie bustled past, "But they've won more 'en a few good nights." The lads broke into laughter as they left in a throng, off to harass the women of your keep.
Had you been as oblivious as they were in days past? You could only shake your head and pinch your brow in amused consternation. Such boys they were in every measure.
Etienne coughed. "Come," he said, "We must review the muster."
In your study you took a seat and read the parchment Etienne handed you. It listed names of noble guests and cataloged their forces. All in you had some four hundred men-at-arms, two hundred archers, and near fifty horsemen, and that was just what paraded beyond your walls. No doubt some had journeyed on to Jerusalem, but their return was expected. They had brought money, and your coffers were filling with the coin they spent.
And this was just the men in Ramla, not counting the force building in Jaffa or those yet to arrive.
Near seven hundred men, with double that number of camp followers. Beyond your wildest hopes.
"We can call this a success," you said.
"It would be immodest to call it anything short of that," Etienne replied, "And the nobles are swearing to follow your command. For the campaign at least these are your men. Not the Queen's nor Hugh's. A double success, and a step closer to your goal."
"Indeed," you fanned yourself with the parchment, feeling rather pleased with it all.
"Now we may need to nominate sub-commanders," Etienne said, "The chief of these lordlings is Arnold of Nassau. I'd suggest giving him command of one wing of troops. But you'll need to name another. There's a Frankish man called Sir Valeran. Balancing the Frankish and German troops might be ideal to prevent friction."
"But I have my own men," you countered, "And there's no guarantee this will prevent squabbling. Might exacerbate it if the two men don't get along."
Etienne nodded. "True. I'd suggest either this Valeran or your own man, Solomon of course would make an excellent warlord."
"Not itching for your own command?" you asked. Etienne straightened up a little. No doubt he'd make a fair commander. He had the nobility, and the skill.
"My duty is to assist you, command of troops would distract from that," he said.
> name Valeran to command
> name Solomon to command
> write-in another
> name Valeran to command
While i think Solomon may be a better commander the troops are all french and german. It would be hard for him to lead them as he is a Nubian Coptic Christian. He can lead our Ramla forces though, those we know him
> name Valeran to command
Solomon is going to be our pic related and commander of our local muster Valeran can lead the Frankish & German soldiers
You drummed your thumbs upon your desk.
"Name the Frank," you said, "No point alienating the Franks. Send them both to me so that I can confer these commands personally."
"Of course," Etienne bowed. He turned with a click of his heel and left on your order.
You lay back in your seat, eyes closed, trying to ignore your mounting headache. You still had other things to deal with. Letters to Hugh and Melisende to co-ordinate the troops and the business with your brother. Who was to guard Ramla in your absence. Where exactly you would place Mathilde in all this, and other, more intimate arrangements such as where your woman Chihirizahd would go - with you or to be placed in some other lord's care for safeguarding.
It was all a pain in the arse.
It was about then that a servant intruded with a plate of food and some wine. Portia had been conferred to you by Alice of Antioch, no doubt a spy in her service, but she had made herself useful. A blonde girl with hair almost white and a slim figure, you can see just why Alice had thought she'd make a good spy in your hall.
The girl, trained as a falconer, was none the less proving her worth in other positions and had gone to assist whoever had need. Now she was bringing you food.
"Margaret said you looked hungry," she said, "Thought I'd take it on myself to see you fed."
You took a sip of wine. "Thank you Portia," you said.
"Did I see Sir Etienne just leave," the girl asked, looking to the door as she leaned upon your desk.
"He'll be back," you said. You reached into your desk and drew out a letter. "In the meanwhile, you could send these on to Count Hugh. Take it up to the pigeons." You slid it over to her. She tarried a while but when you said naught else but ate and drank, she left.
Whether she was an obvious spy or trying some other game with you it mattered not. It took more than a well timed delivery of much needed food to win you over.
A knock upon your door and Alexius came in with another lad, the boy that was serving an apprenticeship with Achilles.
The boy gave a slight bow. "Master sent me to ask permission from you to trade with some Bedouin who're nearby," he said, "I told him you probably wouldn't care, but the man wants to be proper about these things. Says he also needs a hun'red or more pfennings for the deal."
You sat up straight at that. A princely sum to just casually ask of you.
"Did he say why?" you asked. The boy shrugged. He was a flat eyed, still faced lad. You could see why a man so given to secrets would employ him.
"Just said it was important," he said.
> no, not for that much
"Done," you say.
The boy nodded more than bowed, gave your squire a friendly pat on the shoulder and left. A bit of an insolent streak in that lad, but you were hardly a disciplinarian to thrash him for it. You drank more of your wine. Alexius kept himself busy by polishing an old pair of your boots. A good lad, if simple. It was hard to think his father had been so cunning an agent of the Assassins.
So simple though that he offered no great conversation as you waited for the arrival of your appointed commanders. Hugo could offer you conversation, and Etienne's own squire won points for personality if not intellect. Perhaps you could afford another squire, or possible a pageboy. It would fit your rank.
The next knock on your door wasn't your expected guests. It was old Franz, his walnut dark face scrunched up.
He came in almost shyly, a manner you hadn't expected from him. You rose from your chair but he beckoned you to sit, keep from standing.
"Ey boy," he said, standing before your desk, "I've come to ask a favour or two." He eyed your squire suspiciously. You leaned upon your desk. You were troubled by his manner. He coughed, rubbed his leathery throat. "I know I'm not as useful to you now as I used to be-"
"Don't go talking like that," you said, cutting into his words. The old man's lips turned sour, but he kept going.
"I know I an't a high born man like Etienne, what can talk to your important guests, nor have I education enough to oversee your holdings like others. I feel right useless to you lately. But you're getting ready to march off to a fight, and I been at your back for every fight so far, same as I was at your father's back. I might be getting on, and I might not be tough young buck like that Nubian but I can still hold a spear or shoot a bow."
Now the old man got to his knees, doing so with a heavy sigh. "I'm asking you on my honour. Let me come with ye," he said, "Let me do the only thing I've ever been good at. Watching your back."
His eyes were moist and his head low. He looked almost like he might weep. And it made your heart tighten. You'd not had as much time for Franz as you had in the past, and all the saints knew you missed his company.
But this campaign would be one of hard fighting, and you would need to be in the thick of it at nearly every step. You worried that the old Jew wouldn't be able to keep up.
> of course
Franz is the one who found a family with the widow, no?
He is watching our back. With him here with the boys we leave behind to guard, he protects us and gives us the peace of mind we need when we're on campaign.
"Franz, my dear friend, the thing that I most need from you is to help protect my demense. I nearly lost it due to the coniving of foreign powers. It was only Chiri and my sister that stopped it. Would you keep them safe while I am gone?"
You stood up. He looked up. You came around your desk to stand before him. Reached down to grab his shoulders, and pulled him up to his feet.
"Of course you'll come with me," you said, "How could I march to war without my standard bearer?"
The man's eyes misted, and his arms came around you in a tight embrace, his bald head buried against your chest. You returned the embrace and for Franz's honour ignored his soft weeping.
When you parted he looked up to you with a broad smile, and he cupped your face in his large cracked hands. Almost like a father would.
"We'll take that bitch of a city," he said, chest swelling with pride. He released you then, and marched out like a younger man. A new found spring in his step.
You watched him go, a smile of your own. It was good to see the old soldier so happy.
The next of your business was finally arrived, Etienne and the commanders Valeran and Arnold.
Arnold was a slight man, a little beneath average height with a long chin and boyish face. Valeran was almost his opposite in some manners, a white haired old soldier built out of bricks, with broad shoulders heavily muscled from a life time of soldiering and a reddish face that seemed possessed of a natural masculine authority.
Both of them bowed to you.
"It's an honour," Arnold said.
"A great honour," Valeran added.
You directed them to sit and sat yourself, offered them food from your plate as Alexius fetched wine. Etienne remained standing. The two picked at the unfamiliar Oriental food, tasting the dates with a little caution, but ate it none the less to keep from offending you. Valeran did so with clear distaste.
You looked to each. "Tell me, what experience have you in fighting?"
Arnold spoke first. "I campaigned in Italy with the Emperor," he said.
Then Valeran, "Mostly against the Saracens of Spain, but I have fought with a company of Normans against the Greeks."
> ask about their thoughts on taking Ascalon
> ask about their thoughts on Saracens
> write in
"I'd like your thoughts," you said as Alexius poured the wine, "On our upcoming campaign, and the troops under your command."
After yourself Arnold was of superior rank. He was the son of an enobled lord back in Germany, though he was not likely to inherent any holdings. But as he was of superior rank he was given first leave to answer, with Valeran remaining silent as he pondered your question, the only sound a slight slurp of wine.
"It won't be easy," Arnold said, "I have heard this Ascalon was built in the days of Alexander. A time of great armies far beyond what we can field today. We need machines to take it. Catapult and tower. We have these. Secondly we need the men with the willpower to take the walls. Strong men with Christ in their hearts. This, this I'm not so sure."
Valeran stirred a little at that, and you leaned forward, an unspoken urging for him to continue. Arnold eyed Valeran a little before turning his attention back to you. "Many who are here do not come for love. They come for gold. Love is the key to a good soldier. Love of their lord, love of God. Gold is a thing that comes and goes. Love endures. The first Christians to come and free these lands were driven by their love of Christ before all else."
Arnold gave a quick glint of his eyes back to Valeran before turning them to his wine cup.
The older man looked as if he'd been personally slighted. He looked at Arnold and not you. "Some in this number have fought for gold. What of it? Love doesn't make a better soldier. Discipline and experience does. And the best soldiers can make a trade of it. Maybe 'love' can be a grand mover of things, but it doesn't fill a belly, and it doesn't pitch a tent. Good soldiers fight best when they have these things, with experienced commanders to lead them."
You drink your wine and consider both men. Neither were green children, both had their scars and their war stories to go with them. You held your cup out for Alexius to refill.
"Both of you speak sense, in your own way," you said, "To be sure I don't care over much why a man chooses to fight for me. I care only that they will obey their orders and do as they are told. Some men fly into the first battle that presents itself and spoil everything. Others move too slowly for a timid heart. I need to know if you can control the men beneath you. Both the rash and timid."
Arnold nodded. "I can do so, with time."
"Men need to be trained together, learn to trust each other for that to happen," Valeran said, "While you can trust I'll lead well in battle, don't think I am a magician that can conjure such bonds overnight."
That was true, and you wondered if it was best to drill this army in the time you still had. Certainly you'd need someone to oversee such manouvres. And an army learned best under a single commander.
> appoint a man to drill your army
> appoint a man to drill your army
I don't get it, one of the two? Arnold seems the one more inclined
Could it be Wilhelm overseeing? He has some LEAD after all
Could it be anyone? doubt we can snub any of them
We are choosing a drill sergeant, not a commander.
Those two are already commanders, which are higher ranks.
It'd be a bigger mistake to choose one of the commanders since we risk alienating the other.
"I have a man in my service, a Nubian warrior," you said, "Hold your tempers and do as he says. He'll turn our force into a true army."
The two looked to each other. Both were offended you had not given the task to them, but both were glad the other hadn't been given it instead. You think this might mollify them.
"As you say my lord," Valeran said, rising from his seat.
"You know your business," Arnold added. The two commanders left, and after them you sent Alexius to fetch Solomon.
The man had been a mess of dealing with soldiers and new born children that his wife brooded over like a mother hen. He came in looking tired and didn't wait for an invitation before taking a seat. He snatched the wine jug from Alexius and poured his own cup.
"Wil," he said, "Thank Christ for tearing me away from those screaming brats."
"Your children are coming along well?" you asked.
Solomon snorted. "I meant the boys in the barracks, constantly bitching about foreign nobles, but yes, the lads are coming along strong." He downed his cup and poured another. "St Michael give me strength, but I could use a Saracen right now. Someone I can crush with my bear hands. Turk, Arab, Egyptian, right now I don't care. Let's march now and I'll rip Ascalon apart. Fuck everyone else."
You chuckled. "I can give you some Christians in the mean time. The soldiers need drilling, get them ready for the march."
Solomon swirled his cup. "It'd be good to smack around some uppity young knights. Those friends of yours have been harassing just about every woman from the servants to your sister. One of them even made a run at my wife."
"Which one?" you asked.
"The dark one with the fat neck." That would be Karl. "Etain laughed him out of the hall."
He leaned forward. "But enough about all that, tell me about our brother." He meant Hugo. Who else would he call brother? "Give me the word and I'll bring him back here, kill any damn fool that gets in the way."
"Peace," you almost gave Solomon permission, but you needed him here. "Last I heard he was still in Damascus, but the Queen has sent her own envoy to bring them to Jerusalem. I doubt he will come to harm, Melisende is fond of him."
Solomon settled back. He let out a long breath. "Any road," he said, "I'll be happy to hammer these boys into shape." He stood up, down the last of his wine, and swaggered off. You reclined back in your chair.
Should you send our own envoy to make sure Hugo was safe? You trusted Melisende, but there were others who might do him harm. As you thought on it Portia returned with letters.
One was a greeting from Roger of Sicily. He was busy dealing with Roman pirates, but he promised you his aid would still come. It concerned you enough it caught you sucking your teeth. You needed those ships.
The other was from Orlando. He was on his way home with Sir Hector, and from the sounds of it he was nervous about how he'd be received. They were waiting in Acre until word can be sent to them, about what exactly you wished them to do.
> have Orlando come home
> send him to Jerusalem
> send someone else to Jerusalem (nominate)
> have Orlando come home
He will be the one to look after Ramla while we are away since he is a terrible fighter and commander
> send someone else to Jerusalem (nominate)
Mathilde can do good in representing us.
You scrawl a note instructing Orlando to return to Ramla with Sir Hector. While he'd make an adequate envoy, you thought his talents best served here in an administrative role. In his place you planned to send your sister Mathilde. She was young for such responsibility but she had proven herself, and it was time she was introduced to the court of Jerusalem.
The question from there was who to send with her. She'd need at least a dozen men-at-arms to escort her, and someone to lead those soldiers. And while she was very fond of Sabeen and Chihirizahd, neither would be welcome in Jerusalem.
> nominate someone to guard your sister
> Maggie, Hector, and Bayard.
Maggie because she's Mathilde's lady-in-waiting, Hector because he's a knight (albeit a false knight), and Bayard because having a battle-scarred eyepatched bodyguard is a great deterrence in the Royal Court against swains trying to seduce Matty.
You decide to send Bayard, and with him Maggie and Portia. Both were trained in the protocol of noble courts, and Maggie was a boon companion of your sister. No doubt your brother would be pleased to see her as well. It might be best to have Portia elsewhere, rather than snooping around your grounds to send whispers back to her mistress in Antioch.
You have Alexius bring them to you, all three but your sister first.
She slips into your study. The girl wore a blue dress and silver chain, across her shoulders she had a fine white mantle, and her hair was tied back in a thick braid. She took a seat, hands folded in her lap, quiet and considering you with her large blue eyes.
"You wished to see me?" she was oddly demure today, not as brash as you were used to. You wondered if something had happened.
"I did," you said. "Our brother is being taken to Jerusalem, and I'll have need of an envoy. Someone to argue his case and win him supporters. You originally came here to free me from a prison cell, perhaps you can do the same for Hugo."
She looked down at her hands and then back up to you. "I'll try," she said.
You smiled, gave her a nod. "You won't be going alone. I've drawn up an escort, a body of men led by that commoner you're so fond of. Bayard? The one from that Assassin business. And Maggie will be with you, along with some other servants to give you the help you need."
She sat up straight, smile growing through her demur mask. That was more the sister you knew. The one that longed to prove herself, and no doubt relishing the chance to exert her leadership over others. She'd make a fine lord's wife in time.
"You can count on me," she said, getting up from her chair. She leaned across the table to put a kiss on your cheek.
Before she left she paused at the door. Looked back. "You should talk to your friends. Let Gerhard know a girl doesn't appreciate having her bottom pinched when she's bending over." And then left with a soft click of the door.
You sat back letting that roll in your head when Bayard was admitted. He bowed, but didn't sit. When you told him what you wanted he gave a relieved sigh, ruffling his hair.
"Thank Christ," he said, "I swear, marriage changes a woman. Ever since we've been wed its been nothing but hectoring. About my tunic, about leaving my sword on the dinner table, about not cleaning my boots. She's gone from a sweet thing to a harpy. I could use a break from her."
You frankly didn't care about Bayard's marriage troubles. "Take whomever you like," you said, "But remember to guard my sister well."
"I will sir," he said.
"And not just her body," you said with raised finger, "Make sure she keeps her virtue. I don't want some slippery bastard worming his way into her bed. She's a smart girl, but still a girl."
He went a little red but gave you another salute. "I'll do as you say," he said, "Castrate the first bastard that tries."
"Good man," you dismissed him.
That was much of your business of the day dealt with. Day, hell, it was turning to night already. You recalled your old friends had invited you out for a drink. Truth, you could stand to blow off some steam. But still, could you be permitted to do so in public? It was turning your belly into knots all this stress. You'd have an ulcer before you knew it, and going bald as well.
> go find your old friends
> seek less public distractions (write-in)
>> seek less public distractions (write-in)
Go see Achilles, 100 pf for something he won't say just makes my curiosity itch something fierce.
Also have Franz go chaperon our idiot friends; they may be our friends from squirehood but they're a bunch of immature pisscunts who need to be controlled.
We talking the classic Django or the Tarantino version? 'cause would imply that Hugo would be dragging a coffin across the desert and the other would imply that Hugo would channel Solobro and waste everyone between Damascus and Ramla.
You decide its best to visit Achilles. A hundred pfennings was not a number you'd give out and not expect an explanation. If he needed a personal audience you'd give it to him. You took your leave of the study, happy to stretch your legs. Alexius followed you like an obedient dog.
The activity of the tower did not relent even come nightfall any more. Servants, yours and others, were always about. You passed a group of dicing soldiers who called out for you to join them. You passed them with an acknowledging smile but did not tarry. Though you enjoyed dicing you had actual business still left to deal with.
When you crossed into the feasting hall Tancred foisted up a horn of ale to you as you passed, in company with other common soldiers of Norman birth. One was a younger lad that looked Tancred's image, his son Odo come from Jaffa.
"Hail the Lion!" Tancred called, caught up by others. You gave them a wave from the doorway and a grin for their cheer, but again you did not tarry to be drawn into drinking.
Outside the hall you found soldiers sparring. There was music in the air, a hurdy-gurdy being churned and dulcimer's beaten. Jacques, Etienne's squire, with spear in hand was facing off against a Frankish soldier in an exchange of blows. Sabeen whistled encouragement from the sideline as wagers were being placed, Maggie hollered as she bounced on the spot. Others were lining up with spears or swords waiting for their turn to enter the fight. You paused. Jacques had improved as a warrior, he had the measure of the older man.
A clatter of wood and a shout sent the older man sprawling and Jacques victorious. Maggie pressed to fingers to her lips and gave a shrill whistle as others cheered, Sabeen pocketing some coin. She leaped across the ropes and Jacques threw her his spear as another Frank entered the arena. The audience went wiled for the Saracen woman, who flourished her spear from side to side, beckoning the crowd to greater volume until it as a loud roar.
It was like a carnival as you weaved through the crowd. Pilgrims mingled with soldiers, merchants sold holy trinkets of powdered bone, said to be left over from the saints. Tents hosting prostitutes tempted young men beneath their walls. You had to catch Alexius by the hand before the lad could be led astray by one pump, rouge cheeked harlot.
Your destination was the outskirts of the town. Achilles workshop was made half of stone and the rest of wood, a high roofed barn built on the back of an old broken Roman outpost. You came to the door and slipped in.
There was an acrid smoke in the air that made your eyes sting. It was less a workshop and more an alchemist's laboratory. Was the man hoping to turn lead into gold? It was hot, a choking furnace that already drew sweat on your brow and killed the chill of night at his very door. He had a cauldron of some bubbling chemical tended to by a lad in thick leather hide, with face hidden behind a leather mask. There were few flames, making it a dank, deep strange cave of clattering equipment and smoke.
"Achilles!" you called, "Achilles, where are you!"
Out of the gloom a dirty face. The sour young boy. "he's up the back," he said, "Don't stress, your eyes will adjust."
He took you by the hand and led you through. Past other apprentices toiling over strange equipment in that thick leather hide. How they could stand to be so bundled up in such a sweat building place you'd never know.
Indeed, your eyes did adjust as you walked with the boy.
"Paul," Achilles had a tube in his hand, "Paul, set up the next one." He didn't look at you. The lad scurried off to prop up a man shaped figure, armoured in maille.
You approached it but then Achilles hissed. "Stay back m'lord," he said. Then sighted down the tube as Paul ran fast from the target.
The world lit up with a streak of fire. A tongue of flame licked out from the end of the tube and lashed the figure. Droplets of it falling to the earth and burning there. You gaped in amazement as the fire roared in shades of red and white, eating the mannequin and armour whole, crumpling it up as it was devoured by the conjured flame.
Achilles lowered his tube and grinned, eyes dancing with the fires of his invention.
Make the cross hastily while saying so
''I have become death destroyer of worlds''
What have we done?
Im still a bit nervous about Sabeen coming with us to Ascalon, maybe we should let her stay back and guard Ramla while we are away, just so we wont end up her having to question her loyalties if she faces her father.
You let out all the wind in you in one breath.
"Astonished?" Achilles asked, shouldering the tube.
"Amazed," you replied. You went and warmed your hand by the fire. Almost as if you wished to check that it was real and not some optical illusion.
"Greek fire," he said, "But believe me when I say, if I told you how it was made I'd be a dead man."
You clenched your warmed fist. "Is this what you needed the money for?" you asked.
Achilles rolled his tongue over his lips. "Part of it went to that, another part went to private things," he said. He threw the tube with alarming callousness to his assistant. The boy took it as if it were a casual thing, shouldered it and walked it to the back of the workshop. Achilles came to stand beside you, breathing in the chemical smell of his unnatural fire. "It can't be put out by water," he said, "And it'll burn steel and stone and even naked sand. The bastard needs to be smothered or allowed to burn to the last to be put out, and not smothered by any old thing but by gallons upon gallons of sand. It's a greedy monster with a rapacious appetite."
This man was worth his weight in gold. "But don't get confused, its not an ender of wars or bringer of victories," he said, giving you a solid eye, "It's best used at sea. Men on foot can only deploy it in a limited way, and its as much a danger to us as the enemy if its used wrong."
You nodded as you watched the maille links literally begin to melt off the charred mannequin.
"We have another thing," he said, and clicked his fingers. Paul brought up what looked like a clay fruit, which Achilles showed to you. It filled the palm of his hand, and had a piece of rope standing from one end.
"And this is?" you asked.
"Something the Turks have as well," he said, "An explosive lit and then thrown. The little bit of black powder within gives a noisome bang and much smoke, sending shards in every direction."
"I've heard of these," you said.
"Again, these are just a little thing, but valuable when used correctly." He handed it to you. It was heavy, but not too heavy to throw.
"Could we some how put the fire inside this?" you asked.
Achilles chuckled. "We think the same way," he said, "I've been trying, and think with another year I could perfect such a thing, but for now this is what I have for you. In time I will have a 'flame thrower' for you, but for now this will do. My dream is to combine this with my piston pumped tube, to launch such things to incredible distances. But what I want is not what I can make. That too is a thing for the future."
"You've given me a great gift just with this, Achilles," you said, handing the claw fruit back to the man. He grinned. He handed it off to the boy Paul, who took it back to a large chest.
Achilles cleaned his dirty hands on a cloth. "If you'll excuse me I have more work that needs seeing to."
"Of course," you left him to his business.
The cold air of Ramla cut deeper after leaving the pounding furnace of Achilles' workshop. Truly he was a conjurer or terrible wonders. You were glad to have invested so heavily in him, but you recalled his words - that his trinkets will not win a war.
You wipe at your face, walking slow back to your town.
> how will you spend the rest of the night?
Take the scenic route, see how Sabeen fared in her impromptu tourney bout before going to see how Tancred and his boy Odo are doing, have a few drinks with them before attending to the more important matter of our squire-mates from the Rhine.
Knowing our luck, the Boys from the Rhine might be at the same alehouse where Tancred and Odo are having their drinks.
no Anon we get them at the crack of dawn when they are hung over!
Chiri and/or whatever else needs to be attended to and considering the politics as it is now considering what our stupid fuck of a brother did
You needed to have a word with your old friends. And maybe, possibly, a drink.
The boys were at the common house drinking, just as they said they would. Hoisting horns of ale and cheering those who came in and those who came out. Sabeen was in the far corner with a drink of her own and a black eye to go with it, and she hailed you from beside a short stack of coins. With her was Jacques, who was asleep from drink upon the table they shared.
The boys called you over. Gerhard had a girl on his knee, Ludegard and Karl were trying to tempt girls of their own over, be it serving girls, other customers, or Sabeen, but none were having it.
You took a seat across from Gerhard and poured yourself a cup of ale. Downed it in a single shot.
"Aye lads, how goes it?" you asked.
"That girl has black skin," Karl said, staring at Sabeen, "Black skin. Never seen a black skinned woman before. And damn my eyes but she has a look to carry it. Think I'll have her, thank you very much."
You poured a second drink that you had more slowly. Karl was destined to be very disappointed.
"You got your eye on any women tonight Wil?" Karl asked. You had a woman waiting in your chambers. No need to go hunting for crumbs.
"About that lads," you said, "I think you need to rein it in. You boys are guests here, the way you go on you might offend someone and make a headache for me."
"It's all good fun," Gerhard said, squeezing the breast of the girl in his lap. She lay against his shoulder, kissing at his ear. "And they like it y'know. Never met a woman that didn't like a bit of rough, even when they say they don't."
You leaned forward. "I'm serious," you said.
The boys looked to each other. "Has our captain grown soft?" Karl asked.
"Soft?" Ludegard bent his finger in an obvious gesture.
"Lost his stomach for fun, he's turning into an old man before my eyes," Gerhard said, washing down a beer. He had a challenge in his eye and a smirk on his lips.
> take the challenge
> refuse it
> refuse it
"We're no longer boys, free to chase girls to tumble in the hay. Battle and war is upon us and it is your obligation as both a man and a knight to behave properly in accordance to local laws of hospitality. Maybe one day when you are a landed knight-lord you might understand. Partake of the common womenfolk, but the women in my household service are offlimits."
Knock the drink out of his hand and go off on them. Tell them about all the stupid shit that has happened to us in the Levant, from when Welf died, the rape of Zoe Doukas, to the attempted rape of our sister Matty, and now Hugo being led astray by a crazy lordling.
You shook your head, guts tight with frustration. Each of these leering, goading boys. You looked at them and saw children's faces on men's frames. Had you really been just as they were not so long ago.
"I'm not content to play the boy anymore. I am lord of these lands, with people who look to me for leadership. There is a war coming, one of my own making. I have an army to marshal, supplies to manage, people to oversee. Chasing skirts, drinking beer, I'll leave these things to you." You stood from your chair, setting aside the horn they had left for you. "If you wish to call on me, do so. You are each my friend. But I haven't the time to waste on shallow distractions."
You gave each a look of disappointment, and walked from them over to Sabeen's table. She'd done counting her coins and was scooping them into separate pouches, whistling a Saracen song as she did. Jacques snored softly at her elbow. She looked up at you then looked past to the table you'd left. Back to you again and she gave a crooked smile.
"Looks like you pissed in their drinks," she said, "Stand you to a fresh one?"
"Aye," you said, and she raised a hand to get a new cup. You drank a mouthful, took it slow, and ignored the table behind you.
"Did you hear about Hugo?" you asked. Her cup paused half way to her mouth.
"Is he safe?" she asked. You nodded. "Thank Christ," she murmured that on the rim of her cup as she took a sip.
"I'm sending Mathilde to get him back. Hopefully in time to join us at Ascalon."
"She can do it, the girl is more capable than most figure," she said, setting her drink aside. She slid one of her purses toward you. "A gift," she said.
It had a decent weight.
"What do you think about riding to Ascalon, are you conflicted?" you asked.
She snorted. "No, not all," she replied, hooking her arm back behind the chair, "I've fought Egyptians before. Don't you mind me."
"What if your father is there?" you asked, though you asked only a hypothetical question.
Her lips pursed. "If he is, then mayhap he'll finally recognize me as a warrior," she said. You frowned. You could not see anything that would drive you to war with your kin. "Don't doubt me Wil. My course is set. I'll fight any damn fool that stands against us."
You finish your drink and take the money, bidding Sabeen a good night. She waves you off just as others come to join her, some of her supporters and Maggie with them. The boys can't even look at you as you leave.
> retire for the night
> call on one last companion
You need to rest. More than that you need to relax. So you return to your tower, and go to the library.
Chihirizahd read a book by soft candle light, her olive skin glowing under the flame, her lips have parted as she drank in the words on the page. Carefully she turned the parchment, head cocking to the side as she adjusted, brushing back fallen locks of hair with her knuckles. The sight of her made your blood quicken. It was almost a shame to disturb her.
But you did, coming up to put a hand upon the crown of her head, brushing that silken black hair.
"My lord," she looked up at you from her seat.
"I need you," you said, trying to keep the strain from your voice. She gently closed the book and stood, taking your hand in hers. Back to your private chambers, and your bed.
Once in she drew your clothes off and had you settled against the pillows.
"You've had a stressful day," she said, and began to peel off her dress.
"I have," you said, watching her light tanned skin appear.
"Let me ease some of that stress," she said, as the last of the dress slid off of her thighs. She strode toward the bed and slipped onto it, her hand upon your knees, her own legs bundled up beneath her. She stretched up, her chest sliding across your lap, your stomach, until she lay with feet up, chest against yours, your own bulge pressed against her navel.
"This isn't exactly relaxing," you chuckled, running the back of your fingers against her cheek.
"Oh you'll be very relaxed soon," she said, sliding herself back down...
End of thread
Sorry to cut it short. Will do a very quick QnA if you like.
Rolled 25 (1d100)
Thanks for running HF
>how does it feel to be back?
>ETA on next thread?
>Mathildes happy about going to Jerusalem right?
>Hugo and Raymond got captured in Damascus?
>how are we looking for ascalon?
>how does it feel to be back?
It's been good.
>ETA on next thread?
>Mathildes happy about going to Jerusalem right?
Of course. She's been given a lot of responsibility, and its Jerusalem.
>Hugo and Raymond got captured in Damascus?
Queen Melisende made an arrangement with the Lord of Damascus.
>how are we looking for ascalon?
Pretty good but things could go wrong.
The next thread may be another from Mathilde's or Hugo's POV. It's a pretty important plotline to resolve off screen.
>someone is pregnant, but who?!
It's not for a pregnancy. It's for Solomon training the army.
My views on an Australian republic are complicated and boring.