1 Taking the Cross

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, a deep throb, my throat dry and painful. My face-plate was dented in, it pressed against my forehead. I tried to open my eyes. The sun filtering in through my warped visor blinded me. My back felt damp, I thought it was sweat from the godforsaken heat.

March 14th, 1245

Mass had begun, light poured in through the stained glass windows of the Cathedral. We stood and sung the ritual hymns, haunting as it echoed from the walls. The old and wrinkled preist shuffled his way up to the dais. He 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. They had taken the Holy Land. Fury had overtaken me, how dare they, it 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 the path the lord had chosen for me. I was to fight, for God and King.

February 9th, 1250

I tried to think of how long I had laid here. I had to find the remnants of the army, they would be making their way back to the main body in Cairo. I lifted myself up. Pain burnt through my lower body. I cried out, tears formed in my eyes and I crumpled 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 was reassured in my decision. It was any good Christian's duty. Paintings of the Saracen's atrocities filled France, demonic figures wrapped in strange cloth with evil pointed beards, and their sharp untrustworthy eyes. Good christian men and women flee in terror before them.

February 9th, 1250

I came in and out, fever dreams plagued my mind. I saw the image of Christ hung bloody 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 to my feet many times. Once in a moment of clarity I got to my knees and almost stood. Intense pain in my lower gut stopped me. 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 was upon me.

January 16th, 1249

We had crossed the sea into the lands of the Saracen. We took the port city of Damietta with ease. Theses barbarous Saracens with their false god had no chance against the might of Christendom. Some spoke of angels fighting alongside us, I didn't see them but I believed it to have been true. We fought with the lord God on our side and for our faith we were rewarded. 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. Our first venture in desert was a failure, were not prepared and were forced to retreat. A Saracen Christian came to Count Robert. He told us the Christians of this land support 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 the Saracen encampment by moonlight. 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 wept. 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 my helmet had moved, my mouth now squashed by my visor. I heard sobbing and someone pleading, then a scream, I panicked. 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 came loose. The dint in my helmet ripped at forehead as I forced 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 had seemed so. A deep feeling of unease overcame me in the quiet of the town, there was something wrong. A horn broke the silence of the night. Saracen soldiers filed from the buildings. 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 Templar rallied and called for a charge. Those of us still horsed followed. We crashed into the men holding the gate. The fighting was thick but the gate was cleared. Their forces still surrounded the town. A Templar found a weak spot in their ranks and charged. Many of us followed. As we came at them I remember the spear coming for me. My horse falling away underneath and then a sickly crunch.

February 10th, 1250

Blood trickles 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 look around, dead and dying men litter the battlefield. I prop myself up, the pain seemed to be numbing. What I see terrifies me, my leg splay sideways at an odd angle and a broken shaft of a spear juts from the middle of my stomach. It was not sweat that dampened my back, it's blood. I try to move my legs but nothing happens. I stare at my ruined body and cry. A scream wakes me from my self-pity, I look around and see a group of Saracens, one drives his sword deep into the body of a wounded pleading Christian. He casually bends to check the man's possessions before pulling his curved sword clean. One of the men wanders in my direction, a bloody sword in his hand. He sees me and I scramble trying to get away. I look wildly for a weapon but there are none close to me. My strength failing I collapse, I am so weak all I can do is lie here and watch his approach. He stands over me. I do not see rage or hatred in his eyes. I see pity. He's no devil, just a man. He raises his sword.

"Please… no," I whimper. I weakly raise my hand to fend off his blade.

He says something in his strange tongue then his sword plunges into me.

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