County of Edessa's Calamity

County of Edessa's Calamity

A Story by Kristopher Fandrich
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A short story of a crusader's fate

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Chapter 1:


Radcliff first arrived in Edessa in late 1098, apart of the first crusade against the saracens. He, like many of the men he marched with, wanted to see Jerusalem set free of the saracens grip, but as fate had a funny way of happening he was injured in the Siege of Antioch in June of 1098. Months later, he arrived as part of the side-expedition to liberate the County of Edessa. Limited by his ever present limp, he could only aid his men by fetching water and the like, but the county fell without a fight, as their leader, Baldwin of Boulogne was a wise man, with ways beyond conflict to conquer. Radcliff was awarded a large wheat farm that was previously farmed by a saracen man that went to defend Jerusalem against the Crusades, within a year his wife, and two young children arrived to their new home. Amongst even his peers during the Crusade, Radcliff stuck out, of northern heritage, his pale complexion, and blue eyes made him a target of jest. Now, deep in the arid climate, he, and his family stuck out even more, as most inhabitants were of Armenian and Syrian descent, and some were even from the desert lands to the south, who had moved to escape conflict, and settle in a more hospitable climate. Because of Radcliff’s valiant effort in the Crusade, he and his family were held to a near nobility by the nobles, and the taxes he payed were much lighter than any others in the County of Edessa at the time, making him a successful man, furthering the surrounding neighbors dislike for him and his family.

Years passed, and so did the leadership of the land from Baldwin of Boulogne, to his younger, weaker, cousin, Baldwin of Bourcq in 1100, and again to Tancred when Baldwin himself was captured in the Battle of Harran, something Radcliff took no part. During all of these power shifts, Radcliff and his family still were given their tax breaks, and in the year 1107, Radcliff had an especially bountiful harvest of wheat, that came at the toils he spent during winter picking out just the best seeds to germinate. Radcliff sold the excess wheat for thirty livres, enough currency for twelve hundred chickens, but with the currency Radcliff decided, because of the turmoil in the lands he inhabited, that weapons would be a wise purchase. He still had his regalia from his days in the crusade, but his son, now at the age of twelve, seemed too vulnerable, and Radcliff decided it would be best to get him a set alike. It wasn’t hard to find armaments in Edessa, as the countryside was littered with fortresses. He had an old acquaintance that too stuck around, and ran one of the nearby armories. With his coin in hand, and a little wine for an extra incentive, he began the half day’s ride to the fort where Daniel was stationed.

The day of his ride was exceptional, the air was cool to the touch, and the wind was faint, the sun was out, and there were few clouds in the sky. The ride was pleasant in all regards, as Radcliff’s senses were filled with the breathing of the horse, the jostling of the ride, and the sites of the countryside he had grown to call home. As he came to the barracks, which was a bustling center of activity just a few years prior, he noticed how dead it had became, and for a moment, worried that his friend Daniel had went to the Battle of Harran without so much as a word. But as he tied his horse to the stable he heard a familiar voice,

“As Radcliff the Ravager!” Daniel shouted from across the small courthouse whose graveled ground had begun to show signs of neglect, as weeds were present even in the most occupied areas.

“Don’t let Cecilia hear you call me that!” Radcliff spoke back in a shushed shout that made Daniel question if she had accompanied him, but as he looked down the road, then back to Radcliff he waved off his friend’s worry with a dismissive gesture.

“What brings you this far East?” Daniel asked as he stuck his arm out for a shake. Radcliff clasped his friend high on the forearm, pulling him in for a couple firm pats on the back, as they went back to a conversation distance, Radcliff procured the large bottle of wine he had brought with.

“Wanted to reminisce with an old friend, tis all, and a bout of business, perhaps.” A large smile broke across Daniel’s face, and the sight of his missing teeth brought Radcliff back to the Siege of Antioch. The memory of how a large stone, tossed by a mere citizen had struck Daniel in the jaw that day, spraying the ground with blood, littering it with his teeth. If only Daniel would have waited a little longer to eat his apple, his helmet would have taken the blow.

“Well let's go inside, how’s the leg?” Daniel said, looking back at Radcliff, who still to this day had a slight limp.

“Fine fine, how’s the face?” Radcliff asked as he entered the musky stone fort. They always appeared larger on the outside, as the stone walls, nearly two feet thick, and took up much space.

“Gruesome as the day I was birthed.” Daniel said as he pulled out a large wooden chair for Radcliff to sit, before making his way to the other side of the large table. Radcliff sat the bottle on the table, and was about to asked Daniel to bring the cups, but from underneath the table Daniel grabbed two cups. Radcliff gave him a strange look that spurred Daniel to explain,

“Saves a trip, ya know?” Radcliff gave him a little nod, and for the next several minutes the conversation died as they drank and listened to the birds chirp and sing, that had made the fortresses roof and walls home. Radcliff had fond memories of his time in the Crusade, and being surrounded by a fortress, one that was full of items from those few years of his life, brought him more joy than he cared to admit. After his head began to buzz he spoke up,

“So, a fine blade runs an old friend only a few livres, eh?”

“What happened to that fine blade Safferdine crafted you before we left Western Rome?”

“That ole thing still shines as if it was made yesterday, with just a few knicks of course, I was looking for one for my son.”

“He’s getting to that age, eh?” Radcliff nodded,

“I’d have one forged, but that would be a waste while he still grows, no reason to forge a blade that’ll be tossed aside after a few harvests.” It was Daniel’s turn to nod. He finished his drink and slid his goblet towards Radcliff for a refill. Radcliff gave him a grin, and poured him some more,

“Thoughts on Baldwin being captured?”

“My oath is to the cause, to the Templars, not the kings, not the land.” Daniel said as his eyes fixated on a raven out the window, a few moments passed and he continued,

“I am so unconcerned about it all lately, I sometimes wonder why I’m even here.”

“We were barely fully grown when we started all this, but be content, you have a good life”

“Better than any saracen! You know they don’t drink?”

“Aye, thank Christ for wine!”

“And mead!” The two men drank their fill, till the bottle was gone before they talked again.

“I suppose we’ll go poke around the armory.” Radcliff slammed the rest of his drink, and slid his goblet to the middle of the table. As they walked down the stairs to the armory Radcliff spoke up,

“Are you the only one here?”

“On God’s day, and the day before, yes.” Daniel answered as he flipped through his ring of skeleton keys. As the door swung open, there was an undeniable musk that plumed out of the room.

“Been since they set out for Harran that this door been open.” Daniel said looking back, his eyes not fully concentrated, Radcliff knew that Daniel drank more than his fair share. The room had many weapon racks in the middle, with several different sets of armor on the walls, some hung up, some piled in the corners and along the walls. In one corner a pile of mail armor looked like a tangled mess, and that was were Radcliff’s eyes laid firstly. Daniel saw him eying it when he turned around,

“Its not as bad as it looks, just a lotta chain shirts bunched up, their actually quite well maintained.” Radcliff wasn’t one to argue and just nodded, and went the the closest weapon rack to look for a sword for his son. Among the swords, he saw one that he knew was going to be his choice, a hand and a half sword, on the smaller side of the spectrum, that he knew his pre-teen would struggle with even with two hands. Something that would do the boy good, and ensure proper technique.

“This one will do nicely.” Radcliff said as he picked the blade up, twirling it by his side thrice, when he looked up Daniel was leaning against the far wall with a big grin on his face,

“You ever miss it? I sometimes think my best days are behind me.”

“Get yourself a woman, then you’ll know for certain.” At his jest Daniels grin grew even wider, something Radcliff wouldn’t have thought possible.

“Two livres?”

“Make it three, any I’ll throw in a couple sets of padded armor, so you can show him why you were called Radcliff the Ravager.”

“Hah, deal ole friend.” They walked out of the small fort, and Radcliff strode ahead to his horse to procure the silver coins. As Radcliff handing the coin to Daniel he spoke up,

“You want to stay the night? I could go down to the cellar and grab some ale.”

“I would love to old friend, Cecillia would worry, that’d make my life hell when I’d return.”

“You could stay the week, then she’ll just be happy you’re alive!” Radcliff waved him off as he mounted his horse,

“Safe travels, friend!” Daniel shouted as Radcliff’s horse carried him swiftly out of the small courthouse.


Chapter 2:


The winter of 1107 was extremely mild, and during the best of days, Radcliff and his boy Cecil, his wife Cecilia had gotten her way on the naming, sparred for several hours. In just several months, the young Cecil had gotten a feel for his blade, an understanding of techniques well enough that Radcliff would be honored to fight next to him. Whenever a neighbor, from the surrounding lands would pass while they were in the midst of training, it was obvious that Radcliff and his boy were of much interest, and a small amount of worry crept into him. He convinced himself he was being over cautious, and that the distrust they felt for him, and his family, were just minor thoughts in his neighbors minds, nothing they would ever feel the need to act upon.

“You’re learning well my boy.” Radcliff said as they were oiling their blades after an especially hard sparring season.
“I’m trying my best, this is something that really interests me.”

“Farming doesn’t?”

“Well…”

“I understand that the allure for a young man isn’t found in farming, I was once your age.”

“I heard they want more militia in Jerusalem, that too many have went home.” At this Radcliff looked up from his finely oiled blade,

“You’re too young for that yet, you shouldn’t be so hasty to lose your innocence.”

“Well, maybe if you’d tell me what it was like, I wouldn’t be so curious.”

“Not today, Son.” Radcliff said as sternly as he could as he stood up to go put his weapon away. A year ago that’s all he would  have had to do, but the hormones in the young lad made him much more defiant,

“You act like I’m just a child, if I was such a child, why would you be teaching me how to swing a sword?”

“Cecil, it would break your mother's heart to hear what I have been through, and it would break her heart if I shared it with you.”

“I won’t tell her.” Cecil was dead set, and Radcliff recognized it, letting out an audible sigh,

“I’ll tell you a story next week, if you train hard this week, and so on. Understood?”

“Great!” The excitement in the boy’s voice made Radcliff doubt his decision, if Cecil was so excited that he had gotten his way, he must not have believed it was going to happen, or at least so easily.

“Go wash up, and see what your mother is cooking for dinner.”

“Okay, pa.” Cecil said as he was already off to the house from the small barn a twenty yards away. Cecil may have ran if he wasn’t so tired for the training. Radcliff watched his boy half limp away from sheer exhaustion, and he was overwhelmed with pride. His boy may not be the strongest kid he had ever met, but he sure gave it his all, and Radcliff knew that mattered more than sheer physical prowess. He took a moment before going to his small home he had inherited to looked over his land, the already setting sun to the west, his large field, that must have taken the saracen family a full generation to clear, and for that Radcliff was grateful, and in that moment, Radcliff noticed a horse carrying a man in traditional saracen robes riding towards his farm for a far distance. He had an itch to go grab his blade, but he knew that would escalate a possible peaceful situation.

    It took the unknown rider another five minutes until he arrived at the front of Radcliff’s home. Radcliff immediately regretted not bringing his sword, as it was apparent the rider was distraught. The rider began talking at a rapid pace, in a language Radcliff could not understand,

“Listen, we’re going to need a third party, I can’t understand you.” Radcliff said, but without the rider understanding, he came to the same conclusion, and was off as quickly as he came. When Radcliff turned to go into his home, Cecillia was standing in the doorway,

“Who was that?” And in that moment, Radcliff knew he had an answer, an answer he wasn’t going to tell her.

“I think he was just turned around, what's for diner?”


Chapter 3:


A couple days had past, but the unnamed rider had never left Radcliff’s mind, and nonchalantly, he told his son that they should start oiling the weapons in front of the home, and to start keeping them inside, his reasoning, the cold of the barn was bad for the steel, a complete lie. Dinner that night was very special, beef, from a neighboring farm, each family member had a thick slab, with bread, and butter on the side. The house smelled of steak, fresh bread, and melted butter.

“Slow down love, it’ll be there in a minute.” Cecillia said with a smile on her face as her son was putting another large chunk of steak into his mouth before fully chewing the last,

“The boy worked on quite the appetite today.”

“He sure did.” His mother said reaching over to place her hand on his head, but he moved his head away,

“He’s growing up, my little man.” Cecilia said, not taking his resistance to her love to heart.

“Are you liking your steak honey?” Cecilia asked her young daughter, Eli, not wanting to neglect her.

“I love it, we messed up the bread a bit, it's a little salty.” Eli said as she picked at her bread,

“Well tomorrow we will make sure to pay special mind to the salt.” Cecilia said reaching over to ruffle her daughter's hair, something Eli readily accepted.

    That’s when the hoof beats became evident. There were at least several horses riding towards the home.

“Are you expecting anyone?” Cecilia asked, her concern already taking hold in her voice.

“Perhaps it's Daniel and the men, passing through.” Radcliff said trying to reassure his wife, though alarms were set in his mind, and he knew he’d take his sword with him to investigate. Radcliff put one more piece of steak in his mouth, and finished his ale before he rose to his feet.

“Cecil, how about you come with me, you’re man enough now.” Radcliff said as he grabbed his sword from next the door, Cecil’s eyes were beaming with delight when he did the same, and Radcliff knew his boy had no idea the danger involved in the unknown men that were rapidly approaching. Soon as the two stepped outside, they could see, at least a dozen horses approaching down the small dirt road that lead to their home.

“Be ready, they may not have keen intentions.” Radcliff said looking over to his boy, and seeing the smile fall from his face. The two men stood in silence waiting for the riders to appoarch, as they came near, only two dismounted their horses and approached Radcliff and his boy. Radcliff instantly noticed one of the men was the unnamed rider from before.

“We are here to discuss ownership of this farm, this is Muhammad the rightful owner.” Said the other man in a dialect that was difficult to understand, but not impossible.

“Baldwin of Boulogne appointed this land to me in 1098. I am sorry, this isn’t your land anymore.” Radcliff said looking at the rider from before, knowing that this dispute was between the two of them, not the man that spoke for him. It was hard for Radcliff to stay as calm as he was, as it was evident these men did not come with peaceful intention in mind, as each had a curved blade holstered to their hip. As the translator translated it was obvious the previous owner was upset, and Radcliff quickly added,

“If any harm comes to me, or my family, the powers that be in Odessa, will not let you live peacefully.” As this phrase was translated the men began to dismount, and Radcliff has seen enough, drawing the sword from behind his back,

“Now!” He shouted at his son, and they both leapt forward in near perfect unison. Radcliff striking the former owner with the last three inches of his blade in the side of the head, sending his lifeless body to crumple to the ground. As for Cecil, he landed a well placed thrust to the translator’s throat, sending him too to the ground, but still alive, at least for the moment. There were eight men in front of the father and son, but as two, too eager to get the fight under way rushed forward, they were quickly disarmed and dismissed into darkness. The last six were smarter, and began circling the two men, Radcliff knew they were in trouble,

“Cecillia, take Ele out the back, get a horse and ride to the fortress to the East!” Radcliff shouted, and he knew he would hear no response from Cecillia, no noise of her escape, she was a competent woman, what that would entail. There was a stand off for near a minute, as father and son stood back to back, waiting for the enemy to attack.

“I love you son.” Radcliff said, and almost as if on cue the men advanced, Radcliff swung wide, clipping the man in front of him in the lower jaw, sending him tumbling down from the pain, the width of his swing made the man to his right jump back, but as he jumped back, the man to his left came forward. Radcliff turned, his body, as he swung his blade back from his right with all his might, but he was too late as the man now in front of him slammed in curved blade into his son’s chest, sending him to the ground. Radcliff was able to connect with his final swing, on the man that murdered his son, smashing the blade through his eye sockets, killing him instantly. He hadn’t time to readjust to the others, and one of them landed a hard blow to the back of his head, finally answering his question about the existence of God.

© 2017 Kristopher Fandrich


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Added on October 19, 2017
Last Updated on October 19, 2017
Tags: historical, crusades, factual, fiction, crusader

Author

Kristopher Fandrich
Kristopher Fandrich

Fargo, ND



About
Just a guy that likes to write, and is looking for a bit of feedback. more..

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