Time of the Knight (Part Three)

Time of the Knight (Part Three)

A Story by Wez Hardyn
"

A Quest for Redemption

"
Chapter 9
KINGDOM of JERUSALEM (OUTREMER) 
Fifteen miles east of the city, 1185
‘I don’t like it, Fulk, there’re reports of Saracen patrols all around this area. Let’s get back to Jerusalem’ said Alan, straining his eyes to the furthest horizon.
‘You’re like a nervous hen with chicks, we’ve seen nothing and our horses need water’ Replied his companion.
The small troop of Templars led their horses down into a little depression which embraced a small oasis. Men and beasts sank their heads into the blessed water. After a while Alan’s anxiety returned:‘You hear that?’
‘You’re beginning to make me nervous now’ said Fulk, listening intently.
He was about berate his friend again when about twenty Saracens came charging down over the edge of the depression. Not having time to remount the Templars drew their swords and awaited the immanent onslaught. The violent clash saw some Christians collapse backwards into the water, while the other, more experienced warriors, held their ground with tremendous strikes of their blades. Nearly all the Saracens were dismounted now and a vicious hand to hand combat ensued. Cutting and thrusting their way through the Muslim ranks soon only Fulk and Alan remained. Fulk thought he heard a shout in French from somewhere but was too busy defending himself to be sure. He felt a presence behind him and swung his sword in a great arc as he turned. To his horror he saw the face of a Christian on the body he had just brutally cleaved. A man with vivid red hair wielding a mighty black mace sank to his knees looking up at Fulk, his eyes were saying ‘why?’ Fulk once more had to defend himself as the battle swung to and fro. He became aware that others had joined the fight - Christians! Alan’s voice shouted:
‘Now’s our chance, let’s get out of here. They ran for the horses and mounted. The other Christians were doing the same and soon all the participants had scattered in different directions. After a half hour Alan and Fulk reined in their horses to a trot. Alan looked at Fulk:
‘It wasn’t your fault, it happens often in close combat, you know that’
‘It’s never happened to me’ said Fulk 
‘Who were our saviours?’
‘I’ve never seen those badges and plumes before - they must be new to the Kingdom’
‘And I made a martyr of one of them, who came to our aid - a fellow soldier of Christ. I will never forgive myself’
Fulk awoke suddenly, in a cold sweat.
‘Dear God, let it not be true. It was I who killed the husband of Yolande and the father of Jeanne and Pierre’
He put his head in his hands and sobbed as he recalled the terrible incident and how Pierre had resembled his father, wielding the black mace. There could be no doubt, he had murdered the husband of the woman he loved. He shuddered as the awful truth of what he must do dawned on him. He must tell them, but in the name of God, how? Then another powerful thought struck him - was it possible he was brought here to find redemption by protecting the family of the soldier he had killed? But he must pay a terrible price, he could not stay after the Count had been dealt with. Another sob over came him as he imagined little Jeanne’s face when she learnt the truth. He cursed God:
‘You ask too much of me, it will break the little one’s heart and I will not do it. If I am to burn in hell for this terrible sin of omission then so be it. I swear I will not add to the pain I have already caused to those whom I love’
Chapter 10
  Fulk had left the village very early that morning. When he arrived at the castle the guards ushered him in, he was obviously expected. He was now seated in the great dining hall with the Comte de Sancerre and his teenage daughter Eleanor. 
‘So he said that did he?’ responded the Count to the requested dying message of the knight Armand. 
‘He was the best swordsman I had ever seen, which makes you a talented killer indeed’
‘It was you who killed him - giving him an ignoble cause’
‘My son must take some of the blame as well don’t you think? Speaking of my son, is he dead or, as I suspect by your presence, is he to be ransomed?’
‘He will be returned if you give me your word that the village, and more precisely Yolande, will be left in peace’
‘Ah, the lovely Yolande - perhaps you too have fallen under her spell?’ said the Count smiling.
Fulk began to rise from the table.
‘Be seated Sir Knight, I mean no disrespect. I knew her and her husband quite well you know. He was my brother’s falconer and we would occasionally dine together in the meadow to watch the birds in action’
Fulk fell back into his seat with a look of shock.
‘What’s wrong Lord Fulk?’
The Templar looked at him: ‘I, I didn’t know he was a falconer’
‘Why so surprised, he was a man of many talents, all wasted on that foolish adventure called a crusade’
Fulk regained his composure: ‘What was so foolish about retaking the Holy Land from the infidel? We wanted to make it safe for Christians to go on pilgrimage to the place of our Saviour’s life, death and resurrection - do you have no faith?’
‘That may well have been the motivation for those such as yourself and my brother but can you say it was the same for many of the leaders? The endless quarrels about power and territory - just a repeat of what we have here’
‘It didn’t have to be that way - the dream was pure’
‘And now the dream has become a nightmare of blood and death, as it will always be when man becomes an idealist’
‘Without ideals we are less than men’ 
A small feminine voice intervened: ‘Perhaps we need more kindness instead of big ideals’
The Count laughed: ‘Just like a woman, all the world’s political problems resolved by people being kind to each other!’
‘A little girl and her brother were kind to me when all I wanted to do was leave this world, it was as powerful a moment in my life as all the great speeches and battles I have witnessed. I agree with you my Lady Eleanor’
The girl smiled and blushed.
‘Now, what of the ransom?’ asked Fulk.
‘I will think about it, but there’s someone I want you to meet first’
‘No father, please’ pleaded Eleanor.
‘Enough of your womanly whining - I want to see just how brave our Templar guest really is. Follow me Sir Knight’
Fulk followed the count down into the dungeons.
‘I am to meet the monster you keep down here?’ 
‘So the villagers have been talking have they?’
A soldier opened a large wooden door and they were confronted by a row of bars behind which he could just make out a shadowy figure at the back of the cell. Suddenly with a great roar it charged the bars. Fulk had never stepped back before any man but such was the ferocious vision before him he instinctively retreated a step. A great bald head was glaring at him, the eyes bloodshot and the mouth salivating. He must have been seven feet tall! The body was muscular and covered in black hair. It sniffed Fulk as if suspecting him to be his supper.
‘Meet my eldest son Templar, if you want your beloved village to be safe you must defeat him in combat. Many have tried and all have died - perhaps you will be the first to survive the encounter? If not then I’m sure he will be delighted to meet the lovely Yolande’
Fulk turned to the Count: ‘When I’ve slain your monstrous son then his father the Comte de Sancerre will also pass into infamous memory - this I swear’
Chapter 11
  Fulk was awakened by a small hand on his shoulder. It was Eleanor:
‘Please awake Sir Fulk, I must tell you something’
Her little voice barely arousing him from his slumber.
‘How can you sleep knowing you must fight my poor brother on the morrow?’
Fulk sighed:
‘So it is you Lady Eleanor. Your poor brother you say, he appears to be merely a murderous beast’
‘And who has made him that way? Tis my father’s doing; because a soul is born that is cursed by nature in mind and body, does he not deserve our pity? Anyway I have put an end to my father’s inhuman games - I have given my brother his freedom’
‘You little fool, what if he goes to the village? What have you done my Lady?’
Jeanne looked thoughtfully at the little bobbing float on the end of her fishing line. She was confident that Lord Fulk could best the monster but what would he do then? Would he stay with them in the village? She could not believe that such a warrior would be content with the life of a country farmer - and what of her father? Was he really dead? Slowly a massive shadow loomed over the water. Jeanne turned and caught her breath:
‘Hello, you must be the monster!’ She said.
Fulk had galloped back towards the village as fast as he could. There was no sign of the monster. Then he caught sight of a falcon soaring high over the forest. Without hesitation he turned his horse to the direction of Jeanne’s favourite place by the river in the forest. 
‘Step away from the girl, you fiend’ ordered Fulk.
He had found them, as he had expected, at Jeanne’s favourite place. The monster was hunched over the little figure of Jeanne - as if she was showing it something. It turned and roared at the sight of the knight. Fulk barely had time to draw his sword before it was on him. He just heard Jeanne’s scream as he narrowly avoided a massive blow from the monster’s huge club. He countered with an equally furious thrust of his sword. The blade missed and cut deeply into a tree trunk. Frantically Fulk tried to retrieve his blade but it was firmly stuck. The monster caught him a stunning blow on the helm. Rolling to the ground he saw the thing aiming another blow that surely would end the fight. Unbelievably a little girl’s hand appeared on the monster’s stomach.
‘No, he’s my friend, Otto. This is the good knight Sir Fulk’
The monster grunted and slowly lowered his mighty club. Fulk got up quickly and staggered back towards the sword. He was trying to clear his head as Jeanne approached him.
‘Sit there awhile Lord Fulk, my new friend will not hurt you’ she said.
‘Wha, what is he doing here?’
‘Well he’s interested in fishing and I was giving him some lessons. You know some monsters aren’t scary at all once you get to know them’
Fulk began to laugh: ‘If you show them a little kindness I suppose’
They were all laughing now, at least we may assume the strange sound emanating from the monster was one of mirth.
Chapter 12
  The village was incredulous when they returned, Jeanne hand in hand with her new friend. She made the introductions to her equally nervous brother and mother. It was clear to all how the monster, or Otto as he was now to be called, doted on little Jeanne. No harm would ever come to the family as long as he lived. Fulk felt a great relief in their new security as he took Yolande’s hand and led her back to the cottage. 
‘I must speak with you’
‘You’re leaving aren’t you’ she said fearfully.
‘I have to, but there’s something I must tell you before I take my leave’
Having told her everything he knelt before her on one knee begging her forgiveness.
She was sobbing as she stretched out her hand and put it on his head. 
‘Thank you my Lady. I have no right to ask this, but will you take pity on me and not tell your beloved children that I am responsible for their father’s death?’
She was silent, unable to speak. He looked up and she nodded.
‘I will go now, while everyone is distracted by Otto the Great’
Moments later the children returned laughing. Jeanne was wondering what to make Otto for dinner when she noticed Fulk’s absence. 
‘Where is the Lord Fulk mother?’
‘He, he’s gone my love’
‘Gone where?’
‘Away’ said Yolande trembling.
Pierre and Jeanne rushed to the door. Just outside was the great sword, quivering in the ground. They saw the knight disappearing over the distant hill.
‘Lord Fulk, don’t go, we love you’ shouted little Jeanne.
They couldn’t be sure if he heard her or not but the Templar turned once more to gaze upon the village he had loved. He stood motionless, silhouetted against the pale blue sky for a while, and then turned again and was gone. 
‘He was the greatest knight in all the world, wasn’t he Mother?’ said Jeanne.
‘I hope your father would have agreed’ she replied.
TEN YEARS LATER
Chartres Cathedral
  ‘Mother, mother, come and look. Jeanne returned breathlessly to the little family group: Yolande, Pierre and his new wife, Eleanor. 
‘There’s a monument to the fallen at the Battle of Hattin over there - perhaps father’s name is on it’
‘Be more respectful Jeanne, this is a house of God you know’ said Yolande as they approached the monument.
Just as Jeanne had said here was a list of the fallen crusaders at the battle of Hattin in 1187. Silently Jeanne pointed to a name - Fulk d’Outremont.
‘There’s been some mistake here, obviously’ said Yolande.
She caught the arm of a passing priest.
‘What is it my child?’ he said.
‘This name is a mistake, we knew this knight in 1188’
‘That’s impossible, my child, he was the most famous of the knights who protected the True Cross to the end with his life’
Yolande’s blood ran cold as she remembered the Templar’s words to her:
‘I died at Hattin but if I am to live again it will be because of you and the children’
An elderly falcon turned from the scene below in the cathedral and, spreading its wings in the shape of a cruciform, it died.
THE END

© 2016 Wez Hardyn


My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Reviews

A fascinating story with incredible responses from father, mother and other family members

Posted 8 Years Ago


Wez Hardyn

8 Years Ago

Thanks Gerry, I've always had a fascination with the crusades and quest narratives. It's fun to use .. read more
This is an amazing read. The transformation of the falcon was so cool. Thanks for sharing.

Posted 9 Years Ago


Interesting Wez. I think the falcon should have showed up one or two more times before its transformation. Over all an interesting story.

Posted 10 Years Ago



Share This
Email
Facebook
Twitter
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

1981 Views
4 Reviews
Rating
Added on October 12, 2013
Last Updated on April 18, 2016
Tags: Historical Drama, Crusades, Quest Romance

Author

Wez Hardyn
Wez Hardyn

Cambridge, United Kingdom



About
I've had some success publishing my essays on politics and I want to try my hand at fiction. Having already started my first novel I am very interested in what others are writing - especially novices .. more..

Writing