The Redeemer: Godfrey

The Redeemer: Godfrey

Revenge in the age of the crusades. Knights, Saracens and a whole lot of folly and fury. Enjoy!

Godfrey kneeled in front of the altar of the church with his hands together and head bowed in silent prayer.  A great ray of sunlight cut into the room from a small east-facing window above him lighting up his polished chain armor with only the painted black cross of the Knights Hospitaller on the chest and shoulders breaking it up. His brown bearded face, green eyes and head were covered by a polished iron helmet with a holy cross shaped guard that came down between his eyes and mouth and across his nose and cheeks.  A great longsword with the markings of his Frankish family displayed on the pommel and guard was strapped to his right side and a scuffed but fine iron shield bearing the mark of his order was resting against his left. His mouth slowly and silently mouthed the lord’s prayers as he had done three times daily for over two decades before.

Godfrey’s mind was elsewhere. Sultan Saladin and his Saracen armies had defeated the bulk of the Christian armies of Jerusalem months before at the Horns of Hattin. Saladin then conquered Tiberius, Ten Acres, Sidon, Beirut, Gaza then pushed to Jerusalem where he took it under siege and defeated the defenders. He was merciful in allowing the survivors of Jerusalem to escape but many small garrisons were left across the conquered territories were granted no mercy. They were being overrun, enslaved, converted or killed. Godfrey was in charge of one such garrison in a small roadside village along the road to Hebron and he worried they would be next.

Godfrey completed his morning prayer, rose and then walked outside the small chapel into the confines of the small fort which rested in a lush valley of green grasses and Pine, Cyprus, Oak and Olive trees.  The flowing hills above and around casted long shadows in the morning and evening but didn’t keep out the warming sun for long. The fort itself was as humble as the small rise it sat on and simple farming village it overlooked.  It contained a wood and stone chapel, a one floored barracks, and a horse stable that was surrounded by four wooden walls that were twice a man’s height with guard towers at the corners. The village consisted of a dozen or so small wooden homes, a smithy, a church, a granary and a small mill which sat on a gentle brook that snaked down from the hills passing through the village and further down into the valley.  A large farm and orchard sat opposite the fort and a simple single dusty gravel strewn road passed through it all.  It may not be Jerusalem but was heaven on earth to Godfrey.

His thoughts were interrupted by the rhythmic thump of approaching horses and he looked over to see two riders had entered the fort and were making their way to him. Both were dressed in far lighter leather hide armor with the markings of Army of Jerusalem. Their horses were lightly tacked and outfitted for speed, not battle. The young men were a pair of the half-dozen scouts he had conscripted from the townsfolk and charged with manning a small observation post in the hills. Another pair had taken this pair’s place for the day and would only return if something of note was observed until relieved for the night.

“Any sightings of the savage?” he asked smiling upon the two young scouts.

“None, my lord,” replied the elder of the two.

“Very well.  Get those horses watered and get something to eat,” Godfrey replied.

As the two scouts headed toward the stables the barracks door opened up and a grizzled elder knight walked out the barracks with a stretch of his arms and back.

Sir Edwin’s body told the tale of a lifetime of battle. His face from chin to forehead had the scars and marks of a traveled road. The left side of his mouth was missing all teeth which were taken by a Saracen’s mace years ago. He took great pride in displaying the hole to all with a mighty grin from ear to ear. He walked with a pronounced limp and with the help of a simple spear which he claimed to have stolen from a Sultan while he was poking his wife with another spear.  It was this good cheer and humor that endeared him to all and made them forget about his decrepit state.

“Lord Godfrey. I feel stiffer than a heathen’s cock!” said the old knight.

“I would trust your expertise on that fact, Sir Edwin!” replied Godfrey with a grin.

“It’s the next Sultan’s wives who need worry about my expertise! said Sir Edwin.

“I would hand over my lands the day you kneel before the Lord and confess,” said Godfrey.

“Me too, my Lord,” Sir Edwin said with a wink, who then walked off toward the stables to likely torture the two scouts.

Godfrey smiled and walked into the barracks. The two scores of knights under his command were sitting at a long oak table eating breakfast and preparing for the day. It was warm and smelled of cooked sausage and warm bread. They all rose as Godfrey entered and issued a quick salute.

“Scouts have nothing to report.” Godfrey said, taking a seat and pulling off his helmet.

“Do you think the devils are coming soon?” Asked a very young fair haired knight named Francois asked.

“Yes. I don’t know when, but they will come here. This valley is paradise and we are in the way,” replied Godfrey.

“And you best pray for the grace of God, Sir Knight! When the heathen comes he won’t show any mercy for us so you show him none. You strike him down like he’s the devil himself,” Said a stern dark haired warrior that was digging into the stewpot next to the stone fireplace.

“Yes Sir Bertram. I will pray for us all.” said Francois.

“Good lad!” Sir Bertram said sitting down to eat next to Godfrey.

Two other young Knights then emerged from the doorway to the barracks. Francois quickly rose and the trio rushed out the door to do their morning duties.

Godfrey looked at Sir Bertram and smiled.

“Remember when we were like that? Ready to rush out and face the world?”

“I do,” Said Bertram with a smile. “God willing we’ll be able to do it again soon!”

The knight’s duties of maintaining the fort, garrison, horses and equipment carried them through the day and into the evening. Nothing out of sorts occurred other than what Sir Edwin could manufacture for his own amusement.  The sun was just making its way toward the hilltop when the fast rumble of a trotting horse could once again be heard and one of the scouts appeared.

“What is it lad!” sir Edwin said to a very worried looking rider.

“A score of riders approaches from the north. They appear to be flying the banner of the Knights Templar.”

Edwin looked over at Godfrey and said. “I’ll ask the cook to put out the best silver!”

“Best to have Bertram hide it.” Replied Godfrey dryly.

Sirs Edwin and Godfrey returned to barracks and the calling bell was wrung. The knights dropped what they were doing gathered quickly and were informed that guests were on the way and they were to be in armor with banner flying within the hour. All guests were to be given the best the fort could offer.

A stern Templar knight and his lieutenants stood on a hilltop overlooking the lush valley an hour later. Sir Jacob and his knights had abandoned their garrison days ago as a Saracen Army led by Amet Al Jadari had crushed every other garrison and was moving toward theirs next. Jacob was neither coward or fool . He would not let his valiant knights die defending a position and village that meant little to retaking the holy land. He needed to fall back, find other garrisons and enlist an army to lead the charge back into the holy city. It was God’s will.

Jacob looked down into the sweeping valley and could see a village with a defensible fort atop. His map had marked it as a Hospitaller road garrison and it appeared to be as well maintained as the farming village below. He urged his troop forward as the sun began its slow descent and he thanked the Lord for his good fortune. “Onward!” he ordered as he coaxed his mount forward.

Sirs Godfrey, Bertram, Edwin and Francois gathered at attention with the rest of the order under the black and white crossed banner of the order as the dozen Templar Knights entered the compound on their great traveling steeds under their red crossed banner.  Numerous town elders had gathered as well and stood nervously next to Friar Jans who generally represented the town in any gathering. The Templar knights were led by a tall knight dressed in fine but soiled chain armor and helmet who carried a great shield with a blood red cross painted on it. The rest of the band appeared in similar armor and hefted similar shields, spears and the look of seasoned warriors. All seemed road worn and weary but sat tall and silently at attention as their leader dismounted his horse.

“I am Sir Jacob Coulvalier of Orange, Lord Knight of the Templar and servant of the Lord,” he announced proudly.

Sir Godfrey looked at Edwin who winked at him and then back the knight.

“I’m Sir Godfrey Lion of Alsace and Knight Hospitaller. Welcome to our fort brother. You and your fine men are our guests and are welcomed to stay as long as you require. “

Sir Jacob smiled and then waved his free arm at his troops to dismount which they promptly did to get squared away. Sir Edwin walked forward coaxing them toward the stable where their horses would be tied, fed and quartered for the night. The knights then all retired to the barracks where a great meal, baths and beds were being prepared. The barracks was filled to capacity which was something it hadn’t been in ages.

The two-plus scores of knights sat around a great table in the barracks and as loaves of bread and drink began to appear Sir Jacob got up to address the group. His face looked solemn as first recited the night’s prayer. He then looked up at the group.

“Knights Hospitaller, we appreciate your great cheer and hospitality however be warned. A great army of savages is but one day behind us,” Jacob said with one finger up. “They are led by the Heathen, Al Jadari, who has shown great cruelty and contempt for all of God’s children. We must stand together and defend this fort from his horde and then reform a great Army of God to drive them from the holy lands once again.”

Sir Jacob then looked at the shocked Sir Godfrey as if expecting him to immediately cede his leadership to him.

“Sir Jacob this garrison is with you and your brave men. We are sworn to protect this fort, village and all that believe in God!” He said while raising his chalice to the cheers of his knights.

He then sat down and the meal began to be served to all in earnest. The table was quickly filled with loaves of bread, bowls of olives, casks of wine and pots of stew much to the happiness of Jacob’s weary knights. Bellies were filled but so were thoughts as everybody focused on the dire threat at hand and conversations were directed that way.

“Sir Jacob. How big is this force of Saracens?” asked Bertrand.

“We witnessed the approach of at least 4 scores of riders and at least 20 times that number of archer and infantry. They had decimated at least three garrisons prior to reaching our position. We evacuated seeking to reinforce realizing our position was weak and our numbers low,” he replied.

“Well the twenty more of us should provide a fair fight!” Joked Sir Edwin.  Bertram, Godfrey and one of Jacob’s knights laughed but Jacob did not. He looked coldly at Edwin.

“You will do whatever you’re ordered to. This garrison and all in it are now under my command as I am the ranking knight,” Jacob looked at Sir Godfrey as he said this looking for his backing once again.

“Yes, my lord,” Sir Godfrey replied obediently bowing his head. He then raised his glass.

“To God and duty!” he said. The table then followed suit. Godfrey’s eyes then looked at Bertram and Edwin.

The meal continued in cheer and earnest. Many of the Knights retired soon after to rest up for what could be an eventful day. Sir Godfrey walked out to the stables with Edwin and Bertram to check on the mounts and talk.

“Sir Godfrey. What are we to do? It seems like too large of a force is coming this way,” said Bertram.

“We do our duty. We protect this fort, this village and road. God willing, Sir Jacob and his band of Templar’s can help,” replied Godfrey.

“I’m not so sure about Jacob. He’s wound a little too tight and didn’t say anything about the fate of the village he was charged with protecting before he up and ran?” asked Edwin.

Godfrey raised his hand to Edwin. “Old friend, I know something is amiss but we must all face it together.”

He then thought for a moment and rubbed his chin.

“Ride down to the village at dawn and let the villagers know what’s coming and prepare them to move into the fort. We’re likely looking at a siege so please have them bring what food and water we can. Do not panic them!”

The knights then completed their tasks in the stable and retired to bed in the great room of the barracks. The wine at dinner helped but many had a hard time falling to sleep and dreams were far from sweet. They had all seen what war had done to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and viciousness of battle. None wanted it again.

Morning came swiftly and as Godfrey emerged from the barracks he saw that Bertram had returned from the village with the elders I tow.

“Sir Godfrey, what is the meaning of this. How could the Knighthood not allow the people into the fort in a time such as this!” said the Friar.

Godfrey looked shockingly at Sir Bertram who replied, “Sir Jacob has ordered that the villagers are to remain in the village and fortify it, Sir Godfrey.”

Godfrey turned and saw the Templar leader speaking with one of his charge near the stables. He quickly stomped over.

“Sir Jacob. Why did you stop the villagers from evacuating the town? It is indefensible and they are no warriors!” said Godfrey.

Sir Jacob gave Sir Godfrey a hard look and said. “This fort is about to be brought under siege and there is hardly enough food and water to support our knights for a week never mind the entire village. They are servants of the lord and will do their part as I see fit. Your man Edwin spoke harshly to me as well. He is currently in the infirmary having his old jaw tended to and if you continue Sir Knight you will join him as well.”

“How dare you strike a man of this order!” Sir Godfrey said his hand going to his sword. All knights began drawing their weapons to stand off against each other.

Sir Jacob looked around and with a sneer said. “As a servant of the Church, you know the rank of order of things. Now, let us save this fight for the Saracens who quickly approach!”

Godfrey knew the cold Templar leader was right on that point and retreated into the stables where a young squire was wrapping a bandage about Sir Edwin’s head to support a broken jaw. Edwin looked at him when he approached and mumbled. “I’m starting to lose my good looks and charm!” he mumbled.  Godfrey patted him on the shoulder with a laugh.

The rest of the morning was spent stocking the fort for siege and moving obstacles to slow any approach to the fort. The town itself was busy with many of the same efforts and Godfrey had sent Bertram and several of the young Knights to assist. The farmers had gathered and formed a small militia of spearmen and archers that could offer a skirmish or two but little else. The knight’s hearts dropped knowing this.

The noon bell tolled and two scouts returned with the tale of a coming Saracen army. They detailed at least two hundred infantry, one hundred archers and half that number of Saracen Cavalry. They marched with speed and in good order.  It would be moments before enemy scouts breached the valley.

The bell was struck again to warn all of the coming attack and the Knights and villagers sealed their defenses and watched the northern hilltops for a first sign. They were rewarded less than an hour later as several mounted Saracen scouts were seen roaming in zigzag patterns and then disappearing over the ridge to report their observations.  It made the defenders nervous and ready for a fight.

The bulk of the Saracen army marched into the valley a short time later. A long column quickly formed into a solid wall of two ranks. The first line of men wielded spear and shield followed by a second line of longbow armed archers. They were all dressed in padded leather or hide armor with a bright green crescent painted on all shields and shirts. A swift column of Calvary wound like a snake behind them and came to rest forming a line in front of the infantry.  Two Saracens continued forward on their mounts toward the fort and dismounted a dozen paces before it.

Godfrey and Jacob both moved toward the large front gate of the fort. Sir Jacob quickly put his hand out in front of Godfrey. “Please see to the defense sir Godfrey, I shall parley with the heathens.”

Godfrey looked at Jacob sharply and but then turned back toward the stables. He motioned Bertram and Edwin to come with him.

Sir Jacob walked out and met the two Saracen horsemen. He kept one hand on the sword at his side.

“Halt! What is it you want you wretched jackals!” said Jacob in very broken Arabic.

One of the Saracen cavaliers quickly pulled out a curved scimitar from the scabbard on his belt exposing a gleaming blade but the other held up his hand and spoke to the knight.

“The great Amet Al Jadari, servant of Saladin humbly asks you to submit. You are to drop your arms and pray to Allah for mercy.”

“We will do no such thing!”  Godfrey then turned his back on the horseman and walked back to the fort. The Saracen messengers then got back on their horses and began to gallop toward their army. The first Saracen held his right arm up with fist clenched toward the troops in front of him.  The line of Saracen cavalry swiftly galloped to the left allowing the infantry to step forward and the archers began to set their arrows alight.

Godfrey seemingly gave the same notice when he wrung the bell next to the stable. The Templars assumed it was a call to battle but Godfrey’s Hopitallers knew what it meant as they left their defensive positions and rushed toward the stable to mount their horses. It was time for a mounted attack.

Godfrey looked at Bertram and Edwin as he quickly mounted his horse with a spear in hand and said. “Take a look down there and see what’s about to happen. The village will be taken under arrow and the defenders will be slaughtered while we sit up here. This is not the will go God! We must help them!”

The rest of the Hospitaller knights quickly mounted and fell in behind Godfrey who quickly coaxed his mount toward the door which cranked open as they approached. A lone knight had commandeered the large crank that opened it and saluted when all looked over at him.

Sir Jacob ran out with sword in hand in front of the horseman.

“Where do you think you’re going! You are to maintain this position!”

Godfrey looked down and calmly replied, “to mind the Lord’s flock you ass!” Godfrey looked up and with a snap of the reigns ,his horse lurched forward. The column behind him followed with the knight manning the door mounting a vacant horse at the end.

“Bloody Hospitaller fools!” one of Jacob’s men shouted out loud.

Godfrey’s knights exited the fort in a full run with spears forward. The sky was filled with lit and until arrows in response that fell on the village creating immediate havoc, death and fire. The invading infantry then started their march toward the town with only the village’s crop fields and orchards obstructing them. Jacob prayed it would give him time to reach the village before the infantry. There they could dismount, use the structures as cover and lend their expertise to the defense.

Amet Al Jadari and his lieutenants were experienced and could see what was unfolding. They ordered their more numerous cavalry to ride and engage the knights before they could reach their destination. The Saracen cavaliers began a hard charge snaking around the fields to intercept the line of knights before they entered the town.

Godfrey’s horse galloped hard and to his right he could see the young Sir Francois pushing his mount hard to his left Bertram was expertly driving his mount forward while bringing his spear to bear. He could feel the rest behind him as the ground rumbled, hooves thundered and the occasional horse grunted as they pushed forward.

His troop was moments away from the village when a flash of light to his right revealed many charging Saracen horsemen that were nearly upon them.  Sir Bertram then crossed into his view and angled out toward the mounted attackers aiming his sharpened spear at the closest rider. Godfrey continued forward and entered the village.  He could hear the clash of steel from behind him where Bertram and any others who followed collided with enemy riders. He feared for his comrades but had a responsibility to get to the villagers.

Sir Godfrey and the half dozen others that cleared the dueling cavalry charge jumped off their horses and pulled the swords, morning stars and maces at their sides ready to do battle.  Numerous mounted Saracens barreled out of the cavalry charge into the village only to be struck down from the flanks by enraged knights. The other Saracen riders behind quickly took note and swung wide clearing themselves from confines of the village. It was no place for mounted warriors to do battle.

Sir Godfrey dashed to the safety of a farmhouse and looked over to see old Edwin running with a limp and covered with blood.

“Bertram? Godfrey asked. The old knight just shook his head in reply as he reached the cover of the roof of the house as several arrows landed behind him.

“Let’s go! Get to the villagers in the center!” Godfrey yelled waving his blade toward the center of the town.

Godfrey looked around and counted only six of this troop had made it into the village other than himself and Sir Edwin. There were many fires in the village and much screaming coming from the north side. This had to be where the villagers’ defense was being mounted.

They arrived to find many of the village men and women arrowshot or dead in the village center and many buildings on fire. The friar moved about with several young men carrying buckets of water attempting to put the worst out. Godfrey waved to the friar who approached.

“The arrows broke the men. Most are dead or have retreated to the chapel to defend their families,” the Friar said in a near panic.

Godfrey looked toward the north end of the village and could see a large formation of Saracen infantry now moving down the road.  They had formed into an organized phalanx of spearmen preceded by skirmishers who were running and hacking at anybody they could find.

“Get your men back to the chapel. We’ll make our stand there!” exclaimed Godfrey.

Godfrey and Edwin then coaxed the survivors was toward the church. The townspeople were gathered inside and the seven remaining knights and armed villagers formed a half moon phalanx outside of the double doors.  They all could see the Saracens surging forward and knew this wasn’t going to be a fair fight.

Sir Edwin was the first to speak and mumbled. “Say your peace if you need to lads and give as good as you get!”

Godfrey looked behind him and for a brief second hoped that Sir Jacob and his knights would be charging to their rescue but that was not the case.  He looked toward the hilltop and could see the blood their banner had not moved from the fort at all.  His vision and mind went as red as the bloody cross on their banner.

“May the lord deliver justice to Jacob and his pack of cowardly dogs!” He shouted out loud to nobody in particular.

The first of the Saracen infantry closed on the defending knights in a great rush. Godfrey struck first by bringing his longsword down across the shoulder of a skirmisher nearly cleaving him into two. Francois followed with a vicious jab of his sword through the face of the next. Edwin then brought his blade up to block a blow of a sword but was quickly knocked backward as an unseen warrior punched a spear through the armor covering his chest. Godfrey saw his old friend fall and then walked into a sideward slash of a scimitar which parted his armor and opened his stomach. He fell to one knee holding the vicious wound with one arm and raised his sword high to deflect the killing blow that was surely coming down upon him. His last sight was seeing a great surge of enemy infantry swarm toward him. He fell dark shortly after feeling the bite of great weapon being driven down through his shoulder. His fellow knights died very much the same way.

Sir Jacob had watched Sir Godfrey and his band of fools charge to their deaths. Godfrey had lost most of his riders to the Saracen charge and his own life to a pointless last stand at the church that was now being put to the torch. If that fool had ordered all villagers to fight at least they would have not been burned alive hiding and hoping. The stupidity!

Jacob then looked around at his force and looked at the massive force of Saracen’s swarming the village below with some maneuvering around the hill. His force was small and surrounded by an enraged battle-hardened force that could likely breach the walls of this small fort and crush them at will.  Surrender was the only option.

Sir Jacob was not the only one thinking this as the chapel as the town’s inhabitants burned.  Amet Al Jadari sat on his warhorse looking down upon the scene with the lieutenants he had sent to parley earlier with sad eyes. He didn’t like killing brave men, women and children for such a small village. Why didn’t these fools just leave? He gave them the chance.

“Return to the fort and demand the surrender of who remains. Tell him Al Jadari is feeling merciful after such events!”

The horsemen nodded and road again towards the fort stopping within earshot. The defenders did not move and stirred like nervous farm animals on the battlements.

“What do you want!” shouted Sir Jacob.

“Your unconditional surrender!  Al Jadari does not wish for more massacres after what he has witnessed today!” said the closest rider.

“Will I and my men be spared?” asked Sir Jacob.

“Yes this is what I said. You will come with us and submit before Amit Al Jadari. God willing you will then learn the ways of Allah and serve him the way we see fit.”

“Accepted.” Said Sir Jacob.

The lieutenant smiled, turned and raised his right arm to the sky signaling the surrender. The army surged forward to take possession of the fort. As the lieutenant rode back to join his comrades he did wonder if this coward really deserved any mercy. He had just sat up on the hill watching his comrades in arms die and just surrendered his troops and position without pause.

The handover went smoothly with only one of Jacob’s knights beheaded for disobedience. The rest handed over their horses and arms and submitted to Allah as they had been instructed to. Sir Jacob was the first and handed his blade to Amet Al Jadari with a bow.  The leader smiled but then ordered them to collect all bodies in the village and add them to the pyre that was the church. Jacob and his men carried out the gruesome task in earnest, happy to still have their lives.

Godfrey first saw darkness but then opened his eyes to the light of a thousand suns. Squinting he put right hand in front of his eyes and rolled off the high bed he had been lying on and felt his feet hit the floor. Looking down he noticed his injuries were gone, his armor was removed and he was dressed in a white silken robe. Looking to the left and right he noticed he was in a large warm white room and his fellow knights were fast asleep laid out on similar beds but were not rousing at all.

He looked at a sleeping, Sir Beltram and called out his name.

A booming voice then called out. “Sir Godfrey, they do not hear you.”

Godfrey looked toward the source which appeared to be beyond the bright light. He squinted through the gaps of his fingers and saw the shadow of a large figure materialize and begin to walk toward him. When it got closer he recognized that it was Sir Edwin walking toward him. This Sir Edwin was not the decrepit limping old warrior he knew but a young vibrant one who carried himself high with a large blade in his hand.

“Edwin? Is that you?” Godfrey asked.

“It is and I’ve come to offer you the revenge you seek. It does not come cheaply though. If you take it you will not be able to pass on to heaven but instead will serve your Lord somewhere in between.  If you do take it you will be able to avenge the great injustice that cost you, your men and the villagers their lives. It is your choice to make. Take the sword if you wish it so,” said Edwin as he handed the sword to Godfrey hilt first.

Godfrey thought for a second, grabbed the sword and said “It is gods will.”

Young Sir Edwin smiled as he replied, “Still doing the bidding of another? It must be your will.”

“It is!” replied Sir Godfrey and in a flash he was gone.

Sir Edwin turned as the form of Godfrey disappeared as did the knights around him. He walked back toward the light and as he did his form changed back to the form of a lumbering demon.  It smiled as it thought how this lowly human thought the revenge it seeks is god’s will. He isn’t the first or the last to think that!

Sir Jacob and his men spent the rest of the day conducting the gruesome tasks of stripping the dead of their valuables and throwing their bodies into the fire. The dead Saracens were being collected by the Saracen warriors and an Iman to be prepared for paradise in their way. It was a hot and exhausting task and by the time of the Muslim’s evening prayer, they were exhausted. Their captors forced them to bow in the direction of Mecca and pray to the great Allah for forgiveness. They did not know the words but did as they were commanded. As they did the church still burned strong as if was being fed by scores of the dead that were quickly disappearing into the sky as ash.

A Saracen rider appeared a short time later to relieve them of this work. “Sir Knight. You and your dogs will wash from the brook and then attend our feast. This is my commander’s will.”

Sir Jacob and his men quickly moved toward the brook to wash, drink much-needed water and prepare for a meal with their conquerors.  They finished quickly and lumbered somberly up the hill toward the fort.  The sun had gone down and many campfires now burned in and around the fort as did the pyre that still burned behind them.  They moved toward where they thought the Saracen leader and his generals might be but a warrior quickly stepped in front of them and pointed to a small fire on the periphery of the fort where they would take their meal. A bucket of water and several loaves of bread sat unattended next to it that was quickly passed out to the men.

Jacob’s mood was foul, his fate was unknown but thank god they were still alive. He now had to devise a way to escape. He looked at his men for a second and started to work on what they could do to help him escape. His thoughts were then interrupted as the earth shook and sky night sky was filled with the fire of a thousand suns as something exploded behind him in the village below.

The chapel exploded and Sir Godfrey and his troop emerged from the raging fire on burning mounts. Their blackened charred skeletal forms burned brightly with whites, yellows and oranges of the hottest fire as smoke plumed from them as they charged.  Sir Godfrey felt great power flow through him and looking left and right could see it in his comrades as well. It was if the embers of a justice had been stoked! He also somehow knew though this power would not last forever and they would be consumed. They must be swift! He looked up toward the camp, drew a great fiery longsword and wished a hell storm down up it.  The chapel pyre exploded again throwing flaming debris high into the air above the village and fort.

Amit Al Jadari and his lieutenants rushed out of their great tent when screams of fear and horror could be heard after the roar of a tremendous explosion. Amit pushed through the tent flaps with sword in hand but his eyes were drawn up by the light of a sky filled with flaming debris that began crashing down on the camp like a great firestorm from the heavens. One of his lieutenants made the mistake of running and was quickly crushed down by a large chunk of flaming debris.

“Oh great Allah.” Amit said eyes wide as he ran back into the tent to retrieve his armor.

Sir Jacob and his men recovered from the blindness shock of the explosion and began fleeing away from the trajectory of the debris which arced high into the sky and into camp and fort. As their night sight recovered they looked back toward the village they then saw a wondrous sight. A troop of flaming mounted knights charged from the village and began snaking up the hill.

Most went down to their knees to pray. “God has sent his avenging angels to save us!” Jacob shouted to his men.

Sir Godfrey led the charge up the hill and on the periphery of the camp could see Jacob and his band of cowards. He quickly pointed at them directing his knights on where to attack. Their great lances came down bright with the fires that continued to consume them.

Sir Jacob saw the band turn and accelerate and as they got closer he starting feeling something was familiar about them. “Oh my God!” he mouthed as the details of the blackened plates of the smoldering horseman came into view. It was Godfrey and his troop!

Sir Godfrey’s lance ran through Sir Jacob rupturing his cowering form in first a blast of fire and then a spray of powdered ash. This was repeated by the other horsemen as each one of Jacob’s knights perished in flames. There were a few screams but they were quickly stifled out by the crackling of the flames that now consumed their sources. It was a hellish and brutal end. Justice had been served.

Sir Godfrey and his men then drew great fiery swords, maces and ball-and-chains and charged toward the chaos of the camp and fort. Their fiery mounts were starting to deteriorate with bones starting to break free and fall to the ground and shatter into powder.  They could feel themselves starting to deteriorate and knew they didn’t have much time before they would be ash as well.

Amit Al Jadari and several of his surviving troops now stood back to back in a circle as chaos reigned around them.  They had grabbed their weapons and shields but still had no idea what was going on until they had heard a great clash of steel from the peripheries. Then they saw what seemed to be a great fireball rush across their visions tossing men, horses and equipment far into the air trailing great plumes of fire and smoke. Leading this ball of flame were hellish riders with their weapons held high which they struck down upon their victims who exploded into dust and ash. This continued all around them for several minutes and quickly consumed the army around him.

Amit closed his eyes and whispered to Allah, “Give me strength.”

The hellish riders then slowed and circled outside of the ruined fort and army surrounding Amit and his men giving them a far better view of what they are. The riders were large, armored but skeletal with bones that looked like hot embers that would soon burn out. Their eyes, mouths spewed fire and ash and they seemed to look upon Al Jadari and his men like a great cat would its prey.

Amit decided he would not die a coward’s death and raised his scimitar high and led his lieutenants on a final charge against these demons on foot. The demons reciprocated and moved into a mounted charge behind their leader. The forces closed and the world around them was a blur. Amit swore as he saw a toothy grin form on skeletal form charging right at him. He then felt nothing.

The valley exploded in a firestorm that could be seen and felt in Jerusalem and the territories beyond. Most thought it was the eruption of a volcano or the impact of great rock falling from the sky. Those that had lived or come to the valley were never seen or heard from again. All that was left was a scared landscape that would quickly become as lush and beautiful as it was before.

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