CastleMoor – Crusader Knights Adventure
Set In the 12th century against the Scottish border region and the ‘Holy Land’ of Outremer, this is an action-packed adventure that follows the trials and tribulations of Sir William Fitz-Walter
as he sets out to clear the debt he has incurred by being captured and ransomed whilest on crusasde. Finally arriving back home in Scotland, he is advised of a great treasure now held by the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ the chief of the feared Assasins – but is it just a fanciful story, or does this feared ruler of the Ismaili religious sect really hold the solution to his financial problems.
On the way he is stalked by an old adversary, and his scheme has the Knights Templar’s themselves more than a little interested in the relic – should it exist at all. Murder and adventure make for close companions in the first part of this stirring adventure story.
The siege of Acre 1191
Sir William Fitz-Walter sat astride his destrier, and squirmed uncomfortably as the sweat trickled down the back of his neck. He was desperate to scratch at the lice crawling around the inside of his padded gambeson, and his bowels grumbled ominously; as he waited along with his fellow knights for the order to advance.
For almost an hour, horse and man had stood before the walls of Acre and roasted in the mid-day sun, while the formidable heat built up under the heavy plate and chainmail; meant that they were all virtually cooking in their own juices as the commanders quibbled interminably over the battle plans.
A numberless horde of black flies, feasted voraciously on the salty excreta freely available from the armies of both factions; while the overflowing latrines and bloated corpses added to the pestilential miasma that had formed over two years of siege.
William suddenly felt his guts wrench, and he heaved up his breakfast, barely missing the knight nearest to him. He was about to apologise when a terrible crashing sound to his right made him twist around. The first casualty of the battle was an unfortunate knight rolling from his horse, as the heat became too much to bear and he slipped into unconsciousness.
The crossbowmen ranged to the fore of the battle line, were suddenly all action, and the sergeants were screaming instructions to the men-at-arms; while lines of priests made their way to safety. A great buzz permeated the ranks, as it became evident that battle was about to be joined at last, and death or the spoils of victory beckoned.
He watched impatiently with sweat blinding his eyes, as commands were shouted, and the crossbowmen crept slowly forward to begin the attack. The muscular body under him tensed and snorted; the big destrier flaring his nostrils at the reek of fear and excitement that preceded battle. William patted his broad neck and whispered comforting words, noticing several of his colleagues do the same as man and beast prepared for battle.
Screams and curses soon permeated back to the ranks, as the crossbowmen encountered resistance and fell back from the onslaught of Saladin’s mounted archers. The signal was given and the heavy horse of the Templars and Hospitallers, took the lead; followed by knights of many European contingents. Slowly the unstoppable mass of heavily armoured horse and men moved forward at a trot, while the crusader infantry stepped swiftly aside to let them pass.
Within 300 yards the trot had become a gallop, and the pride of the crusader army dropped their lances to the level position. William took up the cry of his comrades as they screamed out in exhilaration “GOD WILLS IT!”
The thundering, unstoppable mass of armoured horse and man, smashed into the Saracen line; scattering men in all directions as they frantically tried to avoid being trampled by the heavy horse, or impaled by the lances.
The siege of the city had begun two years previously, following the disastrous defeat of the Christian army at the Battle of Hattin; and the subsequent fall of Acre to Saladin, along with Jerusalem and most of Outremer.
King Guy had encamped outside the walls and demanded the city’s surrender. Saladin had in turn encamped in front of Guys troops, and so the besiegers had become the besieged. Attack and counter-attack from both sides, as well as sallies to and from the city itself, had so far resulted in a stale-mate; while conditions both inside and outside the city became unbearable with sickness and lack of clean drinking water, killing more men than armed conflict.
Sir William had arrived along with the armies of King Richard of England and King Philip of France, and a new spirit of enthusiasm swept through the camp as victory was considered by most to be within their grasp.
With the arrival of the crusader reinforcements totalling almost 20,000 men, Saladin’s opportunity to defeat the besieging crusader armies, and bring relief to the city had all but slipped away. This final push by Saladin, at the request of the city’s inhabitants, would determine whether the city would remain in Muslim hands – or whether the Christians would once again take control of the strategic city.
William almost found himself unhorsed, as his lance bit into a Saracen archer and pushed on right through him, in an explosion of blood and flesh. Quickly letting go the useless weapon, he pulled out his arming sword and holding the shield with his left hand; gripped the horse tightly with his knees, as he slashed at the face of one of the few horse archers still standing after the initial charge.
Screams rent the air as the bloody chaos of war took over, and madness presided over the wicked dance of fate that determined who would live and who would die – or indeed who would wish they had died, after surviving injuries too unspeakable to imagine.
For what seemed like an age, William hacked and slashed at his enemies, desperately aware that his strength was failing; each rise and fall of his sword becoming slower and more frantic.
In a moment of respite he looked around, trying to get an understanding of how the battle went; and was relieved to see that although the fighting around his men was still frantic, the Saracen seemed to be on the run.
A searing burning pain in his right forearm, forced him to drop his sword, and as he automatically attempted to guide the horse away from the assault, he looked into the bloodshot grinning eyes of his assailant; and from there to the heavy cleaver-like sword that had cut through his chainmail, and almost severed his arm clean off.
Temporarily losing control of his panicked horse, the animal turned swiftly away from danger – and threw William headfirst into the hard unforgiving ground. His last conscious awareness was of a large cracking sound, then all went dark; and for Sir William Fitz-Walter, Lord of Castlemoor, the battle was over.