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Zeo Grey
Deus Velt!
Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:20pm

NRP: I'm not being quite as historically accurate as I could be with this but it's mostly correct and that's all we really need isn't it?

Jerusalem- July 15, 1099 A. D.

The cooking fires were not yet lit when Duke Godfrey gestured one of his waiting pages to him.

“Fetch the mercenary.”

Jacob nodded sharply and darted out of the tent into the darkness. The air cut coldly into his lungs as he ran and tried to ignore the plucks of pain coursing through his legs. It was always like this. Hours of standing as still as he could then a plunge of sudden bursting into a full run to carry a message. He struck out fast through the orderly rows of the knights’ tents. To not gawk a little was impossible. Godfrey’s warriors were all up. Checking their armor, sharpening their swords, or praying for strength and fortitude. How could the heathens, even rooted firmly in Jerusalem herself, stand against the mighty host? It was a question Jacob could hardly fathom much less answer.

He remembered when the siege began a month ago. How excited he was to finally see the sand-blasted walls of the holy city where the Christ had sacrificed himself for Jacob’s sins. Every knight in the camp had declared the city would fall in mere days.

All save the mercenary.

He had eyed the walls from his black stallion through slitted eyes then hawked harshly in his throat and spat in the dust. Jacob was close enough to hear him talk to Marion, his favorite whore, in oddly accented French.

“Better set up camp. We’re gonna be here a while.”

The mercenary was right. A long, hot, near-waterless month of siege and starvation. It was Arqa all over again some brave few muttered around their camp fires. But this was Jerusalem -the navel of the world. The Crusade would either succeed or die there.

Slowing his run to a jog Jacob approached the tents of the camp-followers. A few cook fires burned here. Whores kept much different hours from the knights. Making his way between the tents with the ease of many journeys Jacob approached the tent of Marion. He stumbled from a jog to a walk as he did. It wasn’t that he was scared. Not precisely. The mercenary had never been unkind to him even when he clearly wished him gone from Marion’s tent. It was more that Jacob didn’t like the way the mercenary felt. There was a wrongness to him. Everyone felt it to some degree or another. A sense that he didn’t belong in the world.

Maybe it was just that he took so many baths.

Biting back a laugh at that thought Jacob stuck his head in the tent and nearly fell backwards.

The mercenary was already up and staring directly at him.

Jacob recovered quickly and carefully stepped into the tent. “Milord Godfrey summons you sir.” The mercenary nodded slowly and rose from the bed into a stretch. Behind him Jacob could see the gentle rise and fall of Marion’s bare breasts etched against the darkness by the creeping false-light shining through the opening he created in the tent flaps.

He had seen Marion’s breasts before but as always the sight captivated him. Made him feel strange things.

The mercenary blocked his view abruptly. From the beauty of Marion’s pale skin to the bronzed flesh of the mercenary crisscrossed with scars. Some the fresh pink hue of newly healed flesh and others still a raw painful looking red. There were a stunning amount of them in any case. Enough to make Jacob’s stomach feel squeamish.

And if the scars alone weren’t enough Jacob had heard plenty of rumors about the mercenary at various campfires. It was known he had joined the Crusade in Constantinople but refused to take the cross. He killed for gold alone they said. And he killed well. Robert of Ponard claimed he was a demon sent to taint the Crusade with his very presence. But Duke Robert -so far as Jacob knew- had hated the mercenary since he first laid eyes on him.

When he was ready Jacob walked beside the mercenary back to Godfrey’s tent and as always, was mystified by the fear and respect the knights showed the vagabond fighter, all glared at him when they thought he did not see them but few met his eyes. The fraudulent priest Peter had said that to look into the mercenary’s eyes was to be damned for eternity.

When Jacob told Marion of this she’d laughed and ran a hand through her curls. “They’re such pretty eyes.” She said. Her tone made something in Jacob tighten and she must have seen it for Marion had pulled Jacob in for a hug then sent him scurrying back to the knights’ tents as dusk broke and the knights began to descend on the whores’ camp in droves.

Godfrey looked up from his prayers at the mercenary’s arrival. As always he ignored the sardonic curl of his smile and rose to his feet. “Today is the day.”

“Deus Vult.” The mercenary mocked.

After the mercenary left Marion rose quickly and dressed herself. Moving swiftly she darted from shadow to shadow until she was deep in the knights’ camp. Checking to see that no one saw her she ducked into the tent of Robert of Ponard. He was seated when she entered, his manservant carefully trimming his goatee. As always the mere sight of him brought up humiliating memories and they in turn watered the deeply seeded hate she had for the minor nobleman.

Robert’s eyes swiveled in her direction and a sneer spread across his lips. “Marion, you look flushed dear.”

She bit back on her anger and instead plucked a heavy purse from the folds of her skirt and threw it at Robert. It bounced from his chest to fall in his lap spilling gold on impact. “That’s the last of it.” She snarled. “Now we’re done.”

She watched in satisfaction as Robert’s left eyelid ticked and his face purpled. The manservant quickly stepped aside leaving no barrier between Robert and Marion.

“You would be so bold?” He hissed, rising to his feet. “You would bring your filthy form here to my tent and throw dirty coin on the tabard bearing His holy sign?”

Marion’s chin rose defiantly. “You’ve done more to disgrace the cross than that gold ever could.”

He was on her faster than she could ever have imagined. His hand cupped her chin and squeezed until tears rolled from her eyes. But she didn’t make a sound. Marion would never give him the satisfaction of her screams again.

“Stupid fucking cunt!” The duke hissed. “You think you can come here and tell me when we’re through?” He forced her up on her toes and spat full in her face. “I will ride you when I please how I please until I tire of it. I swear to God if you ever come here and disgrace me like this again it will be your last act on this earth!”

Stealthily Marion felt along Robert’s girdle as he ranted until her hand curled around the hilt of his dagger. In a single movement she unsheathed the blade and stabbed it into his back only to have the point skitter across his mail and fly wide.

She hit the tent’s floor almost before the dagger did. Straddling her Robert curled his hands -now more leather covered claws than anything human- around her neck and squeezed. He squeezed harder as she struggled and harder still as the life faded from her eyes, spittle speckling his goatee.

Only when the whore was still for a long handful of seconds did Robert remove his hands and rise to examine himself in a small mirror. He brushed spittle from his beard and carefully examined the rip on his tabard, adjusting until it was almost impossible to see. Only then did he turn his eyes back on the dead whore. Only for the briefest second as his eyes traveled the tent to land on his manservant.

“Dispose of that. Leave her somewhere the vultures will find her.”

The manservant nodded sharply and moved to comply. This was not the first time he had performed such duties and he was certain it would not be the last. Surreptitiously he checked the dead whore’s warmth and smiled slightly. If he moved quickly he could enjoy her before she went cold.

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