Baldwin, the Emo King

Birthday Surprise


The celebration of the birthday of King Baldwin begins with a parade organised by Loxos the Golden Tusk. The stars of the parade are the members of his herd of sixty elephants, a number which proves a marvel to the people of Jerusalem and the visiting dignitaries. The first sign of the parade is the sound of trumpets erupting from the edge of the city about an hour after the city's monasteries ring for Terse (roughly 9 a.m.). First to parade into the city are several dozen camels (borrowed from some of the traders outside the city) and a force of soldiers of the Crusader Kingdoms in immaculate armour provided by Raymond of Tripoli. A military band beats time and swords flash in martial display. A dozen banners fly in the breeze.

Behind them follow the elephants, mighty grey beasts richly caparisoned in the style of the Roman Empire with intricate fabric and weavings. The largest of the elephants, named Basil, has upon its back a howdah like a small Byzantine fort and upon it sits Loxos the Golden Tusk glowing with pride. Peacocks follow the elephants lead by thin golden string. Monkeys caper between the legs of the elephants.

It is clear that King Baldwin is utterly delighted by the display and as the parade reaches the palace he manages to slip his minders to slip into the throng of soldiers and animals. Gasping nobles wince and run as he moves between the thundering elephant steps before Basil reaches down with his trunk and plants him beside a grinning Loxos.

The parade takes an hour, but once it is done Getan de Reys is ready to begin the tournament.

The Tournament

The tournament begins at noon. The vast list field, outside the walls of the citadel of Jerusalem, being bedecked with the standards and heraldic shields of the half-a-hundred knights who have been selected to take part in the event. Music and trumpets fill the air and the atmosphere is electric.

At the far end of the ground, opposite the contestant’s entrance, is the royal box surmounted by the great golden crest of the house of Montferrat. Within the box sit three silver thrones, the central one having an ample supply of large cushions. The ground is thronged with the people of Jerusalem; priests, nobles, merchants and even beggars. Near the Royal Box are seated the most important ambassadors to the holy land: Count Shavleg Lomidze, from the court of Queen Tamar; Cardinal de Tartarts, from the Vatican; Nizam Ata, Grand Vizier to Turgal III and Loxos the Golden Tusk, of Byzantium.

The Tournament commences with the entrance of the competitors. All are wearing the most fashionable armour available in the Holy land; adorned with gold inlay, jewels and with cloaks of the finest dyed silks from the east. As the knights line up in ranks before the royal box the king’s family enter to the sounds of cheers and adoration from the throng. First comes Queen Sibylla and her husband Guy (although he does not sit upon one of the thrones); then the Regent, Raymond of Tripoli, enters, resplendent in a crimson and gold tunic; finally the young King himself is ushered in. He smiles broadly as he surveys the scene before him. A first he moves forward carefully to avoid dislodging the large golden crown upon his head but as he catches sight of the knights he rushes forward to the edge of the box, his abrupt stop causing his crown to fall from his head onto the sand below the box. A chuckle runs through the crowd and Raymond raises his hand to his temples to poorly disguise a look of annoyance. The Crown is quickly retrieved and a great cheer goes up as the Queen replaces the crown upon the king’s brow. Baldwin seats himself on the central throne, looking entirely out of place on the huge seat, marking the start of the festivities.

The jousting begins and a large proportion of the knights are quickly tilted as the most skilled make their mark upon the field. Gerard de Ridefort, Pyotr Loria , Raymond de Forcalquier and Parzival Von Schwarzkopf unhorse their first few opponents with ease and great skill. General Lucius Aprenos adeptly tilts his first opponent, a knight of the Hospitallers, but on his second joust he seems to fumble his lance at the last moment dropping its point into the sand catapulting him twenty feet over the head of his opponent to land in a pile of horse dung. As the field narrows down Gerard de Ridefort is felled by a skilful strike to the chest by Pyotr Loria and Parzival Von Schwarzkopf is knocked unconscious by his own horse after he mistimes a strike against Elyas de Rolveston, a young French knight. Elyas is in turn dehorsed and has to be helped from his armour while still on the field. He limps half naked from the lists to much cheering from the crowd stopping only to pick up and return a bible that Father Panagiotis Giannopoulos seems to have dropped from the stands.

As the sun falls behind the Towers of the Citadel two contestants remain: Pyotr Loria and Raymond de Forcalquier. The light of the sunset glints off the dents and deformations in their armour as they face each other across the list so that they seem ensconced in twin halos of light. King Baldwin has risen to his feet and peers fascinated over the side of the royal box (the crown left safely on the cushions of the throne). He raises his hand and as he lets it fall the two knights spur their steeds toward each other. Pyotr lands a strike but Raymond recovers well and is not unhorsed. As they turn for the second charge each is tossed a new lance by their squires. On the second run it is Raymond who strikes and Pyotr wobbles dangerously in his saddle, but he regains his balance and once more they turn. This time they gallop at full pace and the thunder of their horses hooves fills the silence of the arena, echoing back off the walls of the citadel. They lean forward to meet each other’s charge and this time both strike, their lances exploding in showers of splinters with the force of the impact. Each knight is thrown from their saddle landing with a crushing impact on the sand. With deadly speed Pyotr unsheathes his sword and springs towards Raymond who, being slightly slower, is still on his knees. It seems that Pyotr’s lunge has won the day but with the reflexes of a hardened warrior Raymond jams the hilt of his own sword in Pyotr’s midriff who stumbles back clearly winded. Raymond’s blade now whirls around, striking in great arcs against Pyotr’s sword. Pyotr puts up a defence worthy of a truly great knight but has lost the initiative and as their blades meet once more Raymond kicks the legs from under the Georgian knight and wrenches the sword from his grasp. Pyotr falls back and raises his hand in submission.

The crowd erupts into wild applause and the victorious Raymond helps Pyotr to his feet. The two knights clasp arms warmly and limp proudly towards the royal box. Baldwin is beaming in delight at this and as both men kneel before him he, with some difficulty, presents Raymond with an ornamental sword whose handle appears to be made of a single gigantic emerald. Raymond of Tripoli rises to his feet and proclaims Raymond de Forcalquier to be the kings champion for the day.

The Royal family along with the winner of the tournament then depart for the citadel and the great birthday feast.

The Birthday Feast

As darkness falls on Jerusalem the great birthday party begins. The great hall of the citadel is even more spectacular then the jousting grounds. Getan de Reys himself greets the most important guests. He is dressed in a midnight black velvet tabard, like that of a knight, superbly cut and with the king’s golden coat of arms in place of that of any order. The Royal family, Getan and Raymond de Forcalquier take their places at the high table. The remaining dignitaries and knights take their seats on the lower level of the hall. William of Shrewsbury and Henry of Gloucester kick up a fuss after being seated near ambassadors from Saladin’s domain and end up sitting by themselves in an alcove of the hall. Otherwise the atmosphere is merry and cheerful, bar the odd snide comment about heathens from Praeceptor Abelard who seems to be being egged on by the Georgian Brother Basilus. The table seating Micheal of Bethlehem, Pavel Korovic, Donatien Alfonse Desgranges of Béziers and the man Jacob seems to be getting along very well, with help from the plentiful supply of French wine.

The feast is lavish beyond Reason; English partridge, Italian hams, French goose and a cooked swan with each of its feathers replaced with a golden leaf. The combination of fine cuisine and endless supplies of wine quickly loosens the tongues of even the staunchest enemies and the conversation flows freely. Even Raymond of Tripoli, normally a dour man, leans over to Getan and whispers approvingly in his ear.

At the climax of the feast a great cake is brought into the Hall made of Baldwin’s favourite sweetmeats and the delighted king cuts it with a golden knife. Eventually when all have eaten their fill Raymond of Tripoli rises. He congratulates the winner of the tournament and commends Getan for the honour he has done the king with this celebration. Finally he takes from a silk bag a crown of delicately woven silver and electrum, clearly more suitable for the young king then the one he currently wears, and places it on Baldwin’s head to much cheering.

As the feast finishes the centre of the Hall is cleared and the musicians in the balcony above begin to play the songs of dancing from Europe. Many of the guests begin to dance, with all the most beautiful and eligible women somehow gravitating toward Getan de Reys, though he dances with them but briefly and spends a great deal of time laughing with Elyas de Rolveston. Not long after the dancing begins the Queen leans over to the young king, who clearly looks tired from his long day in his heavy robes of state, and whispers in his ear. She then beckons to a servant and the king is walked from the hall by his body guard Malik az-Mahir.

It all goes Horribly Wrong

Only a few minutes after the king has left the room a great cacophony fills the courtyard of the citadel drowning out the music of the party. The great door of the hall explodes inward slamming the lurking Grand Vizier Nizam Ata and his parrot into the wall behind it. Through the door and a cloud of parrot feathers streaks a pink elephantine form. It bolts across the dance floor sending dancers sprawling to the ground and makes straight for Loxos, who looks in horror at the approaching form. From the open doorway comes the shouts of the guards and someone screams something about King Baldwin’s menagerie being released by a pink demon. From outside come the roar of leopards and the screech of exotic birds as King Baldwin’s pets meet Loxos’s parade. Chaos descends upon the Hall with the cries of people mingling with the trumpeting and screaming of the animals outside. Loxos vaults the table and runs outside to calm his elephants while royal guards stream from every part of the citadel. It is only moments before the pandemonium subsides and Loxos gets his parade animals under control. The guests look at each other uncertainly as silence descends upon the hall. Getan de Reys, keen to seize the social initiative, gestures to the musician’s gallery who raise their instruments to begin to play once more. As they do however a lone figure runs in through the open door, it is the king’s bodyguard Malik az-Mahir. He is pale and sweat is beading on his forehead, in one hand is his great blue scimitar and in his other he carries King Baldwin’s Crown.

“The King….is gone” he cries.

The animalistic chaos of moments ago is nothing to the madness that it now unleashed: Raymond leaps to his feet, a look of fury on his face; the Queen screams, running from the room; the ambassadors look from one to another, the camaraderie of the party dispelled as the awful situation dawns on them. The Royal family is the first to move. The Regent calls his guard captains and orders a total search of the Citadel and Philip of Jerusalem is dispatched to lock down the gates of Jerusalem itself.

Over the remainder of the night searchers comb every tower and dungeon in the citadel. The guests are forced to remain within the great hall and can do little more than listen to the commotion around them. At dawn they are permitted to leave in small groups surrounded by royal guards.

The Hunt for Baldwin

The Fate of the Boy King?

Within the city of Jerusalem the political landscape is rapidly becoming extremely unstable. The court is quickly becoming polarised between the factions that believe that Baldwin is dead and that the line of succession should be fulfilled and those who believe that the Regent should be allowed to maintain his position until Baldwin is recovered, dead or alive. The imminent attack on Damascus is also fraying the nerves of nobles and peasants alike.

Some elements of the Court are deeply suspicious of the event surrounding Baldwin’s disappearance. The power grab by the Regent since the King’s disappearance and the Raymond’s clear dislike of the boy king have made Philip of Jerusalem and the king’s advisor Getan de Reys wary of the man.

To Rudyard the beggar king it has become clear that before Baldwin’s vanishing Raymond had been contacting some powerful magic users. Using his sources in the major cites of the Middle East he is able to determine that two magicians for hire journeyed to Jerusalem. The description of one of them, an Invoker by the name of Ziauddin Sardar, matches that of a corpse that was pulled from a slurry pit outside the city two weeks ago. The second man, a symbolic mage by the name of Mikhail Shcherbato, has yet to be accounted for but the Inn he stayed at while in the city was burnt to the ground shortly after the last Peace of the Covenant.

It is Praeceptor Abelard who is able to reconstruct the activities of the magi within the city and determines that they met for several clandestine meetings within the merchant’s district of the city, where they consorted with the Jeweller Katharina Luther. Philip immediately issues an arrest warrant for the Jeweller, who survives, and she is passed to the gentle care of Getan de Reys. It takes little time for him to obtain the information desired from the woman.

The various parties involved in the search come together in secret at Philip’s citadel in Acre, where they are safe from the prying eyes of Raymond of Tripoli and his friends in court. As they correlate their sources and intelligence the pattern of Raymond’s plot begins to emerge from the shadows:

The regent had a crown crafted for the young king and the two wizards were paid a great deal of money to enchant the King’s new crown, but the nature of enchantment is not at all clear. Getan de Reys has determined that the King’s bodyguard played no part in the disappearance and that the Baldwin apparently vanished in the middle of the Citadel’s courtyard.

Neither de Reys , Abelard or Rudyard are able to determine how the king was smuggled from the city, or if he even was. It is the man Jacob who provides the vital clue. Working alone he traces the activities of the Citadel’s servants that day and is able to find the servants who were in the Citadel’s courtyard at the time of the King’s disappearance. Upon questioning one of them, a young washer girl, he convinces her that the fate of the Holy Land lies in her truthfulness; and from beneath a pile of dirty rags she takes a delicate silver crown. Jacob, not knowing of the greater investigation going on around him nearly takes the crown the Regent but luckily for the mystery solvers it is upon an agent of Philip’s that he happens first while within Jerusalem.

With the crown in the Hand the group gathers to determine the fate of the young King. The spells woven into the metal of the crown are complex and alien but with reference to several books from the library of Jerusalem Jacob and Getan are able to determine the meaning of the symbols engraved upon the object. They reveal that a Djinn of some power was imprisoned within the crown and commanded to strike when the crown was placed upon the head, that head being Baldwin’s.

Wine and Regicide

As at last they come to understand the nature of the magic employed against the King a messenger arrives at Acre with grim news. Queen Sibylla and her sister Lady Isabella of Jerusalem have been assassinated in front of the entire court.

Extract from a letter to Philip of Jerusalem:

“My Lord, it was terrible. The Feast was a quite one and a great sense of mourning still hung over the court due to the loss of the young King. As the final dishes were cleared away the Bishop of Jerusalem began a grace but as he did so a black clad figure, dressed as an executioner, leapt from the darkness above; shouting that he was the “Kingmaker”. Within moments the ladies were dead and the fiend had escaped in a cloud of smoke. I cannot say who the assassin might have been…but I could have sworn that for an instance in the smoke I saw a ghostly figure of young woman in the murderer’s wake.”

With the entire royal family now dead Philip determines that no time remains, the King must be retrieved at all costs; before Raymond cements his control over the Kingdom. He calls upon the aid of Brother Ambrose who is known to consort with the angels of the lord and together they bargain with the Angel Ophanim for the host’s aid in retrieving the king. The deal made the Angel soars into the air and is soon lost from sight.

Return of the King

An hour passes and the group begins to fear that the Host has failed in its task when suddenly a great cacophony fills the air of the Citadel. They rush to the window to see, accompanied by a great crack of thunder, the metallic angel descending from the clouds surrounded by a dazzling golden light. In his wake, born by four smaller winged figures, is a large grey elephant suspended by delicate silken ribbons. Alighting deftly within the courtyard the Angel bows to Ambrose and then turns to the elephant and in a great voice proclaims;


“But…” mumbles Ambrose

“THE BARGIN IS FULLFILED AND THE HOSTS TASK IS DONE” speaks the Angel, and with a roar of his great silver wings he is gone. The cherubim follow, looking extremely tired and mumbling under their breath.

The assembled group stare at the beast before them. It looks much like the nondescript elephants they saw in Loxos’ great parade in Jerusalem, though it does have bright golden eyes.

“Bal…Baldwin?” asks Philip in a whisper.

The elephant makes no reply but it reaches affectionately up to Philip's hand with its trunk and clasps it. The group looks around bemused but it seems the nature of the mysterious magic has been revealed; King Baldwin has been transformed into elephant and must have left Jerusalem mingled in with Loxos' entourage.

The Race to Jerusalem

Having no way to transform the young king into his natural form and determining that this would likely take the power of both an Invoker and a Symbolic mage the group are forced to leave the pachyderm prince within the citadel of Acre. Philip musters what forces he can from the garrisons at Acre and with all haste rides to Jerusalem.

His force arrives with great speed but they find the gates of the city barred before them, the city legion arrayed on the walls before them. Jerusalem is sealed. Philip alone is permitted to enter under parley, though he does so with much trepidation and the accompaniment of his personal bodyguard. He is taken to the Citadel of Jerusalem and is then lead up to the audience chamber of the King. Upon the throne sits Raymond of Tripoli, the Privy Council arrayed behind him. As he speaks the look on his face is almost reptilian.

“I see you at least have the courage to come before us traitor.”

“It is you who are the traitor Raymond, to the King and to your duty” replies Philip calmly. “Your plot is undone; we have Baldwin and the Crown you used to spirit him away.”

“Yes, my agents told me what you have…An elephant. Ha! You come before us with this child’s tale of magic and subterfuge when all you have is a dumb beast and a crown stolen by a parlour maid” Raymond’s voice is cold and deadly now as he senses victory. “Whereas I have the dead bodies of Sibylla and Isabella and with Baldwin missing that leaves one person in line for the throne of Jerusalem. One person who would benefit from all this death. You Philip”

“I..” starts Philips

“Do you deny that you have engineered the murder of the royal family, your family, to place yourself on the throne?” Raymond rises to his feet. “Which scenario do you expect the Lords and Ladies of the Privy Council to believe; that magic and elephants have whisked away the King or that you are a traitor and a murderer?”

The Privy Council look down at Philip impassively; it is clear where their allegiance lies.

“But my Lords! Raymond is the traitor. A Usurper!” Cries Philip

“It is over Philip. Surrender and I will show what mercy I can.” Raymond’s reply is serene, a smug smile settling over his face.

Philip realises that he cannot win the day. “I came under parley Raymond and I will leave under it. Or will your corrupted honour allow you to arrest me now?”

“You may go Philip, but you will be enemy of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and a declared traitor. In the end you will wish you had turned yourself over now” Raymond waves to the guards and way is opened for Philip to leave.

The Aftermath

Baldwin is returned though not in a form which the nobles will recognise. Raymond holds Jerusalem and Philip and the Elephant King hold court at Acre. The nobles of the Crusader kingdoms have split their allegiance between the two Courts. The Kingdom of Jerusalem is edging towards war and Raymond and Philip have declared each other traitors to the Crown. Only the return of the true king, Baldwin V can avert civil war in the Holy Land.

Of Civil Wars, Coups and Kings

The Siege of Jerusalem

As the great men and women of the Kingdom of Jerusalem leave Constantinople and the peace of the Covenant the shadow of Civil war hangs over the kingdom. In the north Philip of Jerusalem musters his forces at the city of Acre. In the south Raymond holds the Holy city itself and has gathered the forces of the nobles loyal to him within the city.

The first move is made by Philip who with the standing army he has created moves down towards Jerusalem. He is joined by the Byzantine General Karantenos who has landed his forces at Acre. The two armies combined are the greatest force the Holy land has seen for decades and they move swiftly towards the walls of Jerusalem under the banner of King Baldwin V.

Getan Steals an Elephant

As Philip rides out to meet the forces of Raymond before the gates of Jerusalem you nonchalantly stroll down to the stable yard of the citadel of Acre. A large tent has been set up there; it is surrounded by guards and the occasional panicked looking servant in full livery darts from one flap or another. As you get closer you hear an enraged trumpeting and the sound of falling pails of water. From the tent emerges the head of the Royal household, he is soaked from head to foot with soapy water.
“The King does not seem to want to take his bath” He mutters to you as he marches past you.

You reach the door of the tent. Ideally you would dismiss the guards but you cannot risk them suspecting something is wrong.

“I would speak to his majesty in private” You announce to no one in particular.

With some odd looks the servants leave and the guards close the tent flap behind you, no one asking publically how one speaks to an elephant. You enter and get to work quickly; on the ground you inscribe the necessary patterns and spells and prepare yourself to cast the spell. The elephant does not seem to mind your ministrations but its golden eyes follow you unerringly and you suspect that it knows exactly what you are doing.

The spell complete you touch the side of the great beast and release the power of the spell. Around you the air seethes and the fabric of the tent begins to ripple and flap. As the roar of air increases you hear the shouts of the guards outside before the tent itself is torn away into the boiling vortex of wind around you. Some of the guards, covering their faces against the dust, make to move toward you with swords drawn but the spell has reached is apex and the maelstrom of wind congeals around you and with a great wrench you and your charge hurtle into the sky.

The journey is confusing at best; the beating wind around you muddling the senses and obscuring the view of the Holy Land as it rushes below you. After some time however you see below you the fortress of Michael of Bethlehem and spell conveys you down into its courtyard, Baldwin safely beside you.

The Gates of Jerusalem

Outside the great eastern gate of the city of Jerusalem the majority of Philip’s force amasses, Karantenos’s men are dispatched to block all the supply routes into the city, effectively cutting it off the rest of the Holy land. The Holy city is now under siege but Philip’s forces make no move to attack not wishing to cause harm to the city or its populous and not wanting to throw their forces against the massive walls of the city which have turned back both heathen and Christian hosts in the centuries past. For three days and nights the army waits outside the city until at noon on the fourth day Raymond of Tripoli himself, beneath the banner of King Baldwin V, stands stop the eastern gate and addresses the besieging army.

“You are lead by a traitor! A kinslayer and a usurper. Philip of Jerusalem has murdered his own family to make himself King of Jerusalem.” He cries.

“God will not forgive those who turn against this most Holy kingdom at the behest of a devil such as he. Turn over the traitor and you shall receive the king’s pardon from my own hand, fight and you shall die as traitors and sinners.” His words arte emotive but Philip’s army does not seem to respond.

Philip himself rides forwards and halts before the lines of his host.

“It is you who are the traitor Raymond. The true King sits at Acre and once the vile magic you ensnared him with is banished he shall once more be enthroned at Jerusalem.” He shouts in turn, his oratory a match for Raymond’s own. He continues however, his tone more conciliatory;

“It is not too late though Raymond, stop this madness and surrender the city and you will be shown mercy.”

“I need no mercy Philip, not when I have God and the Kingdom on my side” with that Raymond turns away and leaves the wall.

It is two more days and no attack comes from either side of the conflict. Raymond’s strategy is unclear, with the city under siege and no food supplies entering it Raymond cannot simply sit and wait for long lest the people of the city turn against him. On the eighth day of the siege Raymond’s plans becomes apparent. From the south comes his own force; assembled by the nobles loyal to him and the regent’s own troops from Tripoli who have landed at Ashkelon. The Regent’s army moves quickly but Philip and Karantenos agents spy them before they are able to approach their own army. Moving their combined forces into ambush the two leaders prepare to strike at the village of Ramat Rachel, a mile away from the walls of Jerusalem.

Raymond’s force arrives swiftly and fighting fit but it is not well armed, it seems that Raymond and his allies have had a great deal of trouble raising the necessary funds to muster a large army and have been hindered in doing so by some of Jerusalem's wealthiest individuals. Hence it is smaller than Philip’s force and more importantly is not lead by the combined strategic expertise of Philip and Karantenos. As the two forces meet it is clear that Raymond’s is outmatched and Karantenos quickly destroys the right flank of the army; curving around into its rear and dividing it into two. However Raymond is not done yet and while the two forces meet outside his walls he musters a guard of Knights to attack the rear of the besieging force. Raymond’s knights ride out and strike at the command post where both Philip and Karantenos are watching over their armies. The attack is swift and brutal and many of the two general’s guards are cut down as they try to defend their leaders. However Philip’s own Knights quickly turn back and engage Raymond’s strike force. In the ensuing skirmish both Philip and Karantenos are forced to draw their blades and join the fight; cutting down the knights loyal to Raymond even as they cry out orders for the front.

Raymond’s strike force is decimated and the handful of remaining knights wheel about and gallop towards the gate of Jerusalem and sanctuary. Philip is quick to follow with his own mounted force and leaping into his saddle he gives chase to Raymond’s knights. Their lead is too great however and the Gates of Jerusalem close even as Philip nears them. However as they slam shut a great commotion breaks out behind the walls; screams and cries of fear echo over the fortifications followed by silence. A moment later the great gates swing open to reveal a small group of Philips men surrounded by the corpses of knights and gate guards.

With the gates open and under the control of the besiegers; Philip gathers a larger force of his most skilled and loyal knights and enters the Holy city.

A Regent’s Fall

As news of Philip’s breach of the city defences spreads the underlying tensions in Jerusalem begin to boil over. The populous of Jerusalem seem deeply displeased with Raymond’s leadership and riots begin to break out all over the city, first in small pockets but then congealing together in larger more angry mobs. Pope Peter II has issued a proclamation against the tyrannical rule of Raymond and has stirred support for the righteous young Count Philip with his call for justice.

Raymond, realising he has lost the outer city, withdraws his forces to the massive central citadel. It seems that some of his allies among the Privy Council and the nobles of Jerusalem are beginning to have doubts about his future prospects. Many of them begin to flee the citadel and their homes but the people of Jerusalem will not allow them to escape so easily and many of them are hemmed in by angry shouting crowds and Raymond is forced to send his troops onto the streets to protect the nobles and batter back the angry inhabitants of the city with sword and truncheon.

Philip’s force moves quickly through the city, helping where it can to beat back Raymond’s goons and aid the people of the city. As they approach the citadel it is obvious that Raymond has lost control and a heaving mass of peasants have blocked the great gate of the citadel preventing it from closing upon Philip. The nobles have abandoned the place and taken their guards with them and there is little active defence of the citadel's walls. As Philip nears the huge bridge over the citadel's moat a great cry goes up and Raymond’s remaining knights burst from the gate tearing through the crowd, trampling and crushing them under hoof. They thunder across the bridge and engage Philip’s own knights on the list ground beneath the walls. The citizenry scatters, unable to compete with heavily armed knights, and the two forces explode into each other.

In the bloody chaos that ensues Philip spies Raymond himself, his golden broadsword cutting down Philip’s knight’s left and right. Spurring his mount forward Philip’s own sword smashes into Raymond’s shield, who raises it just in time and with that the two men begin to duel. Both are skilled warriors and their blades dance off each other’s weapons and shields, metallic sparks leaping from them as steel slides against steel. For long minutes they strike at each other until, losing his balance, Philip slides from his horse. With a cry of triumph Raymond raises his blade to deliver the killing blow but Philip, young and quick, heaves on Raymond’s leg and hoists the man from his saddle. The two fall to the ground a mess of armour and sword. They rise as one, their shields gone, and once more engage in a whirling dance of blades.

“Let me show you how a man fights boy!” Cries Raymond as he slices down toward Philip’s neck only to find the young count has spun aside. With a quick slash Philip drives his own sword into Raymond’s side and the Regent crumples, blood seeping between the bands of his plate mail. The wound is obviously crippling but not fatal.

“Surrender Raymond.” pants Philip as he pulls the helmet from his head, “You’ve lost. The city is ours.”

With a growl the Regent picks up some sand from the ground of the field and hurls it into Philip's eyes. As Philip reaches for his face the Regent grabs the saddle of nearest free horse and pulling himself on gallops towards the gates of the Citadel, his hand still clasped to his bloody flank. Whatever forces remain to him have secured the gate and it slams shut as he passes over the threshold.

Philip looks about him and sees that Raymond’s knights are nearly defeated but as he turns he sees one of them; charge towards him mace held high ready to smash his skull to pulp. Before the deadly strike lands however the knights head flies from his shoulder’s as the sword of Michael of Bethlehem cleaves it off. The forces of the Order of Mary Magdalene follow close behind and in moments the remainder of the Knights loyal to Raymond have fallen.

“The Regent?” Asks Michael, “Is he dead?”

“Fled into the Citadel” replies Philip, still trying to regain his breath “He…”

There is a bloodcurdling scream that pierces the silence of the fight’s aftermath: atop the bastion high above them stands Raymond, a long thin sword protruding from his chest. Behind him wreathed in shadows is a black figure, seemingly half man and half bat. It wears tight black leather armour to which, inexplicably, someone has sowed artificial nipples.

In a deep gravelly voice the man-bat intones “In the name of King Philip”

The Regent erupts into searing blue-white flames. For a moment he writhes on the parapet as the fire engulfs him and then with a terrible wail he plummets from the wall to fall burning into the dry moat of the Citadel.

The cape of the bat like man billows dramatically and from behind the overcast sky emerges the moon, silhouetting the figure in its pale light for a moment. With a swish of its cape the figure leaps from the wall, nimbly grasping onto seams in the wall, and lands cat-like on the roof of the royal box at the side of the list field. For a instant it looks down on them and then sprints away, along the tournament stands and onto the roofs of the city.

“After it!” Cries Michael, and charges after the black clad figure, followed by a handful of his knights.

The Man who would be King

Across the rooftops of Jerusalem the man-similar-in-appearance-to-a-bat races; his speed and agility are impressive though his large billowing cape seem ill adjusted for rooftop chases and it gets caught on nails more than once, jerking the man backwards with a grunt. On the street below him gallops Michael of Bethlehem, sword drawn.

Through the winding alleys of Jerusalem they race, upwards towards the temple mount. As they reach the summit the bat-mimicking-man leaps from the last rooftop and somersaults to the ground. He races up the mount and vanishes into the shadowy structure of the Dome of the Rock. Michael dismounts and approaches carefully, his sword still drawn.

As he steps closer a titanic roar fills the night air and from the windows and doors of the holy shrine explode huge gouts of orange fire, striking upwards into the sky above Jerusalem. From the burning portal of the mosque emerges the Chiropteran figure of the assassin.

Shielding his eyes Michael engages his foe. The Knights sword strikes seem clumsy and his opponent easily dodges them but its grace of a few moments before seems lost and it moves sluggishly as Michael slashes at it. The black clad figure gets in a few glancing blows to Michael but then with an inelegant strike from Michael falls to the ground. Even as it does so there is a metallic groan from behind them and the great golden dome above them collapses inwards, spewing burning motes in a great cloud about them. The bat-attired-person spins and kicks Michael away, it flips into a fighting stance and then as the sparks envelop it, vanishes.

As Michael picks himself up; Philip and his knights arrive with the remains of the Order of Mary Magdalene. Michael bends and picks up a leather pouch that the assassin seems to have dropped during the fight. From it he pulls some sheaves of parchment which he holds up to the fire light to examine. As he looks at them his face tightens and he glances up at Philip.

“Place Philip of Jerusalem under arrest.” He commands. The Order’s knights make to move but as they do Philip’s own men draw protectively around him.

“These papers show that Philip ordered the assassination of his family and the Regent” says Michael “We have no choice but to arrest him.”

“Ridiculous” Speaks Philip, his voice full of righteous indignation “I…”

“If you will not detain him” Overrides Michael, his gaze sweeping across the assembled knights “then I shall.”

Philip makes to protest but Michael closes his eyes as if in prayer. A second later a dazzling light fills the summit of the temple mount, swamping out even the burning shrine. Standing on the air above them is an Angelic figure its vast wings outstretched as the blinding illumination pours from them. Its impassive burning gaze falls upon Philip and it gestures at him. Golden chains spring from nothingness enveloping the young count in unbreakable shackles. Even as the dumbstruck Philip tries to speak the radiance flares and with a roar of celestial trumpets the Angel and the Count vanish leaving the group in the orange light of the burning temple.

The King who was an Elephant

Raymond is dead and Philip is imprisoned within the citadel of Michael of Bethlehem. Karantenos has taken command of Philip’s forces and withdrawn to the city of Acre. Within Michael’s fortress Getan de Reys has assembled the nobles of Jerusalem for a party to celebrate the fall of the traitor regent, the revelation of Philip’s evil schemes and, most importantly, the return of King Baldwin. The citadel is full of guards both from the Order of Magdalene and from the Order of the Venerable Bede overseen by their commander Henry of Gloucester who quite frankly looks contemptuous of the entire proceedings as he watches the guests file past him.

After the recent unrest many of the hundred noble men and women present were unwilling to attend and it seems that many have only come after receiving generous gifts of luxurious silks and spices courtesy of the al Nazihah trading clan. The great party gets under way and as with any of Getan’s affairs is both sumptuous and extravagant. The great pavilion looks even more exotic due to the strange symbols painted upon the floor by the scholar Brother Basilus, which curve and flow beneath the feet of guests in patterns that hare hard to follow. After the nobles have assembled; into the centre of the great pavilion is lead a grey elephant with bright golden eyes. Upon its head is a silver crown covered in eldritch symbols and next to it stands Maha al Nazihah and Donatien Alfonse Desgranges.

Getan looks embarrassed, almost nervous, as he announces to assembled nobility;

“And now good Lords and Ladies, we shall bow to the King of Jerusalem!”

With a flourish he bows low. The nobles seem somewhat taken aback, many not convinced by the elephantine king, but they follow his lead and bow. As they do so the scholar Donatien steps forward and pours an oily liquid onto the elephant’s crown, with a hiss the symbols dissolve away. From behind Maha steps a strange looking figure, his skin covered in markings, he looks around at the bowing lords and ladies and with a broad smile places his hand on the elephant's side. He grips some of the grey hide in his fist and then with a dramatic tug pulls the skin away. There is a puff of bluish smoke filled with silver sparks which billows outwards obscuring the elephant-king. As the smoke clears, standing naked in its midst, is King Baldwin once more wearing the form of a human. For a moment the silver crown upon his head emits a piercingly high note and then shatters, tinkling in shards around the king's feet. The smiling Djinn, now holding an artificial looking elephant skin, bows to the young king with a grin and vanishes with a pop.

The bemused crowd looks up at the nude monarch, who seems equally taken aback. Getan, seizing the initiative raises his goblet and cries;

“Long live the King!”

The cry echoes across the pavilion and the assembled crowd joins in while some servants hurriedly fetch the monarch a robe. Baldwin is returned.

As the nobles leave the party later a man in scruffy clothing, called Jacob by some, calls to them but none take heed since he is simply not important enough to talk to.

The New Regime and Aftermath

King Baldwin once more sits upon the throne of Jerusalem but he rules over a kingdom filled with strife and lacking a real government. Michael of Bethlehem has declared himself the new Regent with your support and appears to have gained the tacit approval of the Vatican in this regard.

You are Michael's chief advisor and have taken over much of the day to day administration of the Kingdom, you are more powerful then you have ever been. The rest of the privy council who served under Raymond appear to have vanished without a trace, no doubt killed in the riots that consumed Jerusalem during the siege and in their absence your authority is extensive.

The people of Jerusalem do not like the fact that their beloved Count Philip has been imprisoned and man on the streets of the city are calling for his release, not least the Jewish community and the beggars of the city. King Baldwin has sided with Philip in the matter and has made clear to you that he wants the Count released from jail as soon as possible, no doubt he remembers that it was you who delivered him to Michael. A force of Byzantine soldiers sits at Acre and Saladin has amassed a great army on the boarder of the Crusader Kingdom, supposedly for his own security.

The demonic assassin, the caped killer of crusaders, remains at large…is the city safe while he watches over it?

news/bm/baldwin.txt · Last modified: 2009/10/13 09:37 by oliver
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