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Thread: A Painted Shield of Honour

  1. #21
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Alwyn.

    As the story unfolds, you will see that although they had no specific aim, and they just wanted to escape to safety, the events surrounding them will push them in various directions and they will eventually have a specific goal to achieve.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  2. #22
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Been a while, it's time to resume our journey through medieval Europe.

    Chapter IX - Jerusalem

    -------------------

    Early morning
    Early October 1313
    Jerusalem
    Fatimid Caliphate



    The sandstorm that blew from the Sinai peninsula reached the sunburnt walls of Jerusalem, blowing up mounds of heavy dust through the city gates. A rare gust of wind from the Mediterranean would sweep the sand over the city, away from the inhabitants huddled around walls and houses, but they were rare, so all they could do was brave the sand and cover their eyes. With a scarf wrapped over his nose, the merchant of this vast souq draped the entrance to his shop with a large cloth and returned to the cool air of his back office.

    The souq by the northwestern gate, an old Roman gate guarding the road to Damascus, was more than just a simple marketplace. The souq was almost a city inside the city of Jerusalem. Such a large bazaar meant that everything had a price in the small, boxy stalls, from basic goods to little luxuries, and even special information highly prized by the most dubious of characters. Even the value of one's life could be weighed in the large gathering of merchants into one single place bustling with activity and of course, money. The local black market thrived in this area full of shady dealers and noblemen eager to gain precious items nowhere else to be found without attracting the interest of the law. And for a coin, everything else that could be obtained was possible.

    The merchant slipped a hand over his exquisite white grey turban, adjusting it for a better fit. He was one of the Sultan's own, a shadow in the grey market behind the stalls filled with spices & other goods from the Far East. Asaf al-Shami was a merchant. And a racketeer. All for the Sultan down in Cairo. He knew what the recent fads in the business were and he operated accordingly, always eager for higher profits. There was nothing that separated him from the other wealthy merchants, apart from the knowledge of a real connoisseur when it came to fine goods and even small special services that would provide good profits for those who were able to make them. He was not that ruthless either, he never let others do his work, but he had the guile for great deals. Everyone knew him, most respected him, but over the years he made enough enemies who were more than eager to capitalise on his mistakes.

    Asaf rose from his chair and darted back into the bazaar, slipping through stalls and people until he reached one of the exits. Masses of people huddled around the exits and entrances, making it easy for him to hide between them. But Asaf was not there to hide. He was there for a specific item, a shining object on a downtrodden wheelbarrow in a place just three market stalls from the entrance. Looking around, it seemed that nobody was interested in what he has seen. Nobody even dared to approach that cart. A sad, rather confused teenager stood behind the broken wheelbarrow, confused by the mass of people shouting and roaring in the market. As he stepped beside it, Asaf curled his eyebrow and looked at him with an air of superiority. The teen was eager for customers and grinned widely, revealing a large toothless gap that made Asaf chuckle inside. He went straight for the object he was told of and took it in his hand, noticing a parchment scroll stamped with polished wax that gleamed in the sun. He weighed it and nodded accordingly, and motioned to the teenager.

    “Ten dirhams,” said the boy.

    “Take fifteen.”

    He threw a small bag of coins to the boy, who could not believe his luck. He bowed relentlessly to the merchant who dismissed the show and simply left, continuing his walk towards the other stalls in the market. A couple of small purchases later, the merchant left the big market and took a walk around the busy streets of Jerusalem enjoying the succulent dates he bought from a Mongol merchant. His villa was just several streets from the famous Dome, wealthy enough he was to afford such a prime estate location. Once inside, darted to his cabinet where his papers were neatly folded on the wooden desk. He noticed something strange while as he examined the parchments on the desk. They were not in the same order.

    “Farad!,” the merchant yelled.

    After a couple of moments, a tall Nubian emerged from the shadows as he brushed the silk tapestries hanging from an empty door frame.

    “Sadiq, you called?”

    “Has anyone been here lately?”

    “Yes, my master. A person by the name Henric de Joainville requested an audience with you.”

    “For what matters?”

    “He would not disclose. He would prefer to speak with you. I left him in your cabinet thinking you would arrive early, but as it seems, he left before you arrived.”

    “When did he come here?”

    “Around one clock ago.”

    Strange, Asaf thought. He never had any dealings with French merchants, nor he ever had enemies within the Christian world. The Christian merchants, particularly the Byzantines and the English, were delighted with his wares and constantly bought from him.

    “Did you see him leave?”

    “No, master.”

    “Did you hear him leave?”

    “No, master.”

    “Describe him to me!” snarled Asaf, infuriated.

    “Somewhat short, plump, with a round face and a long straight nose.”

    “Typical Frenchman. Anything else?”

    “He looked somewhat scary. He had two daggers hanging from his belt, and his smile was frightening. I did not wish to speak to him much.”

    Asaf suddenly became alarmed at hearing that his guest was heavily armed, and on top of that, had no particular purpose inside his house. An alarm rang inside his head. It now connected with the disorganised mess that was on his desk.

    “Lock all gates and all the doors tonight. Put the soldiers on guard inside the house, I do not want anyone outside. All of the slaves will rest tonight inside, and you must have your axe by your bed, understand? Get my sword from the basement and leave it by the door to my private chamber. Somebody coming with two daggers on view and looking through my papers is not a friend or a person to be trusted.”

    The Nubian slave bowed slightly and left the room, leaving the Asaf alone and baffled. He turned around immediately and stared out the window, seeing only the people bustling around the markets like ants at their colonies. Asaf let himself fall on his chair, bringing it closer to the desk. He took four small rocks from a bag at the edge of the desk and unfolded the scroll he purchased with the rocks set at the corners to prevent the parchment from rolling back to its original shape.

    Asaf narrowed his eyes at the dark, burgundy coloured seal. Inscribed on it were initials, and words in both Arabic and Latin, which Asaf knew both to rathe perfection. The miniatures, carefully inked on the parchment, were all the same and in all four corners. Two knights on a single horse. It was highly unusual for a scroll to have four wax seals stamped on it, and with the Templar Knights' too. Asaf continued to read the scroll and eventually observed that the two texts noted down the creation of a magnificent cathedral over the Dome of the Rock once full control would be achieved over Jerusalem.

    "Odd. Not even a rumour circulated about this," said Asaf to himself. His grandfather would have known about it, working with the Templar Order, but he spoke no word of this. Was the parchment fake? He doubted it. Nobody would invest so much time in a forgery regarding a long gone monastic order.

    Folding it nicely and reattaching the seal, the merchant dropped it in a special chain-locked drawer beside his bed and exited the room. He looked back towards his desk and tried to figure out if anything was missing when he noticed a tiny scroll underneath his desk. He returned to his desk and bent over to pick it up. Somewhat worried, he unfolded it and read its contents.

    “You have something we need. You may make good money by giving it to us without force. Greed or your life, what will it be?”

    -----------
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  3. #23
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    It sounds as if Asaf's precautions are sensible. I wonder if he will avoid having to rely on them, by giving in to the threat. Good update!
    Last edited by Alwyn; August 21, 2021 at 05:58 AM.

  4. #24
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Thank you Alwyn.

    New chapter coming up soon, their arrival in Rome.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  5. #25
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Chapter X - Roman Treasure

    Early morning
    19 October
    Tyrrhenian Sea
    Papal States of Rome


    Light sea fog drifted around the edges of the timber beams holding the heavy cog together, the faint contour of Rome sharpening ever so slightly as the ship pushed forward towards the city. Years and years of fighting took a toll, rather evident when they approached, the wharves dilapidated and the mood of the fishermen a sombre expression of defeat. Rome was a shadow, a gathering of broken buildings struck by vicious earthquakes and constant Papal squabbles. Worse, the Pope was no longer even in Rome. Most of the wealthier inhabitants left a long time ago after the rebellions and Italian wars had started, leaving it only with a fraction of the population it once boasted.

    With the honest folk barricaded in their houses, the streets were devoid of Romans, only a crackle of desolate fires and a seagull by the port would break the silence. Reaching the Papal quarters by the Vatican was not an easy task, concealed behind the sunburnt brick walls of the city. The Papal quarters, just like the city, were a ghost town. The guards were in sparse numbers and often Raymond wondered what were they even guarding. With the Pope a prisoner of King Philip, the only thing left to guard were the Papal documents. The library. And wandering inside the Papal courtyard, searching for that library, hidden between all of the adjacent buildings in the middle of the night was more than just plain annoyance. With only one torch, and intentionally dimmed, they nearly passed the building they were looking for until Balian caught a glimpse of a golden plaque shining against the flames. He blew a quick whistle and directed his brothers immediately inside the building. Without a door to pass through and without uttering a single word, the three stepped into a long, dark corridor.

    There was a library inside of sorts, so they judged, but there was no imposing decorated oak door. The door was destroyed, replaced by some haphazard planks nailed together to guard the entrance. They entered a secluded room, far away from the main Papal halls, slightly cooler and more uninviting than the rest. Or so they judged. The acrid stench inundated their nostrils as they entered, making Balian cringe at the repugnant smell. It reminded him of the incense purchased by some from the Far East that had a distinct, strong smell, and the more you burnt the worse it would smell. A rapid scan of the room with the torch in hand shone a light on a corner where the rats had found a permanent home. Scared by the sudden light, the rats fled immediately. Repulsed, Balian quickly left his comrades alone to take a breather, returning afterwards somewhat more eager and coloured than before, drawing a peal of quick laughter from Amalric.

    “Empty. The whole building is empty,” whispered Raymond. "What we expected."

    They looked at the stacked shelves at the side of the room, each holding hundreds of scrolls neatly placed one on top of the other in such a way that they would rest against themselves in a delicate balance. Upon a closer inspection, the scrolls were neatly bound and sorted by their size, arranged in three distinct lines which made little sense to them. The perfect arrangement of the scrolls contrasted with the rest of the room that was no more than a destroyed wreck. Shards of stained glass were spread all over, wooden planks were now smashed into tens of thousands of small splints and not only that but pottery, steel blades and even bits of gold indicated that something had happened in this room beforehand.

    “What are we looking for exactly?” asked Balian.

    “A small scroll, the Papal bull that enabled us to exist as an order. The papal bull of investiture, the Omne Datum Optimum,” replied Raymond.

    “There are hundreds of scrolls. How are we going to find them?” countered Balian.

    “The Templar records have been burned once the Papacy left these areas. They are only keeping one document – our investiture. That is the only scroll we are looking for. The original. The copy is in our Temple in Jerusalem.”

    “Only way we can find it is to look around,” said Amalric, dryly.

    “How sure are we it is in here?” asked Balian.

    “Geoffrey de Charney told me before the library is still intact. Look around us, there is nobody here, who would even look for this?” replied Raymond.

    “Somebody did look for it but they were more interested in everything else but the scrolls,” remarked Amalric with a dash of irony.

    Raymond took the torch from Amalric's hand and went towards the section containing the small scrolls, examining each row carefully. Any pattern that would shorten the time would prove helpful but a quick examination of two scrolls from each pile revealed they were not arranged in any specific order. He glanced a look at Balian and Amalric who were now creating makeshift support for the torch so the light could be shared between them as they took to their work. Once done, he placed the support and returned to the pile, ripping up every leather binder as he examined every scroll. Amalric however had other ideas as he took a very small ceramic pot from his leather belt, pouring the contents inside the torch. Sparked by the saltpetre, the torch-lit up powerfully inside the chamber casting a much more powerful glow.

    “Saltpeter,” said Amalric frankly.

    Raymond looked at him with a mixture of amazement and respect. They now had more light to work in, which considerably sped up their advance.

    “I find it strange that this place is empty, and no one is around. I suggest once we find the scroll we immediately leave this place, I do not like it here,” said Balian fearfully, interrupting the moment.

    In perfect coordination, Amalric and Raymond nodded gravely towards Balian. Prepared and eager, the three started their search through the scrolls, unwrapping them individually to examine their contents to avoid anything of importance that might slip through their hands. Minutes and eventually hours passed without any success, Raymond ready to call it a halt for a couple of moments of rest. He was exhausted, but most of all bored from the search so a couple of minutes were more than welcome. Rubbing against the walls as they let themselves fall on the cold floor, neither of them spoke a word. There were only a few scrolls left, so if it was not there they might as well leave the place. Not before long, Balian's loud shriek echoed inside the square room, disturbing the concentration of the other two knights as they mechanically looked through the last parchments.

    “Found it!”

    The knights forgot the unchaining sensation of relief and how it felt like. Raymond and Amalric drew closer to Balian as he unfolded the scroll under the direct light of the torch. The Templar symbol shone in the orange glow of the torch, a burgundy red seal alongside the privy seal of the Pope beside it. Scanning the Latin writing confirmed that this was the document they were looking for, the Templar investiture and its official creation. The Omne Datum Optimum was finally in their hands.

    “Omne Datum Optimum. Our creation”. whispered Balian.

    “Take it and let us leave this place, I had enough of this place. Who knows who is waiting for us outside,” said Raymond.

    Balian folded the scroll back into its original shape and slid it under his garments in a safe pouch. He glanced around at the mess they created, but that mattered little right now. Nobody would notice it and there would be no one to check up any time soon.

    “What now?” asked Amalric.

    “I have no clue. All of the Templar records apart from a few have been burned as I've told you, and I would not bother searching the rest of this library, we won't find something of much use to us,” replied Balian.

    Balian looked lost. “Then?”

    "We get out of here, out of this city anyhow. As far away as possible from Philip's mercenaries."

    "So we..." trailed off Amalaric.

    “...head towards Constantinople," replied Raymond.

    Amalric was pleasantly surprised. “Already?”

    “Any better ideas?”

    Amalric replied with silence. There was nothing he could say either, so all he could do is nod forwards as he existed in the messy chamber. Raymond and Balian followed close, back now on the long corridor leading to the exit. The difference in the torchlight was now visible even with the last saltpetre added to the fire so Raymond sends a friendly nudge in Amalric's back to urge him forwards.

    “What about the library?” asked Balian.

    “What about it?” replied Raymond.

    “We left it in a complete disorder. Should we arrange it a bit, so nobody will notice that we have visited this place?”

    “Perhaps we should,” proposed Amalric.

    “No. We will lose too much time. Most probably Philip and his men know we are already here, so with the time we have, we can be a step ahead of them instead of cleaning up behind us. Let us go,” ended Raymond.

    The cold pangs of the chilly night sharpened its blade onto their faces as they exited the library, finding themselves in the small square piazza inside the building complex. It was unusually cold for this time of the year, steam coming out of their nostrils with every heavy breath. Raymond blew out the torch and threw it in a dark corner, casting them in almost complete darkness. Only moonlight lit up their path as they sidestepped against the walls of the buildings until they ended up back into the main piazza of the Vatican complex. Finding their way back towards the docks at the edge of the Tiber turned out to be a challenge.

    Eventually, they arrived at the port, only to find it empty and deserted. Not even the inns and taverns around it were alive, everyone was fast asleep. Neither of them expected it to have any ships waiting around for them just in case they showed up, but for the moment, they had no other choice than to return to the darkness of the city. Despite Amalric's serious protests, they went back in, this time to look for some lodging for the night and for some food to feed their growling stomachs.


    ***

    They sat down at a low, wooden table that did not look too sturdy, or solid, for that matter. Splints were shearing out of its sides, hurting anyone who dared to touch them and ripping any piece of cloth that managed to stick itself in its sharp end. Apart from a couple of travellers beside them frantically speaking in Italian and a table of wine-drinking sailors at the other end of the hall, nobody else was inside the tavern. Out of the Templars, Balian was the only one who knew the local vulgar Latin so he positioned himself as close to the chatters as possible, hoping to eavesdrop on some words. After they placed their order, Raymond carefully laid down a scroll on the table and unfolded it, using an empty bottle of wine as the support for the top end of the parchment. Balian kept his upright position to continue eavesdropping on the other guests but could not help but shift his attention from them towards the parchment. It did not pass the test of time too well, as they all could see upon a closer examination.

    “What is this?” asked Balian.

    Raymond unfolded the tattered scroll on the splintered table.

    “I took it from the room we were in. It's a simple map of Jerusalem, but somehow the focus is shifted towards our Temple. See these small details? I did not know they existed before. So, when we do arrive in the city of Jerusalem, we have to make sure we pass by and look at them. It might prove useful actually when we get there. There seems to be a connection with the tunnels around the Temple Mount. Hopefully, we will be able to trust a few commoners by then so they could explain this to us,” replied Raymond.

    Cheers and laughter erupted from the guests behind their table all of a sudden. Raymond and Amalric looked at them sympathetically, casting them an occasional smile, but Balian switched his attention to the drunken sailors rather restless in their corner. The wine bottles on their small table were dry, some of them smashed to bits on the ground.

    “Perhaps we should exit the back door of the inn? Somehow I feel unwanted over here,” whispered Balian to his companions.

    Two sailors pulled small daggers from underneath their garments, followed by a longsword attached to another sailor's belt. Three others tried to imitate their friends but their state of inebriation only made it look as if the local clowns were giving a free representation.

    “You're right. Let us leave, no need for useless fights,” replied Raymond.

    They immediately got up and rushed towards the inn's back quarters. Wasting no time, Amalric smashed the back door, leaving them free to run towards the Roman port.

    ------

    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  6. #26
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    You create a powerful impression of the shadowy condition of Rome. I'm intrigued by the search for the Papal bull and wonder if Raymond, Amalric and Balian will encounter any more opposition in the way to the port.

  7. #27
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Chapter XI

    Early morning
    Burgundian manor
    Duchy of Burgundy
    October 1313


    Soft winds wisped gently on the hilly landscape, brushing against the majestic crenellations of the ducal mansion. The wind clung softly to the branches of the trees surrounding the castle, leaning their stocky branches close to the stone walls paced by armoured crossbowmen, their eyes honed on the horizon for threats. Beneath the walls, servants of the house frantically rushed about from kitchen to hall, in rather eager anticipation of the meal hosted by the Burgundian vassal. The manor itself was rather close to the Burgundian borders with the Holy Roman Empire, and yet, that was the perfect setting for such a meeting. Guarded by hoardings, crenellations, stone walls and a whole collection of arrow slits covered by crossbowmen, the manor was well protected. The dukes and vassals meeting under the V-shaped dome of the main hall were diplomats, at most, and belligerent vassals of the Kingdom of France at worst.

    One by one, small groups of nobles reached the manor, invited inside the grounds by the duke of the lands and the group of spear-armed guards posted at the main gate. Large numbers of nobles gathering at the manor, so close to the duchy's borders, would gather too much attention so invitees were required to have at most two companions. Most arrived with just one, a lowly squire. To the manor servants, the procession seemed most odd. They only saluted the duke and went straight inside the hall without any other words.

    Inside the main hall, an uneven, rectangular mess hall, the chilly air from outside swept over the table, rather sheepishly creeping inside the diplomats' heavy wool caftans. Industrious, the servants lit up the hall with dozens of candles and heavy wall torches, the tallow kindling the flame with an ardent measure. The dim light emanating from the greasy candles was strong enough for the men to discern the large round table in front of them, along with the cups filled to the point of breaking with ale. Beside them were plates made of hardened bread which upon freshly roasted game was laid, complimented by a large bunch of grapes scattered all across the oak table. An occasion for the host to boast about, but some of them knew him too well and good-humouredly cheered after he finished fiery his monologue praising his notoriously absent hunting skill. Philippe Posset, the Burgundian vassal, glanced at them for a couple of moments in silence.

    “Gentlemen, I will not bore you with the useless details. As you might know or heard from other travellers, three Templar brothers have escaped capture from our liege King Philip and as of the moment I have received the report, all three of them are on their way towards the Holy Lands."

    Posset stopped for a moment. No response.

    “So far nothing conclusive has been reported, and therefore we may be judged to think that they present no threat to us in our attempt to eradicate the Templar order, but I suggest we do not underestimate their abilities,”

    A small hand rose, decorated with golden jewels. The burly owner was a Venetian diplomat, Giorgio Romano, invited by Posset and his French masters through not so diplomatic channels.

    “What can they do in the end to us? That is my question," asked Romano. "I would also assume that we need to understand what do we need in return.

    “Nothing for the moment,” replied Posset.

    “Then why are we so concerned with them?”

    “They pose the problem of perhaps revealing our activities.”

    “Our activities? The serfs and the middle classes do not pose any problem to our rule, so why concern?”

    “The possibility of them conducting a revolt in the French kingdom is very remote. Therefore they do not pose any immediate threat to the integrity of our kingdoms and our estates.”

    The French diplomat, Henry de Bourgogne, a tall, thin and rather surly noble, cleared his throat.

    “The threat is null, but we must consider the fact that perhaps the Pope himself is conducting activities behind our esteemed backs, said a curly-haired man in an irritated tone that suggested much more than he wanted to say to his interlocutors. He has been mumbling to my King for some time regarding the arrest of all of the Templar knights, and I am not too sure he can be foregone that easily considering he is the one complaining.”

    “If the escapees are on their way towards the Holy Lands, what kind of a problem can they pose to us?,” replied Romano.

    “We are not sure on this issue, Sire. What we can say however is that we think they might possess valuable information regarding where the Templar treasury is hidden.”

    “In the end, that is our main aim,” added Posset.

    “Indeed.”

    “What if search parties are organised as we have proposed before? Would not they be able to find their treasury?” asked Romano.

    “Most likely yes.”

    “So in this case, how do we split the treasury?” asked Romano.

    “First of all, we must make sure their treasure is found. So far nothing has appeared,” intervened Posset.

    “The port of La Rochelle has been sealed off immediately after the decree has been signed by my King. I can rightly assure you that no ship has passed through its gates to the outside world,” replied Henry de Bourgogne.

    “Very well. Then we can safely assume that their treasury is still inside the French kingdom,” replied Romano.

    “So it seems,” ended Henry with a slight nod of his round head.

    “What if there isn't any treasure?" asked Romano.

    “We may assume this possibility as well,” replied the French diplomat.

    “I highly doubt it. If so, then they would not make any effort at all to admit their guilt. With all the torture, we all know this has been only an excuse. Although the reports indicate that the three escapees are heading towards a precise destination, and this is most worrying,” said Posset, shrugging off any possible threats to his authority.

    Neither of the guests picked up on Bourgogne shifting uncomfortably in his heat. Somehow, inside him, he was worried they would eventually discover the truth that the Templar navy disappeared a long time ago from the La Rochelle port.

    “What if the three brothers are heading exactly towards it? They must know something.”

    “Yes, perhaps. But if they know, we must capture them first.”

    “Where is De Molay, Henry?” asked the Venetian diplomat, interrupting the conversation.

    “In the prisons at the outskirts of Paris, under close watch.”

    “Has he been interrogated yet?”

    “Thoroughly. By my King personally.”

    “Did he manage to get any information from de Molay whilst he was interrogating him?”

    “Unfortunately for us, that old fool resisted and was quite arrogant when posed the questions. He refused to answer to our demands.”

    “I understand,” replied the Venetian diplomat, his melodic voice cooling the tension escalated by the arrogant tone displayed by the French ambassador.

    The atmosphere was unpleasant, and it came as no surprise considering who was present. The cold that engulfed the whole hall made it worse. The doors clicked once more and opened slightly, inside a tall, skinny servant dressed in a colourful tunic holding a parchment scroll in his hands. The servant walked to the head of the oval table and handed over the scroll, closing the door once more behind him. Posset unrolled the parchment and started reading it. Brief moments of tension passed until the lord took his eyes from the writing and stared directly in front of him as if he was gazing in a crystal ball. The parchment was closed tightly in his hand, his fist clenched strongly like a pincer.

    “Is there any problem?” asked Romano.

    No reply. Posset's unintelligible sounds and a certain pallor that the landlord had led to a tense moment inside the hall which was defused after a matter of minutes.

    “The Templars have searched through the Papal buildings in Rome, and they have left quickly afterwards towards the Holy Lands on a merchant ship. Genoese.”

    Everyone except the French diplomat frowned their eyebrows and looked attentively towards Posset who spoke no more. Henry cleared his throat audibly once more.

    “Unfortunately, we have let them escape. Let us think of the repercussions and react accordingly.”

    King Philip's ambassador was already irritating to many, no less to both Posset and Romano, but his comment had the gift of raising the ire of those around him. Romano's attempts at reconciliation only hit an impenetrable barrier of ambitions and interests that rose between the ranks of the lords and diplomats.

    “How is it that they escape every time?” asked the Posset.

    “We cannot wage a war outside our borders just to capture those fools. The internal affairs of each kingdom do not concern us at all, we are just diplomats. Their swift capture is our only chance of ending this affair once and for all,” continued De Bourgogne.

    “And why did this not happen within the confinements of your borders, my dear Henry?” intervened the Genoese diplomat, Giovanni di Ferrara.

    A short and stocky man in his late fifties, Giovanni was a respected Genoese general, only for his career to be cut short by the wounds suffered in the frequent skirmishes up and down the Lombardian borders. Most of those at the table appreciated his ingenuity and his diplomatic skill at handling tense and delicate situations. Visibly affronted by the question, the French diplomat did not answer. De Bourgogne rose the cup to his lips and opted to only glance at Di Ferrara.


    "I'm waiting, Henry."

    "So am I."

    "Answer my question, Seigneur De Bourgogne. It's not such a difficult task, you know."

    Henry put down his cup. "It does not matter if they have escaped our relentless vigil within the borders of our kingdoms, what matters is the fact that they are free and are roaming in the world. We do not know what secrets they possess, if any, or even if they are a threat to us, but the escape of three brothers and their close examination of the Papal buildings in Rome leads us to think that they perhaps have some knowledge of great events,” said the French diplomat.

    “Very well. I will gladly listen to your proposals regarding this delicate matter,” replied Di Ferrara. "I'm listening Henry, I'm all ears, tell me."

    “I say we continue their constant watch and see where they end up. In case they threaten us directly, inform the spies to dispose of them. If it indeed gets dangerous, we might as well kill them to prevent any future problems.”

    “From our perspective, securing their treasury in our coffers is the greatest issue we have on our hands right now,” warned Giovanni.

    “Were search parties organised to look through their possessions?” asked Romano.

    “No, we have not done it yet,” replied Henry de Bourgogne.

    Di Ferrara let out an audible sigh of disbelief, clearly displeased at the sound of the words.

    “Is there any problem?” asked Henry.

    “We had a clear agreement. We agreed to help disband the Order in exchange for a part of their treasury. Almost all of them have been captured and handed over to you, and now you are telling all of us present here that there has not been any search party organised to take a hold of their treasury whilst they were chained? I find that most amusing. You were the one so concerned with the treasury, Henry. You and your diplomats. It seems to me that your attention switched towards those poor runaway souls who present no threat instead of the main point of our agreement, or you surely know more information than we do but you simply decide not to share it with us.”

    Henry frowned, surrounded by the sudden silence that engulfed the room. Henry thought otherwise whether to react to it but he kept his sharp tongue from getting the best of him.

    “I have no illusions regarding this issue, Signor Di Ferrara. But upon our agreement, the treasury is split, and the French king has total authority over the riches found in his domain.”

    “I must draw your attention regarding other issues which must be considered. Templar presence is still strong in central and northern parts of the German kingdoms, and in Poland, the Wallachian principalities and the Hungarian kingdom. As you can see, there are no legates from the Spanish kingdoms of Leon and Castille, nor the Portuguese kingdom of Lisboa. Their allegiance is clear, and will surely pose a hurdle in our attempt,” intervened Posset.

    “Templar possessions in Poland and Wallachia are not numerous, and in the Hungarian kingdom they have only had a moderate presence, so they will not present any threats. Offering trade agreements and other gifts to the royal families will ensure their allegiance and subsequent expulsion and torture of all Templar brothers,” replied the French ambassador.

    “So what are we afraid of?”

    “Nothing it seems.”

    “The three may pose a threat, and if underestimated, it can prove costly,” warned Giovanni.

    “Giovanni has my agreement on this issue. Dispose of them immediately, before they become a threat. It does not matter if they can provide us information or not, we have enough of their brothers to learn enough.”

    Once again the hall was silent at Bourgogne's words.

    “And if they have valuable information?” replied the Venetian delegate.

    “Most unfortunate for us. We shall find their riches anyway, with or without insider information.”

    “You are risking much, my dear Henry," replied Di Ferrara.

    “My King wishes to play everything on a single card. It is everything or nothing for him. He already risked much by arresting them, and now most of the merchants are threatening with serious revolts. If they are not put down soon it will escalate. Civil discontent in our kingdom is rife because of the Templar affair. We must put a timely end to it.”

    “But why are you so concerned with them?”

    “We are not, but it seems that everyone is concerned that we have an issue with them. They are the last of them, the less they are, the better it will be.”

    “Perhaps they can pose a threat by organising a public rebellion?”

    Henry snorted at the remark with an air of indignity that infuriated some of the ambassadors.

    “There are no such threats. Nothing will happen,” said Henry in a firm tone, dismissing the threat with a quick wave of his hand. For many the end of the discussion brought relief.

    “How will King Philip deal with it in this case?” asked Posset.

    “We shall see. We have not discussed our internal policies yet. And we do not intend to discuss it with the outside world.”

    By the time the discussions more or less ended the hall was in a deep state of semi-pitched darkness that made viewing the interlocutors almost impossible for a faulty eye. Di Ferrara and the Venetian diplomat looked at each other through the blackness and nodded slightly, as if in agreement. But this time it was different. The Genoese and Venetian bankers desperately needed money, and the Templars proved to be the key to restart their economies and encourage lending to the merchants and artisans.

    “Upon which agreement do we draw a line?” asked the Venetian delegate.

    “It seems to me that for the moment we do not have an agreement,” replied Giovanni.

    “Perhaps we should resume a later time?”

    “The more we postpone, the more time we are giving them. And the fewer chances for us to find their treasury, Henry.”

    “It seems we cannot agree then,” said Henry.

    “I'm sure it would be a benefit for your king, but unfortunately we must all agree on the terms,” replied Giovanni.

    “Why would it? We still need to find the riches first.”

    “A common effort would help speed up the process and increase the chances, but perhaps not. A team from all of our kingdoms would mean the riches would have to be split, would it not Henry?”

    "An agreement is an agreement."

    "It's still an informal one, just between us, Henry," replied Di Ferrara. There were no documents outlining today. Nothing needed to be signed. It would be inconceivable to sign something so in secret. And the pressure on Henry's shoulders seemed to significantly sap his arrogant attitude, making him more vulnerable to these verbal attacks coming from both Genoese and Venetian sides.

    Sensing his moment, Di Ferrara rose from the table.

    “The number of spies and reports regarding our convicts must be increased. We cannot risk any problems, however small they may be. They are three, we are many, and we are kingdoms. Nevertheless, we must not underestimate them. Along with that, the treasury can be discussed some other time. Our previous agreement still stands, and until further objections that can only come from the beloved King Philip, we consider it valid and enforceable by all parties concerned.”

    The sound of the withstanding agreement did not bode well for the French diplomat, but he could only swallow and take in the defeat. Despite any information regarding the Templar riches and the disappearance of the whole Templar fleet from La Rochelle, they had no leads to research. He had no choice but to nod in agreement.

    “So be it.”

    -----
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

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  8. #28
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    I enjoyed seeing what the enemies of the three Templar brothers know, what they believe and what they're hoping to achieve. Your writing created a strong impression of the draughty hall of the ducal mansion and the experience of peering through the dim light, enjoying the aroma of the freshly roaster game. Good update!

  9. #29
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Thank you Alwyn.

    Slowly slowly the story will evolve, also to other characters, and you will see the impact it will have on both the major and secondary characters. Plus, there will be a lot of more history involved of that wild period.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

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    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  10. #30
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    A Painted Shield of Honour has been nominated to the Writers Study Yearly Awards, you can view the nomination thread right here - https://www.twcenter.net/forums/show...nations-Thread!

    Thank you for nominating, this is much appreciated.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  11. #31
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Chapter XII - Papal Intervention

    Midnight
    October 1313
    Papal Palace of Avignon
    Kingdom of France



    It was too small, far too small, much to Clement's dissatisfaction. The wooden cabinet and most of all his desk could not house all of the scrolls and parchments he received every day. Clement fiddled nervously through the scrolls, focused on a particular piece when he remembered the task set for the Templar escapees. He rose slowly from his wooden armchair, a slight wince over his face. His back ached, his knee joints aching as he walked away from the desk. A cane was more than necessary right now, but every attempt to even make him consider one was beyond futile. Clement was determined never to walk with any aid, but as time passed, even he realised he would need help to walk wherever he wanted to. He reached the door and slowly opened it, noticing the jovial figure of his servant who was already at his door whenever he needed something.

    “Gerard, give the news to Lorenzo and tell him to come to my cabinet.”

    The servant bowed to Clement and left the cleric alone, who closed the door behind him. Not before long, the door opened once more and a tall, gaunt figure made his presence inside Clement's quarters. His eager character and fast movements meant he was always suited for the job, and on more than one occasion he dodged the law of the king unarmed. He had no beard, and he kept his head shaved, despite having no connection with any religious order whatsoever.

    “Anything new from them, Lorenzo?”

    “Your Holiness, I managed to sneak inside Marseille and gather the last reports. It is three weeks late but it is the best one we currently have. As of then, they embarked on a ship from Rome towards Constantinople. The spies have not been able to get any closer to them, but they did hear some rumours of a fight with Philip's guards, so therefore they do not know any of their intentions. They did enter the Papal complex only to return many hours later.”

    "A fight?"

    "Philip's port guards found them, or so it is apparent."

    "Are they alright?"

    "They reported that a local inn was destroyed in the fight but it seems they escaped."

    “I understand. May you please leave the scroll on my desk? I wish to read it myself.”

    “As you wish, Sire.”

    “You may leave. There is nothing else I wish you to do for me for now.”

    Lorenzo bowed his head slightly and left for the door, opening it widely to let a powerful gust blow through the Pope's cabinet. A couple of parchments dropped to the ground but Clement ignored them, too old and too lazy to pick them up. As he looked to the parchment Lorenzo laid on his table, he felt a sudden wave of contempt and compassion for the three knights who were right now risking their lives for this useless quest.

    “Alea iacta est,” muttered Clement under his breath.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  12. #32
    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Quote Originally Posted by Basileos Leandros I View Post
    A Painted Shield of Honour has been nominated to the Writers Study Yearly Awards, you can view the nomination thread right here - https://www.twcenter.net/forums/show...nations-Thread!

    Thank you for nominating, this is much appreciated.
    It's great to see this piece continuing, and of course it's good to see it recognised in the nominations for the Yearly Awards. Congratulations on being nominated! (As you're one of the WS's regular writers, I hope we'll see some nominations from you, too, now that the deadline has been extended. )
    Last edited by Caillagh de Bodemloze; November 18, 2021 at 09:53 AM.






  13. #33
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    The die is cast, indeed! Good update, and good luck in the Yearly Awards!

  14. #34
    Basileos Leandros I's Avatar Writing is an art
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Chapter XIII - Exploration

    --------------

    Mid-day
    Golden Horn
    Constantinople
    October 1313


    The new was better than the old.

    Even in this dilapidated state, with barnacles on ship careens, crumbled bricks and broken sections of sea walls, Constantinople still seemed to be a more attractive place than Rome. It did not seem to fall under the waves of the Marmaris Sea. Pilgrims, travellers, merchants and even princes often made trips for a rapid holiday to the beautiful capital on the banks of the Bosphorus. With small waves crashing in the keel of the galley, the sea and the wind pushed the vessel ever so closer to the western port of the city. The oars dipped slowly in the calm seas, a soft gentle paddle over the white waves of October. Below deck, chained slaves manned the oars, using every ounce of strength they had to propel the ship sideways as it tugged towards its docking point beside other moored in vessels, some twice the size of the average Genoese merchant galley.

    Raymond bid goodbye to the galley captain, rushing together with Balian and Amalric into the busy port. By the time they docked in, it was already late evening; darkness set itself in and clouds lazily spread over the skies, covering the horizon where not even the sun's rays could pierce it any longer. The outlook was gloomy for that night so Balian's bold to look for lodging as soon as possible was an idea they all agreed upon.

    Lodging or not, Raymond had to admit to both of them he was rather clueless about what they had to do in Constantinople. Geoffrey de Charney's document was the only scrap of info he knew, so he had to drag both Balian and Amalric with him. The Genoese colony of Galata was locked from the outside world during the night so they only had the option to lodge in for the night. The street they were on, some steps away from a neighbourhood of markets, aside from being deserted and dark, was utterly silent. The same just like in every other city, but Constantinople added a different dimension to the dangers lurking behind you.

    “A tavern should be a good place to rest until tomorrow or a coach-house,” suggested Balian.

    Amalric nodded slightly in agreement, more for himself than the others. A couple of meters away a torch blew outside in the street, penetrating the lack of sunlight. Drawing closer and closer, the three could hear the loud sounds erupting out of the open windows at the top floors of the tavern. Sturdy, with just a floor atop the main tavern house, the inn looked solid even though the state of light darkness engulfed it. Loud sounds boomed from the inside. One might have considered it nothing better than a cheap bawdyhouse from the dark, dangerous outskirts of the city of Paris. It was spacious, and dare say it had once been an interesting room to live within, but that was about it. Piles of rotten fruits and vegetables were lying in the corners, a sign the innkeeper did not bother cleaning up after his clients left the local. Linen tablecloths covered all tables inside the inn but some of them were so dirty, flooded with wine and bits of food, that they caused repulsion for even the most inebriated man that happened to be passing by. The mice were roaming freely around, and some guests took great pleasure in aiming with their daggers at them, but in their state of drunkenness, they only managed to drive them away to other customers. The group of men who were most concerned with the mice caught Balian's attention, and it was him that motioned forwards to his brothers, eventually ending up at the table right beside the group despite the numerous other options. Tired, unkempt and somewhat dismayed, all they needed now was a good meal watered down with wine and a comfortable bed to rest their bodies on.

    “Anything?” asked Raymond.

    “Unfortunately not. All they talk of is a merchant fighting with one of the local militia in the market today,” replied Balian.

    “May I ask, what are we doing here?” said Amalric.

    Raymond glanced around. No one seemed to look at them.

    “Before I left, Monsieur de Charney left me with a list of the most important Templar documents. One of them is inside the Galata fortress on the other side of this city."

    "And what is it?"

    "A trade agreement. A secret trade agreement and alliance between us and the Genoese Republic."

    “And how does this help us in any way?”

    “The Genoese have given us large amounts of land in their territory, and through this document, they confirm the construction of churches, monasteries and large chapter houses on this land. A chance to prove our allegiance to the righteous cause.”

    “And by showing this as one of our main scrolls, it will acquit us in front of our Pope.”

    “Most probably. More politics than anything else. It shows we still matter. And Monsieur de Charney did not give me the document without reason. He knew what was going to happen.”

    “Have you been to Galata before, Raymond?” asked Amalric.

    “Never. I think it is new territory for us all.”

    Not able to gather any information, they paid their cups of ale and bode farewell to the innkeeper. By that time the four men behind their table were in a very advanced state of drunkenness and it did not take a bright mind to realise the poor sod would have a hard time with them sooner or later. The Templars wandered along the streets of Constantinople until dawn caught up with the magnificent city, blanketing an orange pallor above the pitch-black darkness. No chance for them to get into Galata right now, so they had to wait until the morning for a boat to slide them across the beautiful Golden Horn.

    Their evening walk led them onto the intersection of Theodosius' Forum and the Via Constantine, the gate to seemingly two different worlds. Heading on the boulevard large enough for three caravans wide lead to the infamous site of the city where all the brothels and coach houses were located. They all heard legendary stories about the infamous brothels of Constantinople when they were barely eligible to become squires, places where decadence and licentiousness were blooming like a tree during spring. Balian raised his hand. He pointed his finger towards the end of the road, splitting into a crossroad with multiple side alleys. Torches were placed at the end of each corner of a building, making the boulevard rather eerie.

    “Must we go there?” asked Balian.

    “There's no other way to get into Galata without finding out some information before. Namely, how do we even get into Galata as a foreigner? Keep your hand to your sword, we never know what we may encounter,” replied Amalric.

    Amalric led the way with his sword drawn and took the widest alleyway, looking at each house for tavern or coach house signs', the places spies and other informants usually stay and sell their valuable knowledge. Somewhat annoyed, Amalric forcefully grabbed the torch from Balian's gauntlet by its handle, moving in forwards to discern the road in front of them. Or perhaps what was in front of them, and that was not necessarily the road. A medium-height hooded figure stood upright in the dark alley, casting a mysterious glow partly because of his hooded cloak that covered his appearance. By the time they had their swords drawn, the man held his hand and uncovered a small golden symbol, grappled by his thumb and index finger.

    "You've been followed, gentlemen," said the hooded figure.

    Raymond drew up to him. The distance between was not too big, but Raymond could smell the acrid stench of burned incense emanating from his clothes."

    So it seems."

    "We know of the treaty, brother Templars. But I have no patience, therefore I must be quick.”

    “Shall I assume you have come here to help us?” replied Amalric.

    “The only place in this area that can be of interest to you is the Genoese library in Galata, and nothing else. The Podesta's quarters.”

    “I trust you are well informed,” replied Balian.

    “We shall not speak about those things. If you have to have any chance of success, you must go. But beware, Galata is well defended. Entering in broad daylight equals suicide, my friends.”

    “So you know,” said Raymond.

    “I am the Pope's man in Galata. Unofficially. When my leader orders, everything else is done. Small boats can be of small importance, but when everything is at stake, they can arrive in a matter of days from one point to another.”

    “Most interesting. You arrived well before us, I understand.”

    “No. I caught up with you. Your ship was four days ahead when I have left the Eternal City. And I have followed you until this point. It was not too hard to discover through the crowd.”

    "Can you help us?" asked Raymond.

    “My brothers, helping you in Galata would compromise my whole identity and cause public outrage in France, Genoa and the whole of the Catholic world. I therefore must make my trail lost in the maze surrounding this city. I have said what there is to be said. I do not judge or begrudge the Templars of anything but with this, I must bid farewell. May you be quick."

    The shadow became a slither of darkness, disappearing in the darkness around the narrow gangways beside them. Raymond blocked Amalric's initiative immediately as the massive knight leapt forwards to run for the man. A quick jolt of his head cooled off Amalric's bellicose impulses.

    “There we have it. Not much information, but we know someone is on to us. And most of all, nobody followed us here that we cannot trust. Or so I think.”

    “We must find a tavern or an inn, where locals know the area surrounding Galata.”

    “Drop the idea. We are running out of time. And this is not the only place we need to see. And get back to Avignon before it is not too late,” said Raymond.

    “Walking more than 10 leagues will not be enjoyable.”

    “Our only chance. Go.”

    ----
    Ja mata, TosaInu. Forever remembered.

    Total War Org - https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming over France - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country. A finished novel, published on TWC.

    Visit ROMANIA! A land of beauty and culture!

  15. #35
    ggggtotalwarrior's Avatar hey it geg
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    Default Re: A Painted Shield of Honour

    Read the first couple posts. Will catch up more in the next couple of days with my full thoughts
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    UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF THE KING POSTER AKAR

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