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God was with them today. Despite all the strangeness of this world, it was clear that Lord’s hands were still at work. At the top of a large dune, two Templar scouts sat on their horses observing the blessing before them. There, located in a massive basin was a lush and green oasis. It went for many miles and was filled with exotic trees shrubbery and the distant glint of water.
“It is a sight isn’t it Tanner?”
“Aye, I’ll take this glimmer of hope as a blessing Cardon.”
They were Hal Tanner and Thomas Cardon. Both were young men, Hal being 19 and Thomas 22. Hal had brown hair with the sides lightly shaved and a goatee with blue eyes, and Thomas had long scraggly black hair with brown eyes and a stubble beard.
“A blessing it is then. I’ll take whatever I can get in this strange place.” Cardon said looking about.
“Strange places can present stranger dangers. Perhaps we should investigate the oasis with a closer eye before the army approaches.” Hal said as he examined the oasis.
“Aye, you’re probably right on that. No doubt that’s what Lord Châtillon would have our heads if we didn’t. It may be crawling with Saracens for all we know, or the waters poisoned.”
“Let’s hope that hasn’t happened,” Hal remarked as he secured his chainmail coif over his head and strapped his nasal helm in place just in case. “Let’s have a look see.”
With a small bit of encouragement, the Templars urged their steeds onwards and down the sandy dune. They came to the bottom of the dune and started galloping towards the oasis. The hooves thundered into the hardened ground as they approached kicking up an orange and pink dust cloud from the red sand. The Oasis looked all the more appealing as they came closer, and the trees and greener looked shockingly thick. Thomas was almost completely enamored by the sight, savoring the thought of rest within the oasis, but there was one thing which drew his eye suddenly. A banner with an blue field and a golden symbol he did not recognize at its center. It was attached to the back of a man wearing armor that appeared similar to that worn by the Saracens yet at the same time was different. Most notably he bore an almost demonic mask across his face. The man raised an arm and others dressed like him bearing odd longbows rose up from the Oasis’ shrubbery.
“Shields!” Thomas shouted abruptly as he and Hal raised their kite shields.
“Hanate!” the strange man shouted, and the archers followed his command.
A hail of arrows flew through the air. A few impacted the shields, but Hal soon realized that they were not the targets, the horses were. His mount screeched and crashed into the dirt throwing Hal from his saddle. He impacted into the sand with a hard thud. He rolled to his back gasping for air, as his training kicked in and he forced himself to his feet. Stumbling and his ears ringing he backed away from the oasis, shield raised. He managed to draw his sword and assume a defensive posture to the best of his ability. He looked to his left still in a haze and saw Thomas knocked out with his one leg trapped under his dead horse. Thomas’s helmet and coif probably saved his life when he smacked his head into the ground, but he still was bleeding down his face. Hal knew he could not leave his friend here to die. His only hope would be for the outriders sent after them in reserve to arrive. Hopefully it would be soon.
Emerging from the brush line came twenty men all similarly dressed in odd armor. They all had arrows knocked and ready to draw. With his meager shield he knew he would not be able to stop them all and braced for his coming death.
In defiance, he smashed his sword against his shield three times shouting “Deus Vult!”
The archers tensed ready to loose a volley, but a commanding voice ordered them otherwise.
“Yameru,” a warrior, the same one Thomas had spotted on their approach, stepped forward.
Hal focused on the warrior in disgust, the demon mask making his stomach churn in revulsion. The warrior stepped forward, his armor was dyed an orange color with a blue sash across his waist with two sword sheaths, one housing a short sword and the other a long curved sword held in the warrior’s hand. The warrior’s eyes fixated on Hal. He looked at the Templar’s shield and scoffed with disdain.
“Nōmin dake ga hogo no haigo de tatakaudarou!” He said pointing at Hal’s shield with a laugh. The other warriors laughed as well. Hal could only guess they were mocking him. Damnable heathens.
“Mock my faith if you will Saracen! The Lord is with me this day, and he shall give me your head on a pike!” he shouted pointing his sword at the warrior. The man stepped forward taking Hal’s gesture as an insult.
“Kuso!” The warrior said angrily, leveling his sword at Hal. Upon closer inspection the curved sword was like most Saracen blades only it was less so, and the hilt was different than anything else Hal had seen from Saracens. No matter, for it would seem this scuffle would be settled with steel.
The warrior lunged at Hal, who kept his shield up to hide a low thrust of his sword. The warrior parried with a swipe of his blade against Hal’s arming sword and sidestepped to the young Templar’s left attacking with a quick slash. Hal turned bringing his shield to bear just in time. He felt the blow impact and cut into the wood and hide of the shield slicing off splinters of wood. The other warriors gathered around in a semi-circle cheering on their leader and slinging insults at Hal. He didn’t know what they were saying, so he ignored it for the most part. The warrior came in with a low feint before striking high for Hal’s throat. Hal swung his sword in a side swing letting his cross-guard block and deflect the strike. He followed up with a high hook punch using his shield as a bludgeoning weapon. The shield bashed into the warrior’s face knocking him back. He shook his head to recover and regained his composure quick enough to block Hal’s thrust aimed at the warrior’s face. The warrior ducked slashing at Hal’s midriff, but the blow was weak and unprepared. It still broke the chainmail their and would certainly give Hal a severe bruising. He lurched back feeling the throbbing pain of the blade’s blow and cursing his overstepping. Both he and the warrior now circled one another, both men being more cautious as they tested one another. Hal heard a sudden gasp and saw Thomas had come to somewhat and was groaning in pain. The other warriors were on him with swords drawn and leveled at Thomas. One that had a blade at Thomas’s throat was suddenly knocked off his feet as Hall barrel rushed the warrior with his shield. The observing warriors now drew their swords and converged on Hal who was now standing over Thomas.
“Yameru!” the command came again, and the warriors stood down. The leader approached his blade raised towards his own warriors as if to hold them back. The lead warrior then looked at Thomas before speaking.
“Kono kettō wa anatatowatashi no madesu. Watashi no senshi wa anata no dōshi ni gai o ataemasen. Kore wa watashi no meiyo o chikau.”
The warriors stood down and the leader took a fighting stance once again. It was an honorable gesture between warriors, one which Hal was appreciative for. Hal took up his fighting stance as they continued the duel. The warrior came in with a high strike but changed at the last second swing low instead, Hal again blocked, but the blade bit into the shield. The warrior attempted to draw his blade free, but Hal pressed into him. Striking quickly, he scored a thrust on the Warrior’s shoulder, though Hal only seemed to graze him. The warrior jumped back drawing a smaller sword and swinging at Hal while still trying to retrieve his sword from the shield. He managed to graze Hal’s hand forcing the Templar to drop his word into the sand. With a tug the warrior wrenched his sword from Hal’s shield, but his victory was short lived. Hal aggressively rammed the edge of his kite shield into the warrior’s mask. The warrior was so shocked that he dropped both his blades. His mask shattered in two, and his helmet fell off, revealing a foreign face Hal was not familiar with.
“Kuso!” the warrior spat as he launched himself forward and tackled Hal into the sand.
They rolled across the sand kicking and punching as the fight devolved into a brawl, while the other warriors following continued to cheer the combatants on. The one of the straps on Hal’s shield suddenly snapped and it went flying to the side as they tumbled. Both men stumbled to their feet and immediately were on one another. Hal head butted the warrior with a crack as their helmets clashed. The warrior punched him in the gut. He tried to hip toss Hal, but he wouldn’t budge. They went back and forth trading blows equally, until the sudden whistle of a crossbow bolt cut through the air. There were sudden shouts and cries as over the dune, came charging twelve mounted sergeants of the crusade. Many of them were armed with light crossbows and were losing bolts at the hostile warriors. A few of the warriors fell, the bolts jutting out awkwardly from their bodies. Hal and the warrior he was fighting broke off from each other. The warrior ran off with his men rallying them together and fighting a delayed retreat. The warriors loosed arrows at the sergeants as they charged downing a few of them with precise shots to the heart the arrows easily piercing their mail. In the confusion Hal retrieved his sword and shield while making a break for Thomas. Two of the warriors were trying to pull him from under his mount to take Thomas prisoner who was doing the best he could to resist.
“Non Nobis Dominae!” Hal cried as he charged them.
One of the warriors shouted his own war cry and charged Hal with a high swing of his sword. Hal parried quickly with a swipe of his sword using the edge to cut it away. He then quickly reversed his strike and sliced the warrior’s throat open taking full advantage of the fact that his arming sword had two edges. The warrior fell back croaking and choking in his own blood as Hal attacked the second warrior. This man had not drawn his sword quickly enough and Hal delivered a punishing blow to the man’s face using the cross guard of his sword. The warrior fell to the ground, his face shattered, and Hal quickly finished him with a controlled stab to the throat. They were not as skilled as their leader, which was a fortunate thing for Hal.
The warriors had retreated in an orderly fashion back into the Oasis, and the sergeants held back from charging into the brush. The two sides still exchanged missile fire as they broke off from one another. Hal rushed to Thomas’s side.
“Thomas! Thomas, are you all right?”
“Damn it Hal! Get this sarding horse off me!” Thomas spat trying to move.
Hal flagged down one of the sergeants who helped Hal as best he could while under fire. Hal managed to drag Thomas out from under the dead horse before hauling Thomas up onto the sergeant’s horse. Unfortunately, it appeared that Thomas’s leg was broken, but at the moment they had bigger things to worry about. One of the sergeants yelled at Hal and he saw that the warriors had regrouped and now had more men with them. Moving quickly Hal and the sergeants scrambled to retreat. They only had time to save the wounded amongst them, and they would leave the dead. Hal mounted a vacant horse whose rider lay dead in the red sand. Moving quickly, and not wanting to sustain more casualties, the Crusaders retreated from their enemy as fast as they could. The warrior Hal had dueled was at the forefront screaming at the Crusaders as they fell back. Hal couldn’t understand what the man was saying as they rode away, but he didn’t need to. He could piece together that the warrior would have it out for him.
King Baldwin would have to be informed that there were definitely Saracens at the Oasis. They would have to fight for the water and resources there or die in the attempt. Hal gave a quick prayer to God for the dead sergeants left behind in the sand. Their bodies would be recovered and buried later. First the Crusaders would have to drive the Saracens out. Hal prayed for their victory, as they retreated with all speed back to the Crusader main force.
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