Return of the Impaler, part I
The wrapping against the waves of the frigate hit hard. The English Channel was known for its harsh waters. The sounds of home.
This is the tale of Malvegil “The Impaler” Draculus, how he left his kingdom to do battle in the lands of the Arabs, the unfaithful. It is a tale of how different but how similar we are to our enemies, who are also our friends. Corruption runs amuck everywhere, and the goodness of people shall never be under estimated.
Sitting in the galley, among many travelers making their way to Albion, Malvegil enjoys a pint of the dark ale of Snowdonia.
“What’s yer story mate?” a strange man, dressed in leathers approaches.
The young armsman, still clad in the robes of the East looks up from his mug, peering at the stranger.
“Not much friend, contemplating my travels”, he tips his cup and takes a swig of the ale
The strange man pulls up a chair and calls to the barmaid noticing the cup of the armsman dwindling.
“Two ales wench!”
The serving wench, a bit old and ragged, probably from years of sea travel and no sunlight brings two ales over and slams them on the table.
The strange man opens his purse and tosses a silver to the wench.
“Keep the drinks coming”
Malvegil looks to the stranger, “Well let’s begin at the Battle of Baghdad, that’s where the real story takes place”
The man adjusts himself in his seat for a long story.
We had been in the land of the Hebrews for 8 months, accompanied by my companions, Okell, the Theurgist and Antalia, the Paladin. The war, as you know was being fought for the holy land. Albion’s church had an obligation to send reinforcement to its branches throughout Europe. Not being a man of the cloth myself, I decided to help my wife, a servant of the church when she was drafted to help.
Our forces had been sieging the city for weeks, our supply line was being cut from the rear and rumors of a great army from Sheik Al-Kalid had been set on behest of his brother, Sheik Al-Saddam.
I was a Captain in the army; I was in command of 6 squads of foot soldiers. Okell was in charge of our artillery, while Antalia was the bodyguard of the clerical division. It was past noon; we had just returned from the out limits of the city, trying to bring down the eastern wall was proving to be a daunting task. The enemy had employed various members of a sect of rogues called the “assassinates”. They could move about with such stealth and with lethal poisons they slowly nicked our army away.
The Army of the church fought its final battle on the morn of the eve of summer. The heat was intense; the searing heat of the sun fatigued many a man. The water carriers hurried about giving each man his morning cup of water, for it would be all that would sustain him till the lunch…. or till he was killed.
The gates of Baghdad opened slowly, and the host flew out like a bursting dam of water. A mere 300 men in the count, it seemed almost a feeble attack against the army of the church, 3000 strong at this time.
“Send your squad, I’ll have the archers behind you. Quick work will be made of whatever ruse is going on here”. Barked General Wilshire, the commanding officer of the army of the church.
Malvegil gathered his troops and consulted with his Captain, Antalia.
“It definitely isn’t like Al-Saddam to do something, I suspect he intends to divide us.”
Antalia smirked, knowing well that Malvegil was well known as a tactician, but not a member of the church he could not hope to gain any rank worthy of this army.
“Aye, the general is wise…the rumors of the other armor perturb me although, we could not face them, we are weak and in need of fresh supplies and troops.”
The men, all armsmen, often known among the church as the “Sand Devils”, for their apparent lack of faith. Dressed in leather and sandy robes, these men had opt not to don their armor months ago. The heat and conditions of this black country would not permit it. Instead the armsmen took lessons from the good friars in light armored combat. Some of the men still wore bits and pieces of chain about them. The weapons used were some traditional and some foreign. Pikes, Long Swords, Scimitars, Rapiers, Main-Gauche, all weapons chosen to fit each individual. It had been evident many of these men had been to the more exotic locals of the medieval world. Still, even without the magnificent plate mail of Albion, these men nonetheless look impressive, lethal.
The Sand devils moved in three rows of six, side by side they marched slowly towards the ditches that had been dug in front of the dunes surrounding Baghdad. These primitive fortress had proven successful in these lands, for often many armies would not travel unmounted.
Upon the dune Malvegil surveyed his men, looking back a few leagues he could see Antalia and his good friend Okell in the mass of tents of their camp. So far away yet so close it seemed in these barren lands. Thoughts of the Plains of Salisbury meandered though his mind, as he thought of the lush green grass the that glass like stream of cool water than seemed to feed it.
His head shaven, his faced golden brown, Malvegil seemed to blend in his man folding robes of cloth and leather. It looked ragged in the wind, but upon closer inspection the order and beauty of a uniform were there. Strange tattoos lined his arms, symbols of his travels to this land, of the battle and victories he won. Standing gallantly he gripped his Gladius, a prize he won in a duel on his way through Rome. It was the Gladius previously owned by the great general Aetius, the man who defeated the Huns and saved Europe. It was only fitting that a new general protect his lands, and wield the sword of the good people of Europe.
The plume of dust soon filled the plain as the army reigned closer. Like a rolling thundercloud it only seemed to pick up momentum, its lowly thunder grower louder, and the cries of war seemed to alleviate the air around them.
These men were ready to die.
Suddenly it struck him.
It was a ruse, but they indeed wanted them to think it was a ruse. But why?
A second storm in the desert merged, far to the north it seemed if the desert itself had come alive. A cloud larger than the heavens arose, and the fate of the moment seem sealed.
“Quickly, we must retreat to the encampment!!!” yelled to his men.
But it was too late, in those precious moments the army of Baghdad had gained too much momentum and the class of the forces was evident.
The advantage was theirs, only the men above the ditches had been seen, the enemy over estimated and converged on the small group. The sand devils rose from their hiding places with the pikes high and leaned into the charge of the horse army.
Few of the pikes broke, the fine iron of Albion held true. But the horde of horse was to many, but yet they did not stop. The majority charged onward to the bigger battle. A good many that had fell were either crushed or had begun to reorient themselves.
Drawing his blade, in a flurry of silver and flowing robes Malvegil flew through the fallen horsemen like a whirling dervish. The enemy caught unaware fell quickly. Crossing slashing and thrusting the gladius into the men the blood filled the sand, beading across its grainy surface.
One of Malvegil’s men, Hamish was fighting two of the horsemen. Both ragged, wielding scimitars circled him. Quickly he brought about pike and began to parry their attacks. Hamish looked for the holes in their defense. He had to be precise, the speed of the scimitars could out swing his pole, and it was more of a matter of parrying then thrusting.
Parry, parry, thrust…one of the men soon met then end of his pole. Quickly the other horseman took the moment to slice down the back of the armsman.
Malvegil moved in and stopped the lethal attack. Bringing his foot around in a roundhouse style he kicked the horseman in his chest forcing him back and to the ground. The armsman quickly dislodged his pole from his previous victim and driving it with both hands into the belly of the heathen.
Around the fight ensued for minutes, thirty horsemen had fell and only a handful of the sand devils.
Sitting on the ground Malvegil wiped the sweat from his head, only a few scraps had plagued his body but the heat of the midday had begun to sink in. In the distant he could here the sounds of the battle. There was a silence among the men, hopelessness had set in.
“Lets move, our comrades need our help, if need be we will fall with them.”
Then men nodded and began their march.
The hour passed and soon they were to the battle, or what some might call the Massacre. Already prisoners were being taken. Soon horses and a more elite set of soldiers surrounded them. Malvegil drew his sword.
“Put down your weapons and surrender ghostface, you have lost!” screamed what seemed to be the captain of this unit.
Thoughts of fighting to the death passed through his mind. Yet he could sense the that his men sensed a bit of defeat. Could he justify this senseless death, No, could he order it? Yes.
Then out of the corner of his eye he saw his sweet Antalia and friend Okell in bondage. This wasn’t the way to go out, there was always a way.
“Drop your weapons men, they win this time” he said solemnly.
“Hahah, you’ve lost the war fool. Now you will become slaves and se the truth of the world” the captain laughed.
The chains hurt, but the bonds of steel that had been forged did not easy break the tough skin of this armsman. Slowly the prisoners were marched, whipped, and some even executed as examples. The citizens of the streets spit, cursed, and threw trash at the prisoners as they were marched through all the major streets. Children, women, the elderly all took part in this. The viciousness of people can often be seen in times like this.
They were thrown in the dark dungeons of Baghdad, these dungeons did not even compare to what Albion had had. Disease, rot, rodents permeated in these places. Bread, water and the occasional rotten fruit were the diet of these poor souls.
Malvegil soon learned through the local cell talk that Okell his friend had been sent to the school of magic to be brainwashed and his secrets of magic extracted. Antalia had been taken with most of the women to be used as whores, or as Malvegil soon learned, the concubine of the Prince Al-Kazarim.
The first few weeks were the hardest; the weakest of the army who could not stand the occasional torture, malnutrition, or the insanity of solitude were soon weeded out. The tough only remained. Many a nights Malvegil spent in the “Room”, beaten by disgruntled guards. Often he tried to fight back but was soon overwhelmed. He had even dislocated his shoulder in the last beating, and was unable to move for a few days from the massive bruises that covered his body.
His hair was soon shoulder length with a beard to match. Even with his simple diet that had been served, the toughness of the fighting had kept him in shape. That was his strategy; to mouth off and be disobedient…what doesn’t kill him makes him stronger. So while others weakened, Malvegil remained strong and hopeful. This battle had just begun, it was only a matter of time before he could make his escape and rescue his friends.
That time had drawn near.
“Yes, I need your toughness, your worst, I want killers” grumbled a low and rough voice from down the hall.
“Oh, I have a few, I have a special one as well, he’ll cost you a bit more….he’s my favorite”.
Malvegil recognized the voice as the jailer, and quickly he saw his fate coming full circle.
The jailer approached, and beside him stood a portly man, a man who once looked as if he was a old warrior, his muscle hiding beneath the fat that now covered him. His hairline was high, and his hair to his shoulders. A thick salt and pepper beard covered his tan olive face. He seemed to be of Italian origin.
“Ahh yes, you are the one they call Ghostface?”
He looked up at the man.
“Hohoho, I like this one. My name is Cassius Flavius, and you now belong to me.” Another belly laugh and the jailer opened the cell as Cassius dropped a bad of coins into his hand.
Many days and weeks Malvegil spent in the caged Caravan as it past into the Southwest. Later he would find himself in the southern reaches of Arabia.