tagSci-Fi & FantasyCrusade Gone Awry Ch. 01

Crusade Gone Awry Ch. 01


The first ship arrived at the port. It was a longship and as it rolled up to the pier a man jumped out. Like all the people on his boat, he was dressed in plate armor, decorated with a bright, flaming bird on the breast plate. He knelt down onto the wood and thanked the goddess for his safe trip. Many of the other men and women on the boat did the same as they stepped onto the pier. The first man, clearly the leader, scanned out across the ocean. He could see countless other longships, rowing rapidly towards him. Many of them would have to anchor around the port and walk over the boats, but they made it. The last human stronghold on the continent. The man turned towards the city. He thought he might have been seeing a mirage when he first got close, but he wasn't. The city was much larger than he thought it would be. There were buildings with ornate domes crammed into high walls that covered a semi-circle around the coast. There were thousands, perhaps tens of thousands living in this city. It certainly didn't look like a place on the verge of being annihilated. Instead it looked like a paradise, with palm trees, a beautiful coast and colorful domes on some of the larger structures. Moreover, the entire place looked intact and untouched. Still, it was not his place to question the High Priest of Vordan. He was on a mission from the goddess and he intended to fulfill it. He turned to the common soldiers in the boat.

"Secure the ship." the commander stated. "Tie all the rest of them together so they will be secure." A hail of acknowledgment came from the soldiers as they got to work. The commander and his officers began walking down the dock. At the end of it was a simple fish house. The moment they rounded the house they discovered someone sitting behind it. They all stopped abruptly and stared. It was a very, very old man. In the desert environment he was wearing only a pair of shorts and was sharpening a trident. He was tan almost to the point of being black. He had terrible bags under his eyes, making him look like a raccoon. He had wrinkles not only down his face, but also his chest, stomach. As if he didn't look old enough already, he had a long, white beard. The ancient, grizzled man briefly gazed up at them. His eyes met with the commander's. He then turned back to his trident.

"Finally got bored over there?" the old man said. There was barely a tooth in his mouth.

"Pardon me?" the commander asked.

"Another one of them crusades." the old man stated. "I suppose it was about time."

"So you know why we are here? They still tell tales of the previous ones?"

"Not really, I was here for the last one." The commander then appeared taken aback.

"That would make you..."

"I lost track, but it's got to be over a hundred." There was more silence as the ancient man continued sharpening his trident, as if his age was no big deal.

"You have my congratulations on living so long." the commander finally said. The old man scoffed and gazed up from his work, grinning with his two teeth.

"Well, that's the nicest thing I've heard in a while." The old man put down his tool and sharpening stone. "Who might you be?"

"I am Colonel Marcus Lionheart, commander of the Fifth Legion of the Holy Phoenix." The commander said, striking a bold pose.

"That's a long name." the ancient man replied, unimpressed. The colonel ignored him and motioned towards the six armored people standing around him.

"This is lieutenant Colonel Marisa Steinem, my second in command. This is major Oren Ackler, major Sam Ageril, captain Tay Rainground, captain Talia Fenner and first lieutenant Eliza Bevens." The five companions stood at attention, four of them proudly.

"Adrum. Charmed I'm sure." the old man replied. "What can the fair citizens of Tarbat do for you today?"

"We are here to relieve the burden of the Demon King from your lands." All that followed was silence. Adrum then clicked his tongue on the top of his mouth.

"You came all the way here, disrupted my livelihood with your boats to do something we don't need?" Colonel Lionheart once again appeared surprised.

"What do you mean?"

"As we always tell you crusading sorts, the Demon King isn't trying to kill us. We worked out a deal with him ages ago. We provide him with food, workers and women and he leaves us alone."

"You appease him!?"

"We are here, you are across the ocean. We do what we have to do. The system has stood for ages. We have no deal with him about you crusaders, so you can gallivant off to the desert if you want."

"How do you deliver your...goods to the demon?"

"I'll tell you, but it won't help. Halfway through the desert the Demon King's servants take it over. It wouldn't do you any good anyway. His servants would see you, tip him off and you would be stuck in the middle of the desert." Colonel Lionheart appeared massively annoyed. These weren't beleaguered people under siege, but citizens who were basically taxpayers.

"Who is the leader of this city?" he asked. Adrum gazed up with his old, bloodshot eyes.

"I suppose you could say I am."

"Suppose in what way?"

"Most people do what I tell them." The colonel merely sighed, already feeling exhausted.

"Do you mind if we buy supplies and camp outside the city?"

"Knock yourself out." Adrum then picked up his trident and sharpening stone. He resumed working on his fishing tool. "Word of warning, most people here are human, [i]most[/i]."


"Basically, watch your back. You newcomers will look like fresh meat."

"We are trained to fight demons and their ilk." The old man gazed up yet again.

"Have you ever met one?" Uncomfortable silence followed. The colonel didn't know to reply to that with his pride intact. "It's your funeral." The old man once again returned to his trident. The colonel scoffed and began marching away. His lesser officers followed after him. Once they were sufficiently out of listening range the colonel turned to them.

"I don't know what they cooky old man is going on about," he began. "But he does have a point about watching our back." He turned to his second-in-command, Marisa. "Lieutenant Steinhem, I'm going to need you to find a weapons dealer. See what they say about our weapons and how they will manage in this heat and sand."

"Yes sir." The lieutenant colonel said, briefly saluting by putting her hand over her heart. She began marching away. The commander then turned to Oren.

"Major Ackler, as the commissioner of supplies, I want you to secure a food and water source for us in case this turns into a long-term campaign. Go to the food market."

"Yes sir." Oren stated, giving a more half-hearted salute and marching away.

"Major Ageril, I'm going to need you to scout the defenses of this town. Examine the wall, look for weaknesses and see if it has any positions from where we can scout or shoot." Sam then gave a salute and went about his task. "Captain Rainground, I want you to see if there are any horses we can buy. We don't need to give a horse to every soldier, but having a division of cavalry will be useful." Tay saluted like the rest and walked away. "Captain Fenner, I know the old man said these people don't want our help, but go and see if any of them will join us anyway." Talia saluted and left. "Finally, lieutenant Bevens, I'm going need you to finish securing the ships. Hook them all together and let the soldiers step from ship to ship and get them on the ground." She saluted and walked back long the pier. The colonel stared out at the city, suddenly feeling old.

His decisions in giving tasks weren't just random. Marisa Steinem was his right-hand woman. They had risen through the ranks together. She had always worked hard and supported him in everything he did. She was an attractive woman, with unusual blue eyes and black hair. He had no idea why she was so loyal to him, but he was glad to have her around. There was the possibility that her loyalty ran deeper than just the military, but he was too old for her. She was still young and spry, so he would never consider it. Still, he would trust no one else to deal with the weapons. He trusted her more than anyone else in the world.

Major Oren Ackler originally worked as a food seller. He knew how the business worked and how to secure supplies. He was drafted rather roughly from the streets under a vague law from a lord looking to score points with the church, so he wasn't particularly motivated. He was still young and handsome, with brown hair and eyes. He usually sported a goatee and had a habit of either hoarding or stealing food. Still, he was chosen for this mission specifically for his ability in trade and meals. He was so good at what he did that he was promoted, despite his terrible attitude.

Major Sam Ageril was an incredible soldier. He fought against bandits and cutthroats from a crumbling fortress for years. No man knew about fighting against odds like him. He had a scar across his forehead, through the area between his eyebrows and down his nose. His hair was an auburn color and it was slicked back, giving it an almost spiked appearance. His eyes were an icy blue, and he distinctly lacked a sense of humor. He was also tall, muscular and quick, an all-around perfect soldier.

Captain Tay Rainground grew up on the steppe, surrounded by horses. He fought wild, savage beasts his whole life, making him perfect for the terrible monsters in the desert yet to come. He was becoming disheartened by the campaigns back at home, killing heretics. He was a bit of an unknown element in that regard. He didn't sign up for the royal corps to kill people, only monsters and beasts. He might already have a degree of disillusionment with his job. He appeared to be a handsome boy, appearing much younger than he actually was/ His hair was an almond-brown color and his eyes were bright green. If he wasn't so busy he could have probably snagged a young and beautiful wife by now.

Captain Talia Fenner was a beautiful woman, there was no doubt about that. She had perfect golden blonde hair, without a single bad root or discolored area. She had an excellent hourglass body, with large breasts and wide hips. Her eyes were the perfect shade of blue and her face was in that beautiful diamond shape. She had a soft nose, puffy lips and balanced, small ears. In short, she was an absolutely gorgeous woman. Why she would sign up for a military corp was beyond the colonel's knowledge and his care. Women weren't his concern, war was. Still, her beauty had uses. With her soliciting help, some men would join up, either to be around her or hope to get with her, either way they would be roped in.

Finally there was first lieutenant Eliza Bevens. She was an odd one. She grew up on ships and had bizarre obsessions. She carried around books with her at all times that described fantastical creatures, both real and fictional. Her eyes only brightened when she found something unusual and she thrived on adventure and discovery. She was a small, young woman, with long red hair, blue eyes and a slim body. She was cute, but didn't care about men. She only joined the corp to find those rare creatures out in the world.

Someone walked right up to the colonel from behind. He put his hand on his sword as they stood beside him. It was Adrum, now gripping his sharpened trident. Colonel Lionheart relaxed a little, but didn't take his hand off his sword. The old man had an odd, squatting kind of walk that reminded the commander of someone who desperately needed to go to the bathroom.

"City's a thing of beauty, isn't it?" he asked.

"As beautiful as any other." Colonel Lionheart replied curtly. He wasn't much one for architecture.

"Best get used to it. You're either going to be here for a long time or you're going to die here." The commander glared at the old man, contemplating whether that was a threat or not. "Do you know what happens when a demon has a child with a human?"

"An abomination is created."

"That isn't untrue. Monsters come out, the kind that stalk the desert and hunt humans."

"We are aware of that fact."

"Are you also aware of why those monsters hunt humans?"

"To eat."

"And to mate." The colonel turned his full body towards the old man, his eyes wide.


"The Demon King is a demon of lust. His power is passed to his children. All the races of the desert are such creatures. Most of them seek humans for their energy and get it through sexual means. Many of them want to reproduce with humans, considering them superior mates to other monsters."

"Why are you telling me this?" The old man didn't reply to that. He merely turned around, putting his trident on his shoulder.

"The desert is vast. The Demon King's palace is across the endless desert, in an oasis paradise. You will have to make your way through his never-ending descendants." The old man began walking away. "Watch your back. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell who the real monsters are." The commander watched the man with a dire expression. What was that old cook talking about? Sex monsters? A lust demon? Real monsters? It was all preposterous. Before the colonel could continue his thoughts, the second boat of men finally arrived and it was chained to the first one. More men poured out onto the pier, praying in thanks, stretching and gazing at the city.

"We have no time to waste." the colonel said, walking to his men. "This is a land of madness."

Lieutenant Colonel Marisa Stein walked down the crafting section of town. Judging from the pictures on signs, there were many different kinds of artisans, tailors, dyers, potters, spinners and even ropemakers. Still, she couldn't find any smiths. There weren't any people on the street, which somewhat worried her. It was the peak of the day and yet the streets were empty. Back home the craft district would be packed this time of day. As she rounded another dead street she wiped her brow with her armored hand. It didn't really help, as the gauntlet only smeared the sweat on her face. It was blistering in this metal armor, but she was on duty. She came to one store with a sign that puzzled her. It was a person, but in an odd stance with strings on their limbs. She had never seen anything like it before. Despite the fact that she was on a mission, she couldn't quite put down her curiosity. Besides, someone could tell him where the armor or weapon smith was. She sighed and opened the door.

When Marisa walked inside she instantly stopped and gazed around with wide eyes. The entire store was covered with shelves. The shelves were stocked with tiny wooden people with stings attached to pieces of wood. They were very life-like, and somewhat haunting. Someone else entered the store from a backroom, separated by beads hanging from the doorway.

"Welcome!" the store owner said. "Please close the door!"

"Oh." Marisa said, closing the door behind her. She was shocked to discover that the inside of the store was cool. "It's cool in here."

"It's designed that way. You're not from around here are you?" The store owner grabbed his chin and gazed up and down her. "Hm, you must be a crusader. I've heard about them, but there hasn't been any in my lifetime." He looked up to her face. "Yes...lovely..." Marisa felt a little creeped out under his black eyes.

"I was looking for the armor and weapon smith. The streets were empty so..."

"It's the peak of the day, no one is out during then."

"In the middle of the day?"

"It's hot here. People are active during the morning and evening. The armor and weapon smith is a few streets over, in that direction."

"Thanks." Marisa turned to leave, but something caught her eye. It was a wooden person, an unusual one. It looked like an angel. It had black hair, blue eyes, wings and a halo. There was even a pristine white dress on its body. Her curiosity peaked, Marisa walked over and leaned close.

"You like that one?" the shop-owner asked. Marisa turned to see he was much closer now, standing only a few paces away from her.

"What are these?" she finally asked.

"They're puppets."


"They don't have those in your country? Puppets are usually in the shape of people and can be manipulated with the strings."

"Why would people want that?"

"Some like them as toys. Some of them use them as actors in little plays. Others...perhaps...simply like the idea of people being on strings. Gives them a sense of power." Marisa became a little creeped out again. The shop owner had a wide smile that showed a lot of his teeth. Marisa had always been taught that people with wide smiles weren't trustworthy. "Where are my manners? My name is Hamid my fair lady. I'm sorry if I have disturbed you in some way. I have mannerisms even my mother found uncomfortable." Marisa realized that she must have given some signs that she was uncomfortable around him.

"It's alright, I am new to this country." she said. She turned back to the angel puppet. Apart from her longer nose, it looked a lot like her. If it was her, it showed a sensitive, gentle side, one she never showed anyone.

"Would you like that one?" Hamid asked.

"I...don't have money. At least none I can spend on myself. It's all for the campaign."

"Ah yes, crusading and whatnot. Since you are new to this country and you seem to be interested in puppets, I'll just give it to you."

"R...Really?" Marisa asked. She was surprised that he would be so generous. She had heard this was a harsh land with harsh people who would just as soon kill you then give you the time of day.

"Why not, I have a lot of them, and perhaps you could recommend me to the others." He briefly held up his finger. "Actually, wait a moment." He quickly walked over to the counter at the end of the store. He reached under it and removed tiny sets of clothes. He held up a set that looked like armor. "This look familiar?"

"What...how did you...?" The tiny suit of armor he was holding had a burning phoenix on it, just like their armor. It even had the same luster and chainmail underneath it.

"I have had this for a while. I modeled it after an old puppet I saw as a child. Apparently, your order has been here before."

"We have..." Marisa had heard that the order had come to crusade, along with many other groups, ages ago. What were the odds that he would have their specific order's armor?

"Bring the puppet over here. We'll try it on." Marisa obeyed, taking the puppet by the strings and carrying it over. Hamid took the pupped and undressed it. Marisa got a good look at the naked doll. It had a feminine figure, ball-joints and even what appeared to be genitals. It bothered Marisa a little, but she decided to let it go. He was giving her part of his livelihood for free. She was hardly in a position to complain. He put the pieces of armor onto it one by one. When the suit was finally complete he held the strings up by the controlling piece of wood. "There, it almost looks just like you. In fact, would you give me a string of your hair?" Marisa flinched a little and became incredibly uncomfortable.

"What? What for?" Hamid had that wide smile he had before. It made her even more uncomfortable.

"Just a little puppeteers trick. What harm could a single hair do?" Marisa stood very still for several moments. His wide smile still made her uncomfortable, but he did have a point. It was just a hair, was he going to do, strangle her with it? Marisa reached up and pulled a single strand of her black hair. She handed it over to him. He took the strand, put in into the doll's hair and whispered at it. There was a tiny flash of light and the doll changed. Marisa's eyes widened as the doll's nose and hair style changed to hers. It was now in her complete likeness.

"What was that?" Marisa asked.

"Just a little magic."

"Magic!? That's demon's work!"

"Relax, everyone in this land can do a little magic. Look! It's you!" Hamid held the puppet up. Indeed it was her in every way, from the armor, to the face, hair and even stoic expression.

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