Fic: Excerpts from the Chronicle of William, Canon of Newmarsh

In the year of Our Lord 1193 there did return from the holy Crusade Sir Karl d’Urban and the knights of his household.

Item but Sir Karl and his retinue did not disembark at Dover on St Bridget’s Day with that portion of the flower of English knighthood as then did disembark there, and who were there welcomed, despite the absence of the king and the erstwhile disarray of the English armies, in great splendour with many garlands and pennants, and rode there beneath a triumphal arch of roses of red which is blood and courage, and white which is purity, which as is well-known is the greatest of the virtues of knighthood. But Sir Karl had not taken ship at Acre with the king’s party, nor embarked again with them in Sicily, nor again at Marseilles nor Lisbon, but had followed always a week behind, so that when the retinue and household of Urban disembarked at Dover and rode through the streets at nightfall, as was their wont, there were none who came out to festoon them with garlands, and though the triumphal arch still stood, it was directly thereafter cast down and carried away.

Item for it was said that though Sir Karl had advanced the cause of the English knighthood against the Infidel with great chivalry and prowess, there were those honoured among the king’s retinue who would not ride with him, nor break bread with him, nor give him the kiss of peace, nor show him those courtesies with which it is customary that members of the order of chivalry should honour each other. For many tales were told of this Sir Karl, whose veracity is beyond the apprehension of this chronicle.

Item namely that he was a mooncalf — which is, those creatures deformed of body whose birth portends some doom; or that he was a monster as those monsters out of Ethiopia or the Orient as may be seen in diverse foreign books, but his deformity was not so clear as that of the monster that has many heads or that is enormous in its limb, but was that he could not abide the sunlight and was scarce to be seen abroad by day, instead conducting his affairs by night. Namely that for the same cause, he was a wight or sprite that drank the blood of men for sustenance, and not to be admitted into the affairs of men lest misfortune follow. Namely that he was a wicked sorcerer out of the Orient, that he raised the dead and they did his bidding, and that he drained away the blood of his enemies to make vile sorcery upon it, so that the souls of the enemies could not rest and were thereafter enslaved to him.

Item namely that he was a devil.

Item it was also said that this Sir Karl kept many captive youths in his castle at Urban, and that he had waylaid them and now kept them enslaved, and some said that he had won their hearts to impurity and they were kept in idleness and effeminacy like an Infidel’s harem, but some said that they were the minions of his devilry, and that they rode forth by night on errands of brigandry.

Item it was said that there was a vile spell like a great and treacherous net that lay across the gate of the keep of Urban, and that any who sought to enter there after nightfall would be caught in it, and the Lost Youths would ride out and carry them away.

Item but it is beyond the wisdom and scope of this humble chronicle to discern the truth of such claims.

Item it is known that there is recorded no name on the patents of the barony of Urban but that of Sir Karl d’Urban, and that these patents were issued by our first King William who was once Duke of Normandy. It is also said that the house of Urban keeps no roll of the names of its fathers.

Item the return of Sir Karl was marked, at the moment his boot fell upon English soil, by the appearance of a comet, blood-red, in the first vigil of the night, and its tail was prodigious in length, and clearly visible in the sky above the lands of Urban, where all God-fearing persons quailed to see it.

Item a week following Whitsuntide in the same year, a certain Mark of Innis, squire to a knight of Sir Karl’s house, was knighted upon entreaty by the said lord of the house in haste and without the usual honours of bathing and dressing. And forthwith Mark of Innis defeated by force of arms one Sir Henry of Newmarsh, who had declared before reputable witnesses in Newmarsh that this squire was the beholden catamite of Sir Karl. And it was so proved on the body of this Henry that the declaration must be withdrawn, and thereafter Henry was held in dishonour, and the courtesy and largesse of the house of Urban were withheld from him.

Item and the troubles of the lord of Urban with one squire were soon replaced by troubles with another. For Sir Karl had him a squire, one Harry Sinclair, and though he had ridden hard with Karl towards death at Acre and Jaffa and Cyprus before, he was now in great discord with him. Though they trained together daily at arms with energy and diligence, they were often to be heard at bitter contest of words as well.

Item it was said that though this upright squire had travelled the best part of the earth with Karl and slept there upon the ground, he had never slept a night in the castle of his lord, taking instead to the stables in the outer keep for his rest every evening. And while he lay like Christ in the manger, the business of his lord proceeded apace through the night, and the torches of the castle flamed, and his lord was displeased. As the spring of that year ripened, and word spread of the squire’s nightly vigil in the straw, the women of the village below the castle brought to him such vittles as could be spared for his nourishment, and while he held court there in the straw, they had no fear of spells upon the gate of the keep. For they held him to be the sun, and his lord to be the moon, and they feared the moon.

Item there came at last such time as there rang out the terrible cry of a duel between these two. And what cause Harry Sinclair had of complaint against his lord had honourably remained without voice, but it was rumoured that is was his lord, in truth, who was the challenger. And there was great lamentation that two vowed to the order of knighthood, and one to the other in bonds of service, should strive one against the other in combat. But even those who were filled with trepidation then did not yet apprehend what was to come. To the great scandal of the onlookers, Sir Karl expressed his intention to omit explanation of the cause of the duel, and then declared that he would perform his part blindfolded. And the wonder and folly of this was much discussed.

Item at sunset the duel began, as was meet between a creature of the night and one of the day. And they who had ridden against the Saracens in glory and bonds of brotherhood, now turned upon each other. Mightily they hewed each other. Fierce and strong was the squire, and exacting his strokes, and at one time, to the terror on onlookers, he thrust the tip of his blade into the flesh above his lord’s very heart. But the blade fell away too soon, leaving but a shallow cut, though whether the stroke were delivered too limply, or some lingering loyalty had stayed his hand, no witness could say. The squire’s weakness was fatal. His lord was inhuman in his prowess while blinded, returning stroke for stroke with confidence. Even as the squire reeled back from his near-killing blow, the lord struck again, fiercely, and with his opponent stumbling, struck again, and again, until he drove the squire to his knees and demanded of him that capitulation that honour compels from the chivalrous defeated. And that night there was no light that shone in the stable, for Harry Sinclair had gone within, and what price the dark knight, his lord, would exact from him, none knew.

Item it is said by reliable men that the patch of earth upon which this duel was played out was henceforth barren, and no warm-blooded animal could approach it without shying.

Item in the lands of Newmarsh there are many who pray for the soul of this benighted Harry Sinclair, and in piety light many candles, in hope of Christ’s mercy.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. msilverstar November 23rd, 2008 10:11 pm

    (please use this one, stupid typo in the first)

    Oh gosh I love this, the wording and presentation and all the lovely historical bits.

    The contrast with the original is striking and very beautifully done.

  2. Eyebrow of Doom November 24th, 2008 1:00 am

    Yay! Thank you. I was honestly never sure if anyone actually enjoyed this or if it was a bit weird, but worthily arcane.

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