This is a short, but interesting and dramatic story about the crusades.
When one of Pope Urban’s obnoxious messengers came to our small town, I knew I was going to be one of the 50 some “volunteers” to get “selected” to go on the third crusade. I had mixed feelings about this. For one, I did want to escape the colorless manorial life I’ve lived to see interesting foreign lands. And I did want all my sins forgiven with an easy passage to heaven. But ever since the death of my parents, it was harder and harder to support my family of four siblings. The taxes on the mill increased, as did our rent. To make matters worse, the village steward took our biggest possession purchased by my mother shortly before her death, an ox.
This corruption started when Lord Cartwright died. Manors around his estate collapsed. It wasn’t until his cantankerous brother “Lord” Oliver Cromwell came to the throne, that the economic and hierarchical status returned to normal. Unfortunately, since he was and still is not very compassionate, we have faced many hardships. Even though life is hard and boring here, it is still better than going to war. And that’s my opinion on these crusades.
I figured the best way to avoid this pushy messenger was to go into hiding, so I started looking for places that I thought nobody would find. At night, shortly before curfew, I looked several times around our small village. I found a couple nice hiding spots, but none of them were really great. But when I thought of the work I would have to do, it seemed my plan would fail. How could I hide from the Pope’s messenger and also do my work as a serf? I was discouraged as I tiptoed across the small town, back to my mud hut as the bells signaling Curfew were ringing.
I awoke to the sound of Sir Clifton Writingham, one of the Pope’s messengers, pulling out his dirty silver machete. Helena, my sister, was quite scared to see the dried blood on his enormous knife. She screamed loudly.
“Oh, shut up.” he commanded her with a smirk on his face, as he inched closer to me.
“I have been looking for you,” he yelled, his sword pointing in my direction. “You are coming with me—right now!”
I hurried to get my few belongings before he could grab me out of my dwelling, shouting, “come here you dog!”
I called back to my parent-less family, “I’ll be back… I promise!”
Of what I could see, Helena was crying. This made me struggle against his hold even harder. In between gaps of my breath, I tried to shout, “don’t worry, it’s okay.”
When this selfish messenger punched me between my eyes, I fell down and knew that the fight was over.
When we got to the only road that went to our town, I saw a large group of people, supposedly soldiers. However, since I could only open my eyes a little bit, I did not see very clearly. I tried to ask in my voice of no confidence,
“Where are we going now? What will happen?”
“Calm down,” a young, cheerful crusader explained. “We’re going to Great Canterbury to get organized into a large army before we go travel to Jerusalem, where we’ll attack the Muslims.”
“Aren’t you scared?” I asked as the commander yelled instructions to the group.
“No,” he replied, “because I know that if I die, I will go to heaven. The Pope said so himself in his speech. That’s a pretty good offer. Plus, we can see interesting new places.”
“But,” I said shyly, “won’t you miss your family at home?”
“No,” answered the tall, broad-shouldered boy. “I think I’ll be just fine. Anyway, we didn’t have a choice.”
We continued to talk to each other along the way while the commander marched proudly in front of the group.
It took us eight long days to reach the enormous town of Great Canterbury. The journey was hard and unending, as we had to scavenge our food. I was not used to this.
We reached the enormous stone wall. I had not seen anything as tall as this in my life. I was speechless. But it only begun.
With our group, we entered though the main gate and saw a tall man dancing while a serf played something that made music. From what I saw on their faces, the guards were happy and in high-spirits. Once we passed them, I saw a town so colossal I almost fainted.
“This is Great Canterbury?” I asked vigorously, rubbing my eyes to see if I was dreaming.
“This is Great Canterbury!” my friend exclaimed, as he saw the excitement on my face.
“Wow,” I exclaimed dumbly to my crusader friend.
I was in awe of all the different, complex buildings. At the same time, they confused me, made me dizzy. I was not used to all these small details.
Up ahead, I saw a gigantic army of soldiers, almost bigger than the town itself. I was an ant compared to this enormous infantry. Most of them looked like they were trained to fight. But unfortunately, I was not. I had no experience whatsoever. At this point, I knew that this was the army I would join to attack the Muslims.
It had been three years since we started our attack. We had little food and water, and even worse, it was the beginning of the dry season. We had all massacred many people, which I in particular, felt bad about. But if this was the only way to win Jerusalem, I had to do it. I was thinking this as I barged into a small wooden-framed house.
The walls were covered in brown and yellow ancient-looking tapestries.
“Yalla bugahndi!” a terrified voice screamed, as I heard the cry of a baby.
I pulled out my sword and began looking for the people who were in the hut.
“Yalla bugahndi!” the voice screamed again.
I walked up to where I heard the voices and raised my sword, ready for attack. I pulled a curtain back and saw a young girl holding her baby brother in a dark blue blanket. It was hard to observe her figure in the dim sunlight while she screamed repeatedly. When I was about to stab my sword at the young girl, I thought for a moment. Something in my gut suddenly didn’t seem right.
Why should a young girl taking care of her baby brother be subjected to this corruption?
They did nothing to hurt me. Why should I hurt them?
I could not find a place in my heart to kill these innocent people.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of breaking glass and a sword being pulled, and looked behind me. Standing there was an angry-looking crusader with his sword out.
“What are you standing there for?” He yelled madly. “Go kill them. Or if you’re a coward, I’ll do it myself.”
I waited there for no less than a second when he walked slowly towards the orphans, getting prepared to kill. I could not think. My brain was frozen.
What should I do? I asked myself.
I had a few moments before the crusader would kill the small Muslim family. I knew what I would do in these next few moments would bring a disgrace to G-d, but I had to do it.
He raised his sword, gathered his power, and was about to murder the helpless young children when I lunged forward, stopping time, and slashed my sword though him. He screamed.
“Tell my wife and children that I love them.” He said weakly.
He dropped to the floor, giving me his last look he would ever see again. Blood was oozing down his chest.
“What have I done?” I cried as the child looked at me curiously.
I had a moment to consider my actions.
Why did I do that? I asked myself.
We, the Christian army, invaded these helpless people’s homes and killed them. That’s not fair. How would I feel in that situation?
Scared, terrified, like the devil was coming in to bring me to the gates of Hell.
I regretted killing the crusader after thinking about it more and more. But I had to do it, or else he would have killed the children. I kept going back and forth in my head while trying to help the Muslim family escape.
It was a nice sunny morning. The birds were singing in the trees. But unfortunately, it wasn’t nice for me. I was getting executed at the public court in Great Canterbury.
“The Inquisition finds this man guilty of murder.” the ugly short Inquisitioner bellowed. “He shall be burned to death with no exception.”
Now I had time to say the last words of my life.
“I die,” I yelled confindently to the people awaiting my death, “because I killed a fellow Christian. But what was that crusader doing? Killing a helpless Muslim family. I think I did what was right, what was just. This government is corrupt, and so is everything about it.”
At this point, people began yelling curse words at me.
“QUIET!” commanded a guard. “You will say no more.”
This strong guard dragged me to the pit where I would meet my fiery death.
Oh no! I thought. I have committed a sin that will take me to Hell! At this point, I began getting nervous. But I did what was right, didn’t I? I continued, my knees shaking.
“Set light to the fire!” the Inquisitioner yelled.
I saw the spark of fire being lit through my eyes of hopelessness.
These would be the last moments of my life. I prayed to G-d.
“Please G-d, please, take me to Heaven. I did what I thought was right.”
Moments later, the devilish fire consumed me.
I didn’t know if I was dead or not. I just knew that I heard my mother’s voice calling out to me, “It will be okay.”
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