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The Cross, the Crescent, and the Dragon

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The gathering of lords and generals sat silently atop a nearby hill, watching the battle finish below.  It was a relatively quick affair, much more time being spent on mustering the men and readying them for battle then the actual combat.  As the enemy fled into the city, the crusaders followed them, and soon flames and smoke could be seen rising above the settlement. Flavio called over an aide after a realization.  It was September- there would definitely be late-season crops in the fields, if not harvested already.

 

“Yes, m’lord?”

 

“I want you to ensure that the fire does not spread to the field or the storehouses.  Sir Fernando from the Iverican company would most likely be your best bet for aid.” The aide saluted, mounted a nearby horse, and rode off.

 

Lord Otto stated out loud to no one in particular, “They’ll almost certainly be able to muster up a force again.”

 

Flavio shrugged.  “It won’t matter. We’ll fight them again.”  The flames and smoke grew more intense as the din of battle shifted to a din of murderous screams.  He continued to face the village, “We’ll need to find a better way to face those horse archers. They’ll prove much more deadly in future conflicts.”  Turning to the group, he finished, “We’ll discuss that once dusk settles. You all are dismissed- see to it that your men set up camp.”

 

The assembly of lords and generals walked off while Flavio remained.  

 

*              *               *

 

The rhythmic din of feet marching along a dirt road mingled with the sounds of chatter and metal clanging.  Lord Theobald, atop his horse, trotted alongside his men. The crusader army had been traveling southwest along the main highway, with several detachments splitting up and sweeping the coast while the larger army continued its slow march southwest. The forces had now joined up for the crossing of the Tes River.

 

The chatter picked up as the army rounded a bend in the road and summited a large hill.  Straight ahead of them, to the southwest, stood a large and fortified settlement, resting elegantly on the Tes River.  Theobald halted his horse as sat upright, observing the city and surrounding countryside. This would be his army’s first challenge.  And hopefully not its last, he thought.  

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Jianmen, Southeast Yellow Empire

March 13th, Year of Our Lord 1555

 

The spring sun shone brightly as Theobald heard the large explosions of the bombards to his right as he surveyed the troops forming into battle positions on top of a hill.  They had besieged the city of Jianmen several months before. A city and port on the Tes River in the southwest of the Yellow Empire, it was critical for the crusaders to take- not only to defeat the heretics and claim victory for God, but in order to continue the Southern Campaign across the south of the Yellow Empire.  Jianmen, the “Steadfast Gate” as it was translated, held a fitting name.

 

Another volley fired off.  The last month had seen Theobald fully encircle the city and the crusader navy flush out the Tes River and reach the city’s port, fully blockading the city.  Although the crusaders had superior ships compared to the heretics, the river proved to be tight and limited the fighting capacity of the gunpowder ships. Nevertheless, the crusaders would prevail and take the river.  The lords and generals of the Southern Campaign, however, knew that they could not starve out the defenders. The city had food storages that would last for months, the generals had surmised, plenty of time to amass an army to break the siege.  Theobald had then instructed Marcus, Godwin, and Wade to take command of a section of the army and to fully surround the city. Marcus would take his force to the hilly north and serve largely as a diversion, the main attack coming from the flat south led by Theobald himself and the river fleet, where Godwin had snuck his army under cover of darkness.  

 

A third volley from his own bombards fired off shortly before the first volley from the hilly north fired off.  Shortly after that, the artillery pieces from the ships in the river fired off, and the east followed that. The bombardment, another one of many that had occurred in the last few months, strategically targeted sections of the outdated walls, gates, and cannon armaments and towers that dotted the walls.  Several months of cannon fire directed at these targets would finally come to fruition this day as the targets were destroyed. After the artillery had fulfilled that task to the satisfaction of the generals, the gunners turned their fire into the city itself, hoping to cause chaos, destruction, and casualties.  Once the artillery ran out of ammunition, the army finalized preparations before waiting for the final blessing.  

 

The Bishop of Trinity, his cathedral being the site of the calling of the crusade, rode out on a horse in armor.  His left hand held a red square banner with the Virgin Mary and Joseph holding baby Jesus, who held his right hand out, index and middle finger pointed up and thumb going out to the right, ring and pinkie finger tucked into the palm of his hand.  A cross went behind the Holy Family, with the letters “JMJ” above the cross in gold thread. In his right, he carried a crosier made from gold, a symbol of the bishop being a shepherd of his own flock. In a booming voice heard by the entire southern force, he blessed the crusaders, “Men of God, you come to the heretic’s gates to deliver a most worthy victory to the Savior.  Therefore, go forward, and grant God this most holy victory! Deus Vult!” After this, he made a sweeping Sign of the Cross towards the army, the thousands of men cheering and shouting. The formalities over, the men began to march towards the city gates. Theobald, still on top of the hill, already saw in the distance the eastern force engage and messengers begin to hurry towards him with reports.  The battle had begun.

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