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The Rise of Germania ~ Part II

5th Worlde Sagas

The Dark Books of the Forbidden Library

The Rise of Germania

Part II

By Kevin Donoghue

Contents

The Setting

[+A note from the author +]

The Measurement of Time

Title Page

Chapter 1[+ +] Yellow RiverThe Warlord

[+Chapter 2 +]And It Came To PassThe Warlord

Chapter 3Here Comes The ManMilo

[+Chapter 4 +] The Priory of Saint FlorianMilo

Chapter 5The Ancient and Holy City of Munich Milo

Chapter 6The Warlords MessageThe Warlord

Chapter 7The Secret Plan of the Head EunuchMatilda

Chapter 8Death of a KingMatilda

Chapter 9The High FuhrerMilo

Chapter 10The Great Hall of the Luminous PalaceMilo

[++]Disclaimer

[++]The Song Title Game

Author Biography

[++]More Books by the Author

[++]Publishing Credits

The Setting

The 5th Worlde stories are set in the medieval worlde of the Crusades and the Hundred Year War.

England, controls its great empire, which stretches across the worlde map, pink, like the blotches on a drunkards face.

The French are desperate to regain Old Gaul from the empire and concerned about the encrotments of España, Scandia and the unification of the Principalities and Burger cities of Germania.

The Oriental Empire has a constant trade war with the Empire and struggles to control the Opium Trade.

España is loyal to the Church and the Faith and has introduced the Inquisition. She suffers from the attack of english pirates but is spreading her influence across northern europe.

The English monarchy is the head of the greatest empire the worlde has ever seen, yet ‘uneasy lies the head’, for all is not well, especially in the region North of the Gap, where unrest simmers, it is led by the Freethinkers, women of knowledge, and a horde of subversive religious heretics, including the Old Druids.

The Inquisitors rigorously enforce the king’s laws with constant harrying and it seems that the king will subdue the malcontents, until he goes a step too far and introduces the Cultural Laws.

During this unrest, the Great Empire continues to expand, like a huge machine, devouring country after country, but it faces constant threats from the unification of the Holy Roman Empire, the rise of old Cathay, the rebellion in the American Colonies, and the old enemies of España and France.

Yet maybe the worst threat of them all is from the king’s own cousins and family, who are desperate to grasp the power.

A note from the author

The 5th Worlde Sagas are not a series of historical novels, and whilst many of the characters have indeed appeared in the history of your worlde, in the 5th Worlde, their histories are completely different, and a substantial amount of imagination has been used to ensure this fact.

The Measurement of Time

5th World Sagas

[]

The Rise of Germania

[++]

Part II

1

The Warlord and his companions, Rembald de Voczon, the brothers Polo, and the holy man, Prester John, and their party, are being pursued across the plains of Great Russia and are located near the eastern bank of the Volga.

[* Yellow River*]

It was one of those rare nights, when the forest was quiet and still, and only the sound of our horses disturbed the peace. We exited the darkness of the tree line and emerged into the small clearing.

The moon hung, just there in the sky, gigantic, red, and staggeringly low. Just there, on the edge of the night and it felt as if you could touch it by simply raising a finger. It filled the night, flooding the worlde with its presence and strange tint and I stared at it and watched as the other riders pass me.

Ackus, my faithful mount, breathed heavily as I pulled up and I heard his hooves squelch in the soft, rain drenched ground.

The men rode in pairs, each man pulling another two or more horses behind him. Most of the packhorses were heavily laden with large wooden boxes, which were fastened to either side to maintain a balance.

Prester John and the Templar reined in beside me, as I looked at the moon. The Prester was the first to speak, as the Templar quietly patted the neck of Hades, his pale mare, all the while whispering softly to her.

“The sun will turn to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Said Prester John.

“Indeed Holy Man?” But is this not also a sign that a great change is coming?’

The Prester smiled as he loosened and removed his helm and dragged a cloth square across his sweaty, balding head.

“Oh friend, the scriptures say that the bloode moon occurs as a sign that the end of days is upon us. There can be no bigger change than that.” He breathed heavily.

“It is an omen and known for the storms that often accompany it, like the one we encountered this afternoon.”

“But we both knew we were damned long ago. Did we not?” He smiled his crooked,

yellow-toothed smile at me.

He replaced his helm, kicked his horse on to a trot, and followed the men as they re-entered the forest at the far side of the clearing.

“In my country it would be considered a good omen. And the gods know how much we needed one,” said the Templar in his matter of fact way.

I continued to stare at that dark, red moon for a few more moments before I flicked my heels on to Ackus’s flanks and urged him onwards, patting his neck as I did so and then I followed the disappearing images of the men.

Somehow it seemed to take an eternity to cross that clearing under the shadow of the bloode moon. But in reality, after only a few moments, we again entered the dark forest, which stretched along the lowland plain, on the edge of the Yellow river country, and that hid our passage from those eyes that searched after us, the eyes that were hunting us ~ Wu’s eyes.

And soon, without any given command but by a common urgency, we all began to move a little more quickly, until after only a few heartbeats, we were racing along the dark road under the shade of the pine trees that grew in that forest, as if the devil himself where now chasing after us.

Ackus lay his ears up as the wolves howled for the first time that night.

The hunt was on again.

As I had counted, including myself, there were now only ten and eight of our company left, The Templar, Prester John and their knights, the Italian brothers and Lady Ju who carried the baby.

There were twenty and one horses extra and they carried the boxes. But each night we lost another horse and sometimes two, to the wolves or the roots of this eternal dark forest.

Initially there had been forty of us and a further twenty and eight horses, when we fled the Celestial Empire of Old Cathay, and in truth it had been a long hard journey and as we fled we had perished, and we had perished, and we had perished again, but then again I had expected that too.

The Empress Wu was not the kind of person who gave up easily, if at all. And whatever the outcome, she would never forgive us. She would never forgive me.

No, she was not the type of woman who ever forgave and I knew that her vengeance would be swift.

At first, filled with an awesome anger, then, cold and more calculated and deliberate, as she studied how to bring about her revenge, and finally, it would be abominable and terrible to behold.

And after all, we had stolen a huge treasure from her. A treasure that was more valuable to her, than all the gold in the worlde.

And in truth, I didn’t care anymore, for I was going home.

Once we had passed through the great wall, things had become easier and though I knew that Wu’s men would soon be pursuing us, now the main threat had become the patrols of the Mongol armies that roamed the plains, plundering and raiding the caravanessari.

Passing through the wall had been far easier than I anticipated. A guilty man may think that it was too easy. Of course, I had taken great care with the planning, and we had acted with such speed, that when we reached the gate, no one there was yet aware of our crime, or that a crime had even been committed.

And no one had thought to question the warlord’s warrant of office, and the news of our desertion should not reach the wall for many hours, maybe, if we were lucky, several days.

If the strategy had run to plan, our crime should not have been discovered for at least a day, maybe two or more.

It all depended upon how long the Empress dawdled at the Temple of Beauty, and I was counting on her renowned vanity, to be her downfall.

Yet Wu was ever present, not only in the back of my mind, but she also seemed to be hiding in the shadows, her spirit was haunting me in the dark of the night. Her face lived in the very shadows, cursing me as I rode passed, and she was forever dancing through my dreams.

I knew that her men were following us, as in time, so would she herself.

Yes, Wu would follow and her retribution would be something to behold. I shuddered as I thought about it, looking over my shoulder for a glimpse of her.

Yet, I had lived with retribution before. And fled from it previously. Last time, I had fled from the west to east but this time it was reversed.

Previously, I had sought only to escape with my own life and now… well now I had stolen the most precious treasure that Wu possessed.

Oh yes, she would follow.

Her predatory, human hands, cradled the east, manipulating the gods, the nobles, and the peasants of her empire, a like.

And her reach stretched further west than anyone here realised.

And Wu, oh, she hated the gweilo. The white devils she called them, the pale ghosts; and yet she loved me, and she loved to run her fingers over my body and stroke my gweilo skin.

But she despised those fools, those that sat upon their island and believed that they controlled the world. She laughed at them because they thought a woman was a weak thing, an empty vessel, a trifle to be bargained in politics… and a gift for a marriage bed. And they believed that they had an absolute, gods given right to rule the worlde.

And Wu, she had no reason to know of their gods, she had gods of her own. She had always told me,

“They really have no idea of how the east works at all, or what awesome power we can wield.”

And what she meant of course was; what awesome power, she could wield.

She believed that it was her destiny, to be the first female ruler of the Orient, the Empress of the whole of Old Cathay. The whole of the east and she maintained,

“That the sooner that the Normans, those gweilo, learned their lessons, the less harsh their disappointment will taste in their mouths.”

“They think that they can just take. Take without permission, and without consequence. They do not realise that they were putting their hand into the hornet’s nest.”

In the east it was said,

That even the sun, the moon, and the stars, would have been swallowed, long ago, had they ever been so foolish, to have fallen within the empress’s reach.’

And Wu was no ordinary woman, she was a goddess, and not only a goddess, but also a terrible dark sorceress, and I had been her lover, her warrior, her trusted assassin and now…

Now… she would deem me to be her mortal enemy and worse, a thief… a thief of the worst kind, and she would hate me, as only a woman can.

  • *

2

The Warlord and his companions, Rembald de Voczon, the Brothers Polo, and the holy man Prester John, and their party, are being pursued across the plains of Great Russia and are located near the eastern bank of the Volga.

And It Came To Pass

We had skirted the main centers of population as much as possible, and they are sparse enough on the Great Plains but in truth it was impossible to cross here, without the knowledge of the tribes.

And the Silk Road itself was a treacherous hotbed of rumour and gossip. At each bend, pass, river crossing, and caravanessari along the way, death lay in ambush.

I had learned of the Mighty Khan’s plans to lead his army north for the summer, with the intention to campaign along the boarders of the Great Russia’s, and this had hastened our own plans, my plans, as the opportunity to pass through the plains unmolested, was far too good to miss.

And may the gods be praised; we had managed to evade all but a few of his patrols. The one, that we did meet, in the high ridged pass, on the third day of the second week, was led by a grisly old bear of a Mongol.

We had come across each other as the sun rose high towards the noon and they, returning from their own campaigns, were weighed down with wounded men and as much plunder as we ourselves where, and probably they too, were fearful of raids and attacks from the tribes and road pirates.

Their leader looked annoyed and disturbed that he had encountered us without being warned by his scouts.

I grinned to myself as I saw that thought on his face, for we had left those scouts lying amongst the rocky outcrops, smiling a long red smile or clutching an arrow through their belly, having been dispatched by our own, more vigilant scouts.

The truth was, that my men were far more dangerous than his. Each of them knew that our theft would mean a huge rewards for them, if we escaped, and certain death, if we did not.

Their leader was travel stained, with the dust of the road lying upon his heavy furs and he wore only a plain leather helm, and carried a small round shield, a curved edged sword, and a re-curved bow that was slung over his shoulder.

He halted his horse at the top of the pass, as we, in turned halted at the bottom, and we studied each other for a few moments.

The sun passed behind a cloud and then reappeared again seemingly stronger than before, harsher, and with each heartbeat that passed, the sweat on my brow grew heavier.

I could see that he had mounted archers in his force. Archers who could draw and shoot three arrows as quickly as a horse could move a dozen lengths, and they were above us… but then again, we were all well armoured and had bigger, stronger, and faster horses.

The sun glanced off a puddle of water, high on the left of the trail and reflected back, looking for all the world, like a solid piece of gold half buried in the rocks.

“We could rush them.” I said to the Templar and Prester John, as they rode up on either side of me.

“There is no need,” Said Prester John,

“See with your eyes, hear with your ears, the gods have given you these gifts. His men are made up of the injured, and the young. The sun is in his eyes. He will want no conflict here.”

Rembald de Voczon said nothing. He stroked the neck of Hades gently and smiled his crooked smile. Then his fingers loosened his sword in its sheath, and he placed his conical helm over his coif and adjusted it, lowering the nasal stem.

The Prester caught his glance and announced,

“You know my order forbids me to spill blood in combat. I will ride with our lady and give her what protection I can.”

I gave the signal to proceed in single line, and taking the head of the column urged Ackus forward at a slow walk. The Templar followed immediately to my rear and moved easily to my left side.

The Mongol Captain watched us as me moved on, his keen eyes searching out our intent and knowing full well that, if we charged in a single file, his archers could only take one or two of us, before we were upon him.

He nodded his head and urged his horse forward to meet us. His warriors fell in to a single line behind him.

And so it was that we drew together in the pass. The Mongols were travelling downhill, and we moving upwards to meet them. Each step that our horses took was a move closer, towards life or death and the very air in the pass became stifled and strained.

I watched, peculiarly distracted, fascinated, as a bead of sweat dropped from my nose, on to the neck of Ackus, and I could smell the scent of wilde thyme in the air, and as I patted my horse on the neck, I could feel his warm horsehair, through the soft inner leather part of my mailed gauntlet.

I was strangely aware of my own solitude in that instant and the young life that I was sworn to protect. And it was only the piercing cry of a hawk, black against the sun, hovering high above the pass, that broke the moment, and as the moment shattered, like a wave upon the rock’s, the sound of the horses and their loads, as we creaked and clanked forward towards each other, flooded back into my senses.

Soon, so very soon, I could see the yellow specks in his dark, soulless eyes and I could smell the reek of wilde garlic on his breath, as we met halfway up the path.

He looked straight into my eyes, and I could tell he was studying my face and I saw his look. I could almost hear the cogs whirling, like those I had seen when I had visited Su Song, the Royal Astronomer, and he had shown me his amazing clock tower, which he called the cosmic engine.

Yes, he had seen. And he was registering my mixed heritage, my strange epicedian eyes of dazzling blue, the long sleek blonde hair, with the thin drooping moustache, and the fact that I wore no beard. And my pale European skin, white but which had turned a deep, tanned reddish brown, during its exposure to the wind and the sun of the plains. And I knew then that his report would dam us forever.

That, was the moment that I decided he must die.

I gave Ackus a swift flick of my heals and pulled the rains to the right and upwards.

Ackus knew what to do, he reared and let his hooves rake the breast of the Mongol’s horse, and he screamed loudly, as his yellow and white teeth snapped ferociously at the other horses face.

In comparison to our horses, the Mongol’s step bred horses were all far smaller and Ackus, in particular, was several hands bigger than them.

Yet still the captain rode a sturdy beast, it was well trained and it took all of Ackus’s inherent brutality to scare him. But Ackus did scare him, and eventually the Captain’s horse reared and pulled to its left in fright.

This of course left the Mongol leader with his right shoulder and neck exposed and his sword and shield on the wrong side of his body. Turning Ackus swiftly to the left again, I urged him forward, all the while drawing Empress’s Kiss from its sheath, in one swift, continual movement, like I had done a thousand times before, and continued that single sweep, and slashed right, across my body and at the gap between his head and his shoulder armour.

Empress’s Kiss flashed sharply, drinking deeply and sent a spray of blood upwards in an arc that pumped with every heartbeat from the severed arteries and the Captains head fell, spinning from his shoulders.

Plunging Ackus forward, I was on the second man, before the head of the Captain had hit the ground, and thrusting, this time straight, and using the point of my curved sabre.

Empress’s Kiss pierced him between the lower helmet guard and the medallion at the top of his chest. She slipped silently and smoothly straight through his neck, leaving a long thin oval cut, which welled, slowly red, as the man drowned in his own blood.

I watched more or less abstractedly, as I noticed the Templar, speed passed me on Hades, and saw the Captain’s head as it ricocheted off the wall of the pass, and danced between Hades’s forelocks.

Rembald took the third man, and the forth, and Ackus veered left and forward, as the arrow sailed passed, and I felt my blade strike the bone of the archer’s arm, just below the elbow, as he reached to draw his next arrow.

The middle of the Mongol column was now backing into its own rear guard, and we were on them, and finished them quickly, dropping the last few with arrows, as they abandoned their cargo and fled back up the pass.

The hawk circled my head three times and let out another piercing cry, which rang clean and clear, like a bell does, as it reverberated off the high walls of the pass, as if it were announcing the end of combat.

I dismounted at the top of the pass and looked at the carnage I had sown, and kneeling there in a small ledge-like clearing, said a silent prayer for the dead.

We carried the bodies to the top of the pass and cutting a shallow grave placed them their, together. We then started to build a cairn of small boulders and rocks, to cover them and protect them from the wild scavengers.

Prester John said the Christian words, and while we worked the Lady Ju held the baby tightly to her breast, as he guzzled greedily, blissfully unaware of the death I had wrought for his sake.

We had lost only two men, though in truth, I didn’t like the look of one of our injured, his wounds looked bad to me, and I silently counted him as the third.

We had captured eleven of their horses and the men were cheerful, as all soldiers are after an easy victory, as they check the booty that we had gained.

The view from the top of the pass was good, and we could see that our way lay clear in all directions, and that we were in no immediate danger, and so we took the time after the burials to take our ease and have a small lunch.

Whilst the others ate their lunch of hard cheese and stale bread, I cleaned my sword, with a soft oiled rag that I kept in my saddlebags, and thought of Wu again.

Empress’s Kiss was a Chinese blade made by her finest ‘smiths, she was essentially a Dao sword, given to me by the empress as a declaration of our love.

She had been specially forged and adapted to my style, a western style of fighting. She was longer than the celestial blades by a third again, and had a broad, sharp blade, with both a double edge and point. She flared in a curve, upwards towards the point, which gave her a vicious, hooked lip, and made the back swing, almost as deadly as the fore.

The length of the blade shimmered in the sun and the whole was imbued with magical properties, for she had been bathed in an enchanted acid bath and when withdrawn, had magically been covered with scrolls and symbols.

Sometimes, I could see the image of the same ‘Red Dragon’ that Wu’s wizard had tattooed upon my right fore arm, and that the men of the tongs, that were controlled by Wu, in the hell like city of Hong Kong, also wore. It was her mark, stamped into my skin, declaring me to be her belonging.

I eased the cloth down the length of the blade, caressing the folds, as I watched the Lady Ju with the babe, and I wondered about Wu.

Was it true? Does love eventually fade away and die?

3

Milo Bauermann is a man of the warlord and has been newly appointed to the Imperial Guard based at the castle of Hrad Devín, which stands on a rocky precipice, over looking the river Danube, high in the north-eastern Alps, in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Though young, he is detailed to protect the boy prince, Rudolf, with his life.

  • *

Here Comes The Man

The huge rider dismounted from his tall, black stallion and hot breath, like steam from a boiling kettle, oozed from the horse’s nostrils. The great beast’s heavy hooves stamped on the cobbles of the bastions’ courtyard as he released a furious stream of piss, that spurted, like a sluice and mixed with the mud, the muck, and the straw.

Hrad Devín sat solidly on a rocky precipice and over looked the river Danube, high in the northeastern Alps, the very heart of the Holy Roman Empire.

The castle was a wide, low building with high walls that surrounded the inner courtyard of the high bailey and the mighty keep.

The midnight dark had spread across the land and a fresh mist swirled in the gentle wind, as I waited for the warlord to dismount.

He re-adjusted his sword and stroked the neck of the horse, whispering something softly, as he handed the reins to the stable boy.

“Make sure he is fed well. We leave with the sun!” He said as the lad led Ackus to the stables.

“Bring me to the Prince. I have news.” He ordered, as Captain Johann and I waited silently for him. And we did.

We approached the door at the end of the long dark corridor and the torches flickered, as the wind blew fresh off the mountains and swept through the silks that acted as curtains.

Two Imperial Guards stood in front of the door. They were both huge blonde warriors, with bulging muscles. They wore only simple ring mail over there leathers and all was covered by their white tabard, upon which, place over the heart, there was a double headed black eagle on a field of Gules. Each had a wide, black leather belt wrapped around their waist, and here rested a long sword, and their ever sharp dagger.

As they recognised us approaching, the sentinels clasped their spears to their expansive chests and moved them to a vertical position. Then they stood aside to let us pass.

The Warlord banged twice upon the door, hardly gentle, then entered without waiting to be asked.

It was a large chamber, which contained many silk and woven fabrics and all the furnishings were of a solid, dark wood. There was a grand sleeping couch, covered with soft furs and all was well lit by candles and torches that were held in metal sconces, mounted high upon the walls. A bright fire roared in the stone chiseled fireplace, which was set in the end wall.

There was only one window, but it had a small balcony and looked out across the valley and down to the river Danube, that flowed at the bottom of the cliff, almost a league straight down.

“Highness, your brother has died.” The Warlord said simply.

The young man was all of seven years and he looked it. He was short for his age and his hair was as black as a ravens, and fell to his shoulders, straight and smooth, not a curl insight. His eyes were dark too, and wide set and there was a slight flatness to the bridge of the nose. And just for a moment, in the half-light of the candles, he looked a little more Russian than truly of High Österreich.

“Otto… How did he die?”

“It was a sudden illness, Highness. A flux of the bowel.”

“That is sad.”

“Yes, Highness but now we must prepare. All is ready.”

“Will all of Germania now be mine?” He enquired meekly.

The Warlord moved over to the map table, his finger moving quickly with purpose,

“First the west, then the north, after… these, the major principalities… the remaining small states will submit, and willingly too. We will bully some and bribe the others with land, marriages or money, here and here, they will resist us, at first… for a while… but in the end, victory, it will be inevitable… and finally…”

His finger then stabbed at a small group of islands in the wilde northern seas.

“That which may not wish to be ours, we will take,” The mighty warrior said without hesitation.

“Come, Highness. It is time to sleep,” He continued,

“The High Priest and his acolytes are waiting for us. We leave with the sun. I would have you ride with Milo here, and dress as a simple soldier, in mail and leather. This will provide a disguise for you and hide you from our enemies, and the eunuch spies. It’s a safer way to travel,”

“Tomorrow our venture begins.”

The young man took one last glance at the map. Nodded his head and together the Warlord, the Captain and I left the room.

4

Milo Bauermann is with the Warlord and his party, who are journeying west towards Bavaria, in the heart of Germania. Milo has been designated to protect the young prince Rudolf, who rides at his side and is dressed as a page.

  • *

The Priory of Saint Florian

It was mid-afternoon and the sun shone on the rain soaked road, its reflection glimmering brightly in the large puddles that had formed in the mire of the hard worn earth.

We were a band of twenty and one men, travelling purposefully along the country roads, the hooves of our mounts squelched in the mud, which in turn splashed up the fetlocks of our horses, and stained our heavy cloaks.

As we turned the bend, the low sun was dazzling in my eyes, as only an autumn sun can.

The forest on the valley floor was not as thick, and here and there, golden fields stretched down and out towards a river, which was just visible to our right, as it flowed quickly down from the mountains to join the growing Danube.

Our descent from the mountains had taken two days and was always hard on the men and their mounts, but now the going was easier and the countryside was more gentle and peaceful, there would be a good crop this year, if the rains let up and didn’t ruin the harvest.

We had been told that our journey was westward and would take about nine days, and we were travelling light and by means of the back roads, and the small towns and villages, avoiding the city of Salzburg entirely.

We spoke to no one and no one spoke to us, quite the contrary, whenever we came upon a wagon or cart, the merchants and the peasants alike, would scowl and hide their eyes from us. I smiled to myself knowingly, for I had seen scared people before.

Although I was only twenty and two, I was a man of experienced now and had been soldiering for the best part of five years. I had fought my way from Hesse across the Germanic Principalities. Oft times I was on the winning side, but it was true that I had been on the losing side a few times too.

However, fortune like the lady she is, had continued to smile on me and I had only collected a broken arm, a handful of scars and lost no more than half an eyebrow, and a few chunks of my dirty brown hair.

And now, I had been chosen by the warlord himself and had joined the Imperial Guard, and I was to ride in the escort of the young prince. Now I knew that my lot in life was improving.

This was a far better life than my brothers had, clearing the forest, ploughing the dark heavy soil, and sowing the sparse crops, that would fail in the heavy rains, and fail in the dry heat of the summer sun, and in the cold of the winter snows.

We had been forever chasing the milk cows, and the sheep out across the meadows, and digging the turnips, the parsnips, the swedes and endless bloody cabbages.

No, there was not enough land for us all and since mother had died, father had struggled with the homestead.

I had been glad when the recruiting sergeant had appeared with his piper, drummer, and standard-bearer, offering ready money, regular meals and adventure.

Both my brother Ditmar and I had enlisted and we marched out of the valley with pride, after fathers and Osanna, my little sister, had bid us a tearful farewell.

We had separated after the battle of Bronhöved, where we had won a famous victory but I had been injured, my arm broken by a horses hoof.

Ditmar, like an excited fool had volunteered, induced by the huge rewards and the promise of his own land. He had been shipped off to fight for the English in the colonies of the new worlde.

This was a different life, for truth. Harder perhaps, but better paid, and the girls. Well, all the girls like a scar, and they love a soldier. Especially Freya.

I closed my eyes, smiled for a second, and felt Drake’s rhythm jogging me gently, as I envisaged Freya climbing up on top of me again. Big, blonde, and buxom, Freya, she knew how to make a man happy.

And now, as the warlords’ man, an Imperial Guard, I was someone to be respected.

The brown gelding pulled his bridle and I watched as a flock of birds soared up out of the grove that we passed on the left. They flew low and swift across the field.

“Smelt a fox, eh boy. Or is it a boar?” I gently stroke Drake’s neck, as the horse neighed and shook his mane.

“Steady now,” I said and patted his neck some more with the soft leather of my inner glove.

Ahead I could see the warlord and the Outremer, and I wondered what adventures they were leading me towards.

The Outremer was new to the castle, and styled himself Sir Johann von Württemberg. He was a grey, grizzled man, aged somewhere between forty and fifty years, but still firm of body, well muscled and an experience man at arms.

His skin was that dark, mahogany brown colour, that is distinctive of all those who have recently returned from the crusades, were he had fought for the famous Grand Master, Sir Henry de Walpot, at Acre and also Sicily, where he had entered King Henry the Lions’ service.

We moved at a careful pace, faster for a while, then slow for a few leagues, resting the horses, as they needed it. No one had been told of our destination but we had enough provisions for nearly two weeks.

As a company, we carried many weapons, far more than we really needed, enough for fifty men or more, enough for a small war. There where swords, battle axes, morning stars and daggers and the pack horses carried spears, bec de corbin, halberds, crossbows and curved bows, with sheaths of arrows and bundles of bolts, but we all wore only light armour and ring mail and we had with us little or no personal baggage.

The Danube was on our right, and we were heading west.

I breathed deeply as we sat around the camp fire that evening and inhaling the smell of the rabbit, that was spitted and slowly roasting, rather to close to the flame’s, the conversation turned to speculation, as is usual with the common soldier.

“I’m no map reader,”

“That’s the truth.” Interjected Wilf.

“…But there is talk of war with the little Prince of Liechtenstein, and that has to be somewhere over this way.”

Wilf, the big shaggy Saxon laughingly replied, “Every where is somewhere, Ox Brain!”

He always called me that, and he knew that I resented it.

Dagmar chipped in from behind his shaggy beard,

“It’s those heathen Turks again… or maybe the Mongols.” He said as he slowly rubbed bacon grease into his long blonde hair, that he had spent the last hour carefully platting into two pigtails.

“Do all you Danes smell like breakfast, or is that how you get the boys to suck your cock?” Asked Wilf, and we all laughed.

Dagmar grinned slowly. His eyes sparkled for a moment and then the grin spread into a smile and he joined in and laughed too.

“The boys suck my cock, because it the biggest thing they have ever seen. Here, do you want to look?”

“It’s bigger than any of your damned sausages.”

He continued to laugh as he un-laced his breeches and took out his immense cock, then started to swing it around in a circle, widdershins.

Dagmar was easily the tallest of all the komrades and even by our standards; he was a massive man, in every sense.

He was from the kingdom of Danemark, some were in High Norway, or Scandia, the story changed with every telling, and he too had been at Bronhöved.

He loved to boast, about all the young men and boys he had captured in battle, and then sexually brutalised, before slitting their throats as he kissed them lovingly, and then he held them in a close embrace, and rocked them as they died. The kiss of death he called it.

“We are going west, not east,” I told him.

“Put that thing away, I haven’t eaten yet. And I don’t want to get it confused with my supper,” complained Sir Johann, as he walked up to the fire.

“Milo, you take the first watch. Wake Wilf at four bells and you…” He nodded at Dagmar, who was hurriedly re-lacing him self.

“…You… Vikingr, you can have the middle watch. We ride at dawn. Now turn in and get some sleep.”

“Yes Sire.” I said as I rose and went to piss on a tree.

“For tomorrow, there will be blood, and more blood.” Quoted Wilf,

“It always happens that way.”

As I stared in to the night, I thought of how my destiny was now tied to this warlord. And what a strange man, for truth he was, and I realized that none of us, really knew anything at all about him.

To some eyes the warlord was a peculiar man. Silent and brooding, with a temper as sharp as his swords edge, he had a penetrating eye and a lazy half smile, and yet, at times, he could be open, even friendly, and willing to listen to the suggestions of his men.

And still, some how, he didn’t seem to fit in to the world of High Österriech. He has a peculiar habit of shivering, whenever he looks up at the snow-topped mountains in the distant east.

He looked like a man who had seen the halls of hell, and maybe going back that way again soon.

He was a tall and muscular man, with shoulder length dirty blonde hair, which was fading to grey around the temples and he wore a heavy beard, but kept his neck clean shaved.

He stood about six and a half feet tall and moved as swiftly as a cat, but the one thing everyone notice was his deep blue eyes, with their strange, epicedian fold.

His double headed axe, which he called Swift, was never far from his reach, and he carried a curved sabre that was covered in runes of a strange type, which he called the Empress’s Kiss.

The blade had a cruel curve, near the centre of the percussion, but closer to the tip, and it was as deadly in the cut and slash of a cavalry charge, as it was in the thrust and stab of close combat.

I had been the warlord’s soldier now for five months and that was as long as anyone, even the Outremer, Sir Johann was new to the warlord’s service.

I had learned that no one at the castle had been with him for more than eight months. Not the kitchen girls, nor even the stable lads.

And the gossip in the castle said that the lord’s woman, and his child, Yuri, had both died of the same yellow fever that killed my brother Ziggy and which the gods had spread through the lands five or more years ago. Maybe that is what had made him such a solitary man.

But there is no doubt that he was determined, and had a purpose that the rest of us could only guess at.

And it was spoken quietly, that death kept company with him, as the moon and stars, accompany the night.

It made me wonder, why had the king chosen him to foster the prince. But after all, these were not my problems and I thought again of Freya, wet and squealing with pleasure, her juices seeping down my shaft, as she bounced up and down on my cock and I felt a half stiffy growing in my breeches.

It was turning cold now, as the dark came on and I could smell that the rain was about to start again. I listen to the night and rubbed my hands together, wishing, and waiting for my watch to end and longing for my bed.

On the next night, we stayed at the Priory of Saint Florian, which is on the outskirts of the city of Linz, and we ate the same sparse food as the monks.

I sat with little Prince Rudolf, and Sir Johann. Further down the same table sat Wilf and Dagmar. They were playing dice with Steinmann; he was a mean, ill-tempered lout from Bavaria, a natural born killer if ever there was one, who grumbled about everything, but seemed happy for once that we were heading towards his homelands.

We were taking bets on how long it would be before he deserted or was hanged.

The warlord sat at a low table, removed from the others. His only companion was a small, strange, and unidentified priest, who was also staying at the priory for the night, taking his rest from his own travels.

We all ate the simple mutton stew with large pieces of stone ground brown bread, followed by ripe pears and a soft cheese, and we drank the monks own brew, a light bier with a bitter sweet taste.

And I watched the warlord and the priest as they ate, their heads inclined together but their conversation was far too low for me to overhear, and as hard as we all tried, none of us soldiers, or even the monks, where able to discern what was being said.

They both talked for a long time after the meal was finished and when the conversation was concluded, they rose and walked the length of the hall. As they passed down the hall the priest was heard to say.

“…We will be ready to move when we hear from you. Your messenger should deliver this ring to me,” said the Priest, taking the ring from his finger and passing it over to the warlord.

“When he delivers this, I will understand from whom he has come. Do not use the couriers, nor an envoy. The networks are polluted and their spies will be monitoring them,”

The warlord reached out and took the ring, and placed it in a pocket, deep within his robes.

“You will need to be cautious. That eunuch has his spies everywhere, and the Inquisition is penetrating further across Germania than ever before.”

“Between them, they have infiltrated the whole palace, and I strongly believe that, the spineless Volker and that damned eunuch, who are the real power behind the throne, are plotting a move. This king is addled by his sixty and four years. And he is too slow to die. And the young prince Otto died quickly. Some think it was unnaturally quickly…”

The pair passed out of the refectory and on to the terrace. Outside the hall they continued, and walked slowly towards the wooden bridge that crossed the water garden.

Here they paused, looking down at the duckweed and sweet flag that grew and floated on the ponds surface, and their conversation was lower still, even though they could never be overheard there.

The night drew in around them, and the stars had started to appear in the evening sky, before they bowed their heads to each other and went their separate ways, back to the sleeping quarters.

5

Milo Bauermann is in the retinue of the warlord and has been designated to protect the young Prince Rudolf, who is dressed as a page. They are leaving the Priory of Saint Florian and heading west again.

The Ancient and Holy City of Munich

The next morning the Priory echoed with the sound of the stable boys rushing about their duties, as the horses snorted and stamped, eager to be off. The men were quickly swallowing the last of their morning beer and complaining, like all soldiers do, swearing as usual, about rising with the dawn, as we readied for the journey and mounted the horses in the courtyard.

The early morning sunlight was streaming slowly over the outer buildings and you could smell the promise of more rain to come in the air.

The warlord was seated on his huge black stallion. Ackus was a reckless, ill-tempered beast, which would bite you more willingly, than it would bite an apple. The warlord shaded his eyes and nodded at old Sir Johann, who bowed his head slightly in return and shouted,

“Come on you lazy shits, let’s be having you ready, mount up… we are leaving. Anyone who is late will be fined half a day’s pay.”

Sir Johann snorted roughly and then spat out a mouth full of snot as he barked the orders to mount and make ready to move out.

The warlord spurred his great black stallion in to a leap and rode out through the open gate. We followed, riding in pairs, like a small child’s wooden wagon train, pulled by a string. I rode with the prince who looked tired and drawn, as if a cold was beginning to set in.

On the early afternoon of the fifth day, after we had left Linz, we eased our pace, as we approached the crest of a hill.

Then we reined in and stopped in a place where the road twisted around a cluster of wind swept, bent back trees and soon we had started the long, slow, winding descent towards the city that sprawled below across the valley floor.

The Ancient and Holy City of Munich was built to be exactly ten square leagues across and took a grid formation, to reflect the rectangular shape of the universe.

As we surveyed the sight, the afternoon sun glistened on the towers of the Luminous Palace and the golden roof of the Holy Temple of Virtue shone brightly. They say that it is made of solid gold. The river Isar cut the city at an angle and meanders, in a lazy fashion, out towards the eastern gate.

As I rode forward with the prince, I heard the comment,

“…This is where we will enter,” The Warlord was speaking, recognising the weak point in the cities defenses and indicating with his finger to Sir Johann.

“So few Lord… My Lord, as we are, cannot expect to take the Ancient and Holy City of Munich,” Said Old Johann in a nervous voice.

“There are more ways of taking a city than to storm its walls,” Retorted the Warlord.

“Being so few, I hope we have not been recognised as a threat by the emperors spies, or those of his eunuch.”

“We will keep formation, and simply ride in through the gate. Pass the word to the men, they should keep silent and their weapons must be concealed… but ready.”

Our column approached the eastern gate, keeping at a steady pace, not fast enough to be threatening to the guards but not indicating that we were preparing to slow down.

The city guards ran out in front of the gate, to the area between the city wall and the bridge that crossed over the river. They formed into two ranks and presented their spears, grounding the bases against a charge.

The Sentinel, in his tower, sent a flare high into the sky. It spluttered and shot out bright red sparks in a large ark across the city.

The gates behind the guards swung and closed with a heavy resounding bang, which was followed closely by a dull thud, as the bar was dropped and we heard the noise of men struggling with heavy weights, as the wooded braces were put in place across the back of those solid gates.

After we had crossed the bridge, Sir Johann raised his hand and we eased to a gentle halt, forming a line of mounted death, just a few paces in front of the guards, maybe twenty feet distance, no more and our horses snorted and stamped, ready to leap in to a charge.

The warlord guided his mount forward until he was only a stride away from the guards.

The captain of the guard advanced and with a firm manor demanded,

“Declare yourself!”

“You know who I am,” Snarled the Warlord.

“Why do you enter the Ancient and Holy City of Munich without being announced and so, escorted by an armed force?” demanded the Captain of the Guard.

“I come to pay my respects to the King,” Replied the Warlord,

“Would you have me travel unprotected in such an unsettled time?”

The captain looked about and said, “You will wait here until the Watch Commander comes.”

“You would dare to keep one of the king’s councillors waiting?” Screamed the Warlord.

The captain shrank visibly under the onslaught and many of the guard were seen to take a backward step.

“These are my orders, My Lord,” Said the Captain, swallowing hard and hoping he would still be a captain when the sun went down.

Fortunately for him, before any further escalation could take place, the watch commander arrived and shouted from the wall above the gate.

The guard snapped to attention and the captain rushed to the walls to speak with him. After the briefest of conversations and a short pause, the gates were again opened and the commander appeared before them, mounted on a brown mare.

He advanced to the warlord and bowing his head very deeply, he removed his gauntlet and holding it in his left hand, lazily tugged at his left ear with his right hand. Then scratched his nose before tugging on the left ear, whilst all the time watching the warlord and then he said,

“Please excuse our Captain. He is only following his orders. We are at a high security level and everyone, with out exception, is being held at the gates.”

He paused and edged his horse forward a few steps. And lowering his voice, spoke softly so only those close by could hear.

“I am Sir Lother, My Lord. Please forgive my tardiness, and this reception. Please be assured that no disrespect is meant, for I too search for the lost symbol. Please let me escort you. Do you desire to see the chamber of reflection?”

“Why is the security so high?” The Warlord lazily scratched his nose with his left hand and then patted his chest before checking his sword was loosed.

“Because the king has insisted,” Sir Lother replied simply.

“However, we will be please to allow you to pass.”

“Unfortunately, you will only be able to bring a small bodyguard of two men with you. The rest of your men can stay at the barracks or find rooms in the outer city, back across the river.”

“No bodyguard will be necessary.”

The warlord turned on his horse and shouted his orders to Sir Johann.

We wheeled our horses and rode proudly back over the bridge and towards the outer city to find some lodgings, and I watched as the warlord spurred his horse and headed through the now open gates.

The watch commander rode swiftly after him.

6

The Warlord is in the Great and Holy City of Munich, awaiting his meetings with King Henry, the Lion of Bavaria, and with the High Priest.

The Warlords Message

I could still smell the fear, a heavy deep sweat that clung to the commander even though Sir Lother had declared himself to me.

I gentled Ackus, as he led us through the streets, deep into the city and eventually to the inner courtyard of the lower bailey, where several eunuchs waited to show me to an apartment kept in readiness for guests and where I was to await for the call from the king.

This Sir Lother was a slight man, with too many teeth for his small, thin-lipped mouth and he chatted inanely, as we rode through the city, answering his own questions, like some men who think of themselves as important often do.

“…How where the roads? Muddy eh… Always are, this time of year…”

“Still, I hear there has been a good crop and the harvests will begin in a week or so… The rain should hold off, don’t you think? Yes I’m sure it will…”

“Did you encounter any trouble journeying? No, not with your excellent troops… I can tell a good squad of men when I see them…”

“The priest told me to watch out for you… good man that priest. Have you know him long? No I suppose not, he is a secretive man and new in the kings service…”

“And you have been… travelling. No… Yes, I know of your travels…”

“And so I made sure I had the watch command. Of course, it’s not my usual duty… No indeed, for I am high in the kings favour… And the bishops too…”

Once inside the apartments, I removed my armour and washed my hands and face, before changing my chemise. And then sitting at the scribing desk, I took a quill and stroked the feather down my cheek as I thought.

Slowly I dipped it in the dark black ink and then quickly scratched it across the parchment, as I wrote a note in my best hand.

The note read simply,

‘Your Holiness, I am here in the city

I pay homage to the King.

I must leave as soon as my audience is over.

And continue my king’s work.

But would crave an interview with you.

~ȽɃ~

I carefully scraped my signature across the bottom of the parchment and warmed the small wax stick over the flame of the candle, then watched as it dripped, forming into a dark, midnight black pool on the fold.

And placing the ring that the priest had given me into the wax, I pressed down hard with a satisfying smile. It made a clean impression and so the note was sealed with the priest symbol of a snake coiled around a skull.

Some times the old ways serve us better.’

I said to myself, as I placed the note on a tray and rang a small silver bell that was sitting silently on the scribing desk.

The servant left the apartment to deliver the note, and I knew he would take the note directly to the Head Eunuchs office.

7

Matilda of England, the Anointed Holy Roman Empress, the Queen of the Romans, Queen of Bavaria, Duchess of Saxony and the Daughter of a King, the Sister of Kings, and of Dukes, from across the worlde and the true Queen of England, and all its empire, and the fairest in the land; is closeted in her solar with the Head Eunuch and Volker, the Chancellor.

[]

The Secret Plan of the Head Eunuch

The Head Eunuch eased an extremely sharp, thin bladed dagger between the wax seal and the parchment and using all his skills separated the seal from the note.

He read it carefully, twice and handed it to, Volker, the king’s chancellor, and advisor. I tapped my foot on the floor and scowled as I waited for the note to be passed to me.

Between us, we now ruled the Ten Kingdoms and held the fifty and eight little Principalities in the palm of our collective hand.

It had taken me some years to gain this control and I intended to keep it for as long as I could manipulate every aspect of the life of the puppet, mine old and now infirm husband, King Henry, the Lion of Bavaria.

And the more power I had, the more power I realised that I could take, for these men were such fools, weak, self-serving fools. Oh, why was I born a woman in a man’s worlde?

“Do we search for something that is not there? Has he brought the prince, my son, with him? What king’s work? What lost symbol?” I asked my fellow conspirators.

“It maybe a secret communication. A code.” Replied the Chancellor.

“The warlord and that damned priest are up to something!” I said to the Head Eunuch.

“Yes, but what can one man do.” The Chancellor questioned the air.

“I would like to kill them both!” I said and crunched up the parchment between my delicate fingers.

“That would be a dangerous thing to do, Your Grace. And without the prince in our possession, within our power.”

“Dare we. It would not be easy to achieve such a thing?” Replied the Chancellor.

“Yes. But if it could be achieved,” I paused.

Come on boys, take the bait,’ I thought to myself.

My poor mothers heart was pounding at the thought of seeing my son again. It had been five years since the king had decided to foster him, a child barely old enough to walk and against all my wishes and all my pleas.

He had arranged for him to be with his cousin Frederick, the Duke of Swabia but then they had a falling out and instead, the high priest had recommended this warlord, who had found such favour, so recently, by his might and fiercely won battles in the kings name.

Most of the court had known very little of this warlord but he stood high in the kings favour, and so when the yellow fever spread across the kingdom, killing hundreds every day, it was swiftly decided that Rudolf would be far safer away from the disease, their in the warlord’s castle amongst the mountains of High Österriech.

He was not yet two years of age when they prised him from my bosom. He had been a small, weak boy, with soft, dark hair that curled around his ears.

I had seen him only twice since then, and in fairness, he had grown well and his hair had grown in darker, almost to a black but he had lost those lovely curls of his.

“Surely, if we hold the warlord, then I’m confident you could manipulate a position, where by the prince would be delivered safely to the king, and so to us,” I told them.

“If we let them meet… even encouraged them to meet. A secret meeting, one upon which we can spy and then…”

I let the sentence hang.

It is time for you two clowns to perform your own parts in this little play.’

“We can have the palace guards arrest them,” Finished the Head Eunuch.

“We would then have our proof and can accuse them of treason. Of planning an uprising against the king.” Replied the Chancellor.

“It is a daring plan. I’m not sure we should…” I said, letting the tension hang in the air, palpable and teasing.

“But would we be believed? The high priest is a powerful man?” I asked, nudging the plan along, slowly, like icing sugar, spelling out the name on a cake.

Jesu! You stupid weak men, must I lead you by the hand?

“And the warlord is a dangerous and a deadly one.” I concluded.

“Yes, I agree. But, we can plant the evidence in the Warlords apartments, after he leaves for the meeting. We would have unassailable proof that they are both traitors, this would use the same arrow to kill two birds.” The Head Eunuch said.

“Daring… brilliantly so, Your Grace.” Said the Chancellor, wringing his hands, like some demon in a street theatre production.

Sometimes I was bewildered by these two. How on earth had they ever managed to get themselves into a position where they could control the king? I mean to say. They were stupid men, weak idiots.

Well not stupid, no, they were clever, in that mean, common, street life sort of way… but I realised they where not the brilliant minds that I would need once I had the power.

“What can we loose if they confront us? After all, we have the best interests of our king at heart. We carry out only his wishes.”

They both smiled and took some wine, that a slave offered from the tray he held above is head, as he knelt before us.

I nodded,

And I was never here,’ I thought.

“So be it. Here’s to their meeting.” I said.

The Eunuch gently raised his glass and touched it to that of the Chancellors and mine.

8

_Matilda of England, the Anointed Holy Roman Empress, the Queen of the Romans, Queen of Bavaria, Duchess of Saxon, and the Daughter of a King, the Sister of Kings, and of Dukes, from across the worlde, and the true Queen of England, and all its empire, and the fairest in the land, is close with her husband, Henry, the Lion of Bavaria, in his bed chamber. _

Also present, as custom demands, are Henrys advisors, the High Eunuch, his Chancellor Volker, his medic Docktor Schabel Von Rom, and a Priest.

  • *

Death of a King

The king sat, sinking in his bed, with the pillows piled high and his head laid back against them. The pillows in turn rested on the elaborate headrest of carved and painted oak, upon which was adorned the crest of the family of Welf, Dukes of Saxony.

It was deeply carved and brilliantly painted and covered in gold leaf; Mantled, Azure and Gules, doubled Or, with supporters on either side, a Unicorn, Sable, armed unguled, crined & tufted, Or, wreathed about the neck, with a torse, Argent and Gules, and the badge, a field of Gules, a lion, crowned with an ancient crown, Or, rampant, dexter.

He looked all of his sixty and four years, his baldhead was covered with dark liver spots and his pale face was framed by long, grey, side-whiskers, but these were now matted, with the weight of grease and sweat that poured from his brow.

His hands shook with a slight tremor and his horrid little tongue, slithered over his dry, pink lips, just like a lizards.

I felt my loathing for him oozing up from my very bones.

Here lay the awful man that I had been betrothed to at the age of eight, and married to by twelve. When still only a girl, for Jesu’ sake, and me a royal child too.

I was the grand daughter of the Conqueror!

And he had robbed me of my best years… sucked on them like a piglet sucking on a sow.

And he had failed me, as a man, as a father, as a lover, and in his duties as a husband, being already old, past middle aged and ailing, when we had married.

Oh, that was no wedding night. He had struggled to rise to the occasion, then and every occasion since.

Rudolph had been an accident, an indiscretion… after all I am a young woman still, and my husband was far too stupid to suspect that he was not his own. But I dare not repeat the process. That would be a step too far. Yes, he was stupid and he did not suspect but worse in my mind, he didn’t even care.

He did not care that I had no other children, and I was not even in my prime years yet. He had a brood already from his first wife, Clementia. But they were mainly frail girls and his heir Otto of Bavaria, had died of a sudden illness six moons ago.

I had replaced my husband’s medics annually, for five years now but he had steadfastly refused to die.

I bowed low before him, I closed my eyes, and kissed him lightly on his forehead, and then, I looked deep into his still blue eyes, in which remained the last sparkle of energy. The remnants of his spirit, that flickered and shone, as once, long ago, he had.

“I will wish you a pleasant nights sleep, Your Grace.” I said and as I bowed again, I left the room, as was the custom.

“Yes, Yes, damn you woman, Jesu, stop your fussin’ and leave me be, will you?” The king wave a liver spotted hand.

Volker and the high eunuch remained with his medic, Schnabel von Rom, and the funny little priest, and they all bowed their heads to me, in turn, as I departed.

My eyes caught Volker’s and flashed at him, like a woman’s eyes do, when they play with the soul of a man.

The high eunuch cleared his throat and addressing the king, he began the nightly ritual, were he and Volker would deliver their tedious reports, and the medic would fuss, and tut, and pamper, as he wiped the drool from the side of the king’s mouth, and all the while, the priest would be delivering Vespers in a whisper to no one in particular.

As the chamber door closed behind me, I could hear Volker droning on about taxes, and crop yields, and the complaints of one of the smaller principalities,

“… Your Grace… and the Prince of Grafschaft Bentheim, has raised a complaint about infringements, within his borders… against the Bishopric of Munster.”

“Jesu, the gods damn all bishops.” Said Henry, as he lay back on his pillows,

“Tell the Prince, what ever his name is…”

“Prince Ludwig, Highness” Replied Volker.

“Another one? Jesu… Tell this Ludwig, that we shall send a stern message to the Bishop of Muster, ordering him to desist these… infringements… immediately and we will award the usual compensation… upon your report Volker.”

“Yes Highness… And the Bishop?”

“We will make him pay. Fine him… Jesu damn all bishops…. five thousands silver shillings… they hate it when you attack their purse… better allow payment in goods, if he so desires, and he will, the sniveling little shit… and send a letter to the Pope, saying;

‘If he can not control his Bishops, then I will.”

“Is that wise Your Grace? We have only just repaired relations with the Pope’s church. And they will claim that the bishop is not subject to our Salic laws, but to their own Canon laws.”

“Damn the Pope, he is just a French puppet. Damn him and the bishops too. You’re a Bishop are you not?” He asked the Priest.

“No, Your Grace, just a lowly Priest. How may I be of service?” Asked the priest from the back of the room.

Henry paused to get his breath, looking at him, as if the priest was permeating a stench that was nauseating, then after a moment he continued,

“… Tell that Pope of yours…” He breathed deeply for a moment,

“… Tell him that if he ever dare come north, he will get a warm welcome…. like the fires of hell, Jesu…” He coughed violently,

“Damn all priests… Von Rom where is my draft…”

The medic had prepared the kings night potion, as he did every night and approached the bed.

And Volker indicated to Schnabel to pass it over to him as he stepped up, performing an obsequious bow with an exaggerated flourish of his hand and he held the small glass forward for the king.

“Allow me, Your Grace.”

The king took his drink in his shaking hand and tossed it down in one quick deliberate action, as was his way.

Volker withdrew, taking the empty glass and holding it behind his back. Within a brief moment, another terrible, violent spasm shook Henry’s body. He cried out, but no sound came, only blood.

A deep, thick, dark red blood slowly oozed from between his lips and he began to choke and gasp for air, as he struggled to breathe.

And then he croaked pitifully…

“You… sly… little man!” He whispered, pointing his shaking finger at Volker.

Volker stared about wide-eyed. The high eunuch gasped.

The king’s death cry was not loud, but it seemed to echo through the palace, as it would later echo through all Germania.

And as he died, his eyes lost that little sparkle, and his blackened tongue twisted manically to the side of his mouth.

The Warlord with the King’s Guards, led by Sir Lother, rushed into the room, surrounding the High Eunuch, Volker and Doctor Schnabel von Rom.

As the priest moved to meet them, he suddenly seemed to grow in stature. His back straightened and his old man gait became more spritely, as if he had suddenly become ten years younger, and I realised that I had never really paid him any attention at all.

A trio ordré. How splendid.’

I had to remember not to laugh out loud.

Interesting. Someone else is in this game, and they have made the first move. But who in the name of the gods is this priest who seems to have taken control of the situation?

I winked a bit of dust from my eyelash, as I quietly replaced the notch in the hollowed out curve of the wall, in to which my face fit so well, almost as if it had been made for me.

The well-greased notch, slid back across the bolt head of the candle stanchion without a sound. I shook myself free of dust, as I smoothed down and straightened my dress, and then I made my way through the darkness, keeping my hand on the roughly chiselled stone work, and I counted the notches that were raised there, at every other stride.

Eins, zwei, drei…’ And then I was at the corner of the panelling.

Here was a small candle, in a hollowed out niche and there, just a few paces to the left, I found the stone steps, that led downwards and twisted through the tunnel-like spaces that led back to my rooms.

Once there I disrobed and lay quietly on the bed, waiting for the guards to bring me the sad news of the murder of my poor husband, Henry the Lion, King of Bavaria, Duke of Saxony et alia.

And as I did, I sucked softly on a fresh grape and smiled, as I thought about the plans I would instigate, now that I was the Queen, and Regent, in my son Rudolf’s name.

“First, I will arrange for Rudolf to be brought to the palace. Immediately. And ensure that he was kept safe. Then…”

“Then, there would be the warlord and this priest to deal with.”

“… Rewards, and then an accident or two, I think.” I said to Dark Prussia, as she lay, snuggling with pleasure, on my bed, and I fed her a grape too.

“Although the Warlord… He may make me a good husband, a battle hardened warrior, and a killer, if ever there was one… Maybe it was he…”

“He is a man to know… We will need a new High Priest too, and there is plenty of time for Rudolf to develop…” I smiled.

Dark Prussia said nothing but she smiled also, with those deep green eyes of hers.

She turned her nose up at the grape, and instead, stretched out her long legs, entwining them with mine, and placed her head on my breast, and I felt her as she slipped inside my robe… and she scratched playfully at the low hairs, that spread upwards on to my soft, smooth stomach.

9

Milo and his Komrades have been included in the ‘Honour’, the advance column of the Imperial Guard, for the coronation of the Prince. All the nobles of the land are assembled for the ceremony.

The High Fuhrer

“Honour Guard, Mount.” Came Sir Lother’s command.

The day before yesterday the warlord had gathered us in the small courtyard of the eastern tower and had Sir Johann drill us for two hours.

It had been hot thirsty work and Dagmar and Steinmann, who the men called Stig, had done nothing but complain, but not too loudly.

Then old Johann had us line up in parade and the warlord walked up and down the ranks, stopping to adjust a fastening here, and check a blade for rust, mine own as it happens, and then he stood in front of us and spoke softly.

“Men… There are some momentous times a head of us. Dangerous times and some of us will die.”

We looked at each other through the corner of our eyes as he continued,

“It’s time for you to choose? You can fight for me or you can fight against me.”

“Choose now and none will be disgraced, thought less of, or harmed in any fashion. If you wish to leave, Sir Johann will have your monies drawn and ready for you at noon.”

He continued after a short pause,

“Some of us will die soon and some will have great rewards. I want you all, if you have the lettering, to make a declaration. Name who you would like monies and wages to be paid to if you do not survive. If you don’t have the lettering, Prester John, the priest has offered to write for you.”

“So those that would depart. Now is the hour.”

We all looked around and slowly all our eyes descended on Stig. He had made no secret of his wish to go home and now we were in Munich, he was less than a few days ride away.

Stig put his head down and shuffled his feet, avoiding all eye contact.

“Good… Sir Johann has judged you well. In that case, you will find a case of wine for you back at the lodgings. Drink deep, but be prepared, for tomorrow you shall all become Kingsmen.”

“You will all be enrolled as the Honour Guard, sworn to protect the King with your life. You will continue under my personal leadership and you will be happy to know that we shall soon be seeing action.”

“Battle, Blood, and Booty,” He declared.

“Battle, Blood, and Booty!” We shouted in reply and raised our sword high, shouting it again and again.

The ‘Honour’ of the Imperial Guard rode at the head of the column escorting the procession, led jointly by Sir Lother and Sir Johann.

Immediately to our rear, a young man was seated on a pure white Arabian stallion, which moved with steady, confident strides and riding easily behind him was the warlord on Ackus.

His appearance had caused some comments as none of us had ever seen him clean-shaven before.

It was a definite improvement, and for the first time he looked content with his lot in life. He also looked ten or more years younger than I had first thought. And as we passed by, a buzz grew in the crowd and one or two people in the crowd whispered to their neighbour a name from the past.

And soon it spread through out the onlookers, softly spoken and with a hint of fear.

“Louis…”

A huge gong shimmered and the sound sailed through out the room, as the mutes opened the large, ornate wooden doors. They turned and bowed before the procession and the many acolytes now began chanting, their heads were bald, apart from the slim strip of short-cropped hair, that ran in a thin band, from the forehead back towards the crown of their heads,

“That’s a good place for flies to land.”

I had joked in a whispered aside to Wilf. His eyes smiled but Sir Johann looked daggers at me, and harrumphed an expletive that meant ‘Be quite, idiot.’

A strong smell of incense filled the air and the long argent flags, trimmed in Sable, stirred in the breeze as they hung from the ceiling. They were emblazoned with a double-headed eagle, Sable on a field of Gules.

The columns of priests moved slowly through the city. They came through the inner south gate and with a purpose, they moved toward the Holy Temple of Virtue and once inside, up to the High Alter.

As the procession entered the Temple, the priests filtered away from us and the ‘Honour’ formed into single, long lines and moved down each side of the inner chamber.

All the nobles of the country surged towards the tables, pushing and shoving each other, determined to be closest to the action, but we held firm and every one was seated to the plan that had been displayed, and carefully worked out by the High Priest, and implemented by his acolytes. And soon order was installed and the ceremony continued.

Dismounting the young man moved easily to the centre of the Alter. The Warlord was close behind, over his right shoulder.

The chanting stopped, as the gong clashed again, and the new High Priest, the priest we had seen at the Priory of Saint Florian, entered from the side chamber. Prester John bowed to the young man and turned to address the crowd.

“Noble Lords. Grand Council of Germania.” His voice was crisp and clear.

“We are gathered here, after the sad death of Henry the Lion, King of Bavaria, Duke of Saxony.”

He paused and took his time to glance around the room.

“It is my duty as your new high priest to anoint a new king to reign over the Ten Kingdoms of High Österriech. To protect the Kingdom’s, the Principalities states, and all the realms people there in… A new realm, for a new king.”

“Germania.” He emphasised loudly.

“We must defeat our enemies.”

“We must defeat our enemies.” We chanted in unison, stamping our right foot loudly, just as we had been practicing all week.

“I have prayed to the gods and to the spirits of the four winds.” Prester John continued, in his slight foreign brogue.

“To the sun and the moon.”

“I have consulted all the wise men of the kingdom and the Holy Monks in their mountain retreat.” He paused again for effect.

“I have read the will of the High One and I have consulted with the Royal Astrologist.”

“The omnipotent signs are clearly identifiable.” He shouted and looked around the great room.

“The gods have spoken to me and I deliver their commands.”

“The Prince, Otto, heir of the late king is dead… these six moons now.”

Another pause.

Then in a quieter, gentler tone, the former priest continued,

“The chosen one is not the eldest surviving male of the old kings children, whom alas the gods declare to be weak and deemed unfit for the office. But… He is the eldest son of the late King by the mighty Queen, Queen Matilda of England, the Anointed Holy Roman Empress, the Queen of the Romans, the Queen of Bavaria, the Duchess of Saxony and the Daughter of a King, the Sister of Kings, and of Dukes across the worlde, and the true Queen of England and all its empire.”

“He is now come to full manhood… And he is strong. He is healthy… And he is young… And he is of Munich!”

He waited for the cheering to die down again.

“And with the guidance of the grand council, he will be the wisest of his dynasty.”

“The greatest king yet.”

“An Emperor of Germania.”

A huge roar erupted from the crowd.

The High Priest continued, as he took the crown from the cushion upon which it rested. He held it high and then moved it ritually, through the four Stations of the Cross, and turning towards the boy who knelt in front of him. He paused and looked about the room.

Slowly, he placed the crown on the young boys head.

Then with the same ritual, he took the Sword of the Nation, and placed this in the young man’s hands.

Trumpets blared and the assemble crowd cheered.

The eldest councillor approach and bowed, as he offer to the Emperor the ‘Book of Wisdom,’ and a small, leather pouch full of golden coins.

The High Priest declared,

“The book is to help the king rule wisely and the gold; so that he will not be corrupt.”

“I give you the new King and your Emperor!” Announced the High Priest.

There was an almighty cheer from everyone and the trumpets rang around the hall again.

“The Holy Emperor, Rudolf the first.” We stamped down again repeating the chant.

“King of Bavaria, King of the Romans, Duke of Saxony, ruler of all Germania, from the jewel of our Ancient and Holy City of Munich, to the lofty mountains of High Österreich, from the great rivers, Rhine and Danube, to the vast Northern seas. And through his mother, the rightful King of England and all her Empire… “

“The High Fuhrer!” We all shouted.

All the assembly bowed down to their new ruler and they rose cheering ecstatically, as again the huge gong shimmered.

As the noise died down, the High Priest spoke out again but this time his voice held a menace.

“Let those who are not obedient… leave our city now!”

10

Milo has been appointed to the ‘Honour,” the elite of the Imperial Guard who protect the emperor with their very lives. All the nobles of the land are assembled in Munich, as they progress from the Holy Temple of Virtue, to the Great Hall of the Luminous Palace, for the celebration feast.

* The Great Hall of the Luminous Palace.*

The new emperor led the procession back through the Holy Temple of Virtue and across the city park, with its worlde renown and magnificent dancing water fountains, into the Great Hall of the Luminous Palace.

The banquet was laid out in front of him and the Great Hall was lit by hundreds of torches and candles, and festooned with decorations and blooming with flowers.

The long Argent flags draped like banners, from the high ceiling to the brilliantly patterned marble floor, each with a huge double headed, Sable eagle in its middle, upon a field of Gules, the new symbol of the Holy Empire of Germania.

It seemed, as if the noble people of the whole country were assembled in the banqueting hall, and the tables were stretched out in long rows, which led off from the high table, that was slightly raised by a small dais, and ran across the top of the room, underneath a carved and gilded display of the worlde with the newly formed Germania in its centre.

Spirited, rhythmic, music came floating down from the gallery high above, and I recognised it as Wagner’s Valkyrie.

The city of Vienna was famous for its dancers. They came from as far as India and the Great Russia’s, to be trained in the famous dance schools.

A troop of them had been sent especially for the ceremony and the beautiful, half naked dancers performed in the area in front of the dais and more wove in and out, between the rows of tables.

The food was more than plentiful. A continuous procession of dishes, spicy soup, pheasant and grouse, rabbit, oysters, salmon and sea trout, roasted cranes, and suckling pigs, wilde boar, and venison, and two whole roast oxen, that turned on the massive spits, operated by a chained system of cogs, in front of the fireplaces and were basted continuously by the ladle boys, with spiced red wine from the Mediterranean sea states.

But the highlight of the feast arrived to a blaze of trumpets, and an almighty cheer, which rolled down the hall, as the procession of serving girls held their trays high.

Two dozen, black, double necked swans, presented so that they resembled the new Germanic symbol, and sitting on a lake of gold and red.

And all through out the day the drink flowed freely, and everyone helped themselves generously, and indulged liberally in the feast.

As I stood with my back to the wall, I could hear my stomach rumbling; it must have thought my throat had been cut, as the smell of the roast oxen permutated the air.

The emperor sat in the centre of the high table, with the warlord at his right hand and the queen regent at his left.

Next to his mother sat the high priest. Their entrance together caused a massive buzz of excitement, with a slightly subdued edge of apprehension.

The queen regent was chatting happily, telling the new high priest, Prester John, a small stocky man with a balding head, a chiselled face with a savage hooked nose and big sad, pale blue eyes, who spoke with a Scottish lilt to his voice, that she was…

“… Simply ecstatic to have my son restored to me after the long, lonely years. You know he was not more than eighteen moons when his father had insisted, against all my pleads, to have him fostered.”

“I know it was to spare him from the yellow fever but a mother…. Well she misses her son. It is only natural…”

“…I must say that I’m simply amazed by how much he has grown. He has become such a strong, fine boy. It’s simply miraculous, and he has grown into a young warrior… And to think he was such a sickly looking child, weren’t you Rudolf?”

“It must be all that fresh mountain air. You always seemed to have a cold in the head and a sore, red nose from the sniffles.”

She held the new king close, pushing him deep into her ample breasts, like a mother does. The young king reddened slightly and said,

“Mother… Please.”

Queen Matilda was happy, and she laughed as she released him.

“Boys, eh?”

“I really don’t know what you have been feeding him, My Lord Louis.” She said turning to the warlord, who smiled at her and looked embarrassed.

“Just the normal stuff, Your Grace. He has a fine appetite.”

The Emperor’s half brother and half sisters, cousins, and cousins once, and twice removed, indeed all the family relations, were spread among the other important guests, at the central outer tables, that had been raise above the inner tables and stretched, on either side, down the length of the hall.

However, it was not customary nor seen fit for the older women, those past child bearing age, of the royal family to be permitted to attend the feast, because of the bawdy nature of such occasions. They had their own separate feast in the smaller, ‘Ehefrau Halle’ of the palace.

I watched Rudolf, the new emperor as he sat at the high table, eating sparsely, indeed, it was rumoured that he would eat privately, before the feast.

He sat there, almost dazed, and snatched glances of Duke Louis, the warlord, as if seeing him for the first time, without a beard was just too unbelievable.

He looked distracted, somewhat dazed or overwhelmed by the occasion, and who could really blame him.

It had been quite a day for the young man. He stared blankly around the room, picking occasionally at his plate and sometimes taking a small sip from his glass.

The noise in the hall was terrific. It sounded as if everyone was talking at the same time, but as if no one was actually saying anything. And the Emperor looked, for all the world, as if he were a player, sat upon the stage, in some strange play, a play that was being performed all around him. And indeed he may have been.

As the feast progressed, many of the nobles, seeking to ingratiate themselves with the new emperor, had made very flattering, flowery, and interminable speeches.

The warlord would be the last speaker. And eventually, the time came. He rose and waited silently, as the room fell quiet, and here and there the word Louis, was whispered again in disbelief.

He looked to the new emperor and then to the queen regent and smiled. The emperor acknowledged the smile, with his eyes as he took another small drink.

The queen looked impassive and beautiful as sat smiling to herself, proud, for all the world to see.

The warlords eyes darted to the high priest and an unspoken knowledge passed between them.

The warlord stood respectfully, and spoke slowly but with meaning and purpose. He praised the dead king, and spoke of the new emperor’s strengths.

“I have watched His Grace, grow from a small child, to a boy, and watch that boy become a young man. And, I believe that with the Queen Regents help, the new emperor will be the strongest, the wisest, and the bravest of all…”

“The High Fuhrer.”

The crowds knew a cue when they heard one and stood to a man, cheering and shouting,

“The High Fuhrer!” The toast echoed off the roof.

The Warlord looked around the hall and said,

“I will live, and die for my Emperor. And I will destroy all my Emperors enemies.”

And at this moment, he raised a glass of wine and said.

“Your Grace, My Lords, and noble folk of Germania. I give you a toast. Long live the Emperor, long may he reign, in health and in peace.”

“The Emperor.”

The assemble guests rose again and drank with him.

“The Emperor!”

As one, we of the Imperial Guards moved silently from our designated locations, along the wall and stood close behind the guests.

I placed my un-gloved hand over the girls mouth, and twisting her head towards me, looked into those startled dark eyes of hers, as my knife slid across her throat, flashing brightly in the candle light.

I heard the muffled scream, as it squeezed through my fingers. And I felt her body thrash against mine, and I noticed her small firm breasts, white and fresh, as the warm rush of fluid, spilled upon them, and the artery was sliced, and blood, wine red and vivid, pumped in vibrant arcs across the table, like the traces of the worlde renown fountains, outside in the gardens of the Luminous Palace.

The seventeen knifes of my Kameraden had done there duty also.

The beautiful dancers of Vienna screamed loudly, and the crowd surged in panic, as the eighteen bodies fell across the tables with a dull thud, slumped and bloody, the tablecloths thirstily soaking up the wine red blood, just like the very drunkards in the hall, who too had also greedily supped.

“And so will I treat the enemies of my Fuhrer… And thus I will maintain the stability of his rule.”

He turned to the High Fuhrer, and bowed his head and he clicked both the heels of his thigh length leather boots together.

The High Fuhrer rose, nodded to the warlord and left the room, escorted by the queen regent, and the high priest followed.

The blood of the High Fuhrer’s half brother and half sisters, cousins, and cousins once, and twice removed, indeed all the families relations, spread across the tables, leaving huge red stains that leaked a dark sea on to the brilliantly patterned marble floor.

The Warlord stood at the high table, reconnoitering the scene, lazily smiling his gentle, half smile, as he watched the room swiftly empty.

It had been a memorable return to Munich for its notorious, exiled lord.

Named Louis, but called Ludwig by his countrymen, the Duke of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was a trueborn nephew of Henry the Lion, and a direct lineal descendant of the old kings of High Österriech.

He was a warrior, a warlord, a husband, a father, a murderer, and to some… a thief.

But to most, he would always be simply… Lud the Black.

Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction, which takes place in a fantasy worlde. Many of the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or historical but they are used in a truly fictitious manner. Any resemblance to other names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents or actual persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.

The Song Title Game

So I named a chapter, and then I realised that the chapter title I had chosen was in fact the name of a very famous song, and I would have to change it. But it made me smile when I realised it.

Then I started to add some more song names, and band names, as chapter titles, and into the story in general. I just couldn’t help it. It became a game, to see if I could add more song titles or artist names to the books, without changing the story or anybody noticing.

And finally, I though I would let you in on the idea.

So, on the website is a list of the song titles and the artists that are mentioned in the book so far.

Did you manage to find them all?

If you do find one that I didn’t add to the list, then please drop me a line at the website:

http://www.5thworlde.com

I do know there are lots of ‘One Word’ Artist and Son names but I have tended not included them in the game, as then it would be simply impossible to write absolutely anything at all.

Kevin Donoghue

Kevin is known as a music industry personality, having worked since his school days as a musician. He moved on to become a studio engineer, record producer; records label owner, radio plugger, distribution manager and artist manager.

He has also been a senior lecturer, course leader, visiting lecturer, keynote speaker, and an adviser to Edexel, the International renowned British Education and Examination Board, in Music Technology and Music Business.

He has also been an invigilator for the Royal Schools of Music.

He became a storyteller by accident.

More books can be found at:

www.5thworlde.com

A full biography can be found at;

www.kevindonoghue.com

More by the Author

The following books by the author are also available.

From The Devil We Came

Part 1 of the 5Th Worlde series

The Adventures of Robyn Nudd

Part 1 ~ The Dark Book series

A companion to the 5th Worlde

Svengali

Part 1 ~ Junior

Svengali series

The Rise of Germania

Part 2 ~ The Dark Book series

A companion to the 5th Worlde

Coming Spring / Summer 2016

The Lost Templar

Part 2 ~ The Dark Book series

A companion to the 5th Worlde

Coming Autumn 2016

All The Devil’s Children

Part 2 of the 5Th Worlde series

Please check the websites for further details.

http://www.Kevindonoghue.com

http://www.5thworlde.com

Published by The Native Publishing Company Ltd

www.go2native.com

First published 2015

_2nd Edition _

Published 2016

_ _

© The Native Publishing Company Ltd 2011-16


The Rise of Germania ~ Part II

The Rise of Germania ~ The Warlord has stolen the greatest treasure that the 5th Worlde has ever known, and he flees the Oriental Empire, heading homeward. Empress Wu is perusing her former lover, who is accompanied by a ragged Holy Man, a Templar Knight, and the Brothers Polo. In Germania, Old King Henry, the Lion of Bavaria is murdered. His wife, Matilda, The Holy Roman Empress plots to cease the throne and use the might of Bavaria to reclaim her title as the true Queen of England, and of its empire. However, she has not allowed for the ambition of the Head Eunuch and Volker, the chancellor, who intend to usurp the power and rule through the puppet prince. Yet the Warlord and his hedge priest have plans of their own. Milo and his brother Ziggy, are poor Bavarian country boys, fresh from the battle of Bronhöved, they are now caught up in the High Fuhrer's war, as the Unification of Germania begins.

  • Author: Kevin Donoghue
  • Published: 2016-05-30 14:20:16
  • Words: 16027
The Rise of Germania ~ Part II The Rise of Germania ~ Part II