Snow fell about the ramparts of castle Lanshire as monks began writing entries dated 1000. The New Year came and went unnoted by the elder son of the castle; he had other things on his mind than the change of years. He spoke to his father, the lord of Lanshire in cold yet respectful tones,
"My lord, I beg you reconsider. Did not the Holy Pope himself bless the order of the Knights Templer in their effort ageist the infidels?"
"Yes, Gavin, but I hear that many of the so called Knights are nothing but cut-throats who live to fill their own pockets!"
Sir Gavin permitted himself a small smile, he was winning this one, "Father, do all those that call themselves knights here in Gods England, live by The Code of honor? No, but we dont let that stop us from living as knights."
His fathers old face seemed to age before his eyes. "Gavin, I had always hoped to see your children, before I went to my rest in the next life. The Templers vow to give up women, marriage, and all worldly things, to fight for Gods victory. I would lose you forever."
"Sir," replied Gavin, "Did not Saint Paul say it was better for a man to remain unmarried? However, you are my father and I will obey your command, whatever it my be." The young knight bowed.
"Gavin, you know I will never stop you from doing what your heart tells you. Here is my command, take whatever money you need and travel to the Holy Land. Investigate everything about the knighthood and the people of that land. If you still feel God is calling you to join so be it. If not, return and tell me what you have found."
"Yes, father I will do as you say. By your leave, I will depart with in a week." Gavin bowed once more and walked out the hall.
Gavin walked to the door of his younger brothers room and knocked loudly. The door opened slowly and a head poked out "Gavin?" James said in a tired voice "Is something wrong?"
"No," said Gavin, "may I come in? There is something I must talk to you about." The two brothers entered and sat at a table inside. "James, I am leaving for the Holy land, and will no doubt never return"
"I know!" Interrupted James, "You want me to go with you. Sure, lets see we will need money, weapons, lots of weapons, and"
"James" Gavins voice cut like a knife, "you will stay here and some day become lord of Lanshire, you can not go. I came here to tell you," Gavins voice became softer "that Im very proud of you, and I will miss you. Youve been a better brother than I could have wished for; I hope you have the joyful life you deserve!"
James open his mouth to try and talk him out of going, but the protest died on his lips, his brother would never move once he decided something was the right thing to do. "Ill do my best Gavin, I wont let you down." Said James in a small voice.
"You never will." Said Gavin with a rare smile. The smile vanished and Gavins cold expression returned, "I leave with in a week." He said and walked out of the room.
Gavin leaving was a manly affair. Gavin clasped hands with his father and brother, than bowed his head as a priest prayed over him, asking for a safe trip, and Gods blessing. No tears where shed, for the only one who might have cried was Gavins mother, but she had died giving birth to James. Gavin simply mounted his horse and rode through the gates.
It was a long journey from England to the Holy Lands, and bad weather slowed him farther. So, it was early June when Gavin reached the port of Tyre. The citys size confused him as he tried to reach the lord of the citys manor. Hours later, he found the lords home and was quickly whisked inside by the lords servants. He tried in vain to show them his fathers letter of reference to prove that he was a knight, but servant, seeing his rich clothes and bright armor asked no questions, but brought him before the Lord of Tyre. The lord and his wife lay on couches; Gavin walked proudly forward and spoke "Greetings, my lord, lady, I am Sir Gavin Lanshire, my father sends his greeting as well to you lordship, Gods servant."
The lord and lady exchanged looks that said, "Hes young." The lord rose and said "Greetings, sir knight, I heard a noble man had arrived today, I had began to worry that you had meet with foul play."
"No sir," Gavin said, "I became lost in the crowds on my way here."
"I think you will get along with this boy Robert, he wont ask for directions either." Said the lady laughing.
The lord finished reading Gavins letter and said, "you plan to tour the holy lands alone?"he said razing an eyebrow."
"Yes!" Gavin replied at once. "Why?"
"Son," the lord said rising, "If you get lost in a city controlled by the Knights, how will you live though a city full of infidels?"
"What does your lordship suggest?" Gavin asked coldly.
"That you hire a guide to come with you." The lord return, the hint of a smile on his face. "Oh." Said Gavin.
Gavin spent the night with the lords family, at dinner he answered questions from the lord about his homeland, and questions from the lady about the styles of clothes in the court. Finally, Gavin informed the lady that he spent too much time training to spend any time looking at girls. This drew more smiles between husband and wife.
The next day he took his leave and went to a shop that specialized in guides. Gavin walked in the door and spoke to the clerk who sat at the desk, writing. "I need a guide" he began.
"One gold piece." Said the clerk without looking up.
"To tour the Holy lands with me"
"Five gold pieces." Said the clerk,
"who knows the customs and facts of the countryside"
"Six." Droned the clerk,
"and above all else who can be trusted." Gavin finished.
The clerk finally looked up at the last remark, "In that case, my goodness, twenty and expenses!"
"Why such a change in price?" Gavin demanded.
"Well," said the clerk, "Men that know the country are pretty common. Men you can trust, well, thats another thing. Ill let you have Amon the son of Zadok."
"How do I know that this man is to be trusted?" Gavin asked shrewdly.
"Sir, I give you my personal assurance, that he can be trusted!"
"Very well," said Gavin. "Where is he?"
"In the back." said the clerk his eyes back on his writing.
Gavin walked in to the back of the shop and into a dirty room filled with wood shavings. A small thin man lay in a hammock, and rose as Gavin entered. "May I be of assistance master" He asked in a voice that was slightly to high pitched. The man wore baggy pants that may at one time have been white, a dirty tunic and a leather vest over it, in his belt he wore a dagger and a piece of parchment. His face was covered with stubble that failed to hide his face, he had dark curly hair, and brown eyes that reminded Gavin of a cows.
"Yes," said Gavin, "If you are Amon son of Zadork."
"Zadok" the small man corrected.
"Yes, well, I have hired you to help guide me through the Holy land."
"Of course, am I surprised? No." The small man sighed.
"You are a Jew?" Gavin asked.
"Yes, your lordship" Amon replied, "Where do you wish to go first? "Damascus."
The Ambush and Damascus.
The trip was hard on Gavin despite what he said about his training, the sun heated him painfully in his armor and flies tormented him. Amon trotted along beside Gavins horse talking about some point of history or another, telling stories of battles and kings long dead, as if the sun bothered him not at all; and Gavin saw that the flies didnt go near him. "So thats why no one washes in this land," Gavin thought. That night when they camped Amon lit a small fire with wood they had brought with them from Tyre. Gavin had Amon eat his food on the other side of the horse from him. After all, protocol must be maintained, a knight did not eat with a commoner.
Late that night Gavin awoke to hear Amon cry. Gavin had slept armed and was on his feet at once. He saw two large men holding Amon between them a knife to his throat. Gavin immediately went to draw his sword, but strong arms grabbed him from behind. Gavin released his sword, drew his mailed hand into a fist and back into what he hoped was his attackers face. It must have been for the arms loosened. Gavin turned and grabbed his attacker by the belt and flung the man at the two men holding Amon. He stuck the one of the men, knocking him to the ground, unfortunately not the man with the knife.
The man with the knifes eyes grew wide and he yelled, "Stop or I kill him!" and to his surprise Gavin stopped. "Drop you sword." He said and was even more confused to see the young man draw his sword and drop it to the sand. "He must be afraid of me." The thief thought, "Throw your money bag over here." Gavin slowly slide the bag off his belt, and tossed it at the feet of the thief, a look of defeat on his face. "Youre crazy!" said the thief pushing Amon away and bending over to retrieve the bag. "I should kill you for just being stupAck!" His thought was cut off by Amons knife sticking out of his back. He stumbled then fell and ceased breathing.
"How did you do that?" Said Gavin in wonderment.
"Master," Amon said in an out of breath voice, "because of my short size I have learned that engaging in hand-to hand combat leaves me at a disadvantage, there for I learned to throw weapons at attackers instead of fighting with them." Amon bent to retrieve his dagger and Gavins moneybag. Handing it back to Gavin he whistled, "How much are you carrying?"
"Five hundred pieces of gold." Said Gavin evenly.
Amon looked at him hard, his eyes lost their cow like look, "You would give up a fortune for a hired guide?"
Gavin looked confused. "Yes." He answered.
"But why." Asked Amon.
"Because it the right and honorable thing to do. I am a knight remember."
"Yes, of course." Said Amon, the wonder still in his eyes.
Damascus swarmed with people. Templer knights marched about the city maintaining order. Amon found them lodging, then he and Gavin walked through the market place. Gavin smiled to himself, this is what he had come to see, The Knights Templer marching grim faced though the throng helping people in need and dealing punishment to the wicked. The market sold everything anyone could want, wine, silk, jewelry, or any other thing one could ask for. Gavin however wasn't interested in silk or any other mundane things. In fact, he was about to suggest to Amon that they return to their lodging, when something caught his eye. Swords, finely wrought of some strange metal. Amon explained that these swords were made of Damascus steel, of which the town was famous for. Gavin immediately went in search of a smith to learn more of this wonderful craft. Amon led him to a blacksmiths forge on the outskirts of town. Within, a large man and two boys worked the forge hammering bars of steel into the gray blades he had seen in the marketplace. Amon introduced him to the large man named Melki a master metal smith. Gavin asked what the blades were made of.
"Steel," said Melki gruffly, "plain steel. Or at lease that's how it starts."
"Why is it wavy? And it seems to be multi layered! Why go to so much work" Asked Gavin.
Seeing the real interest in Gavin's eyes Melki went on to explain how the steel was heated and reheated as it was folded over and over, and finally cold by letting the wind pass over the hot steel, making it a very strong, light blade that held an edge well. Gavin was enchanted, and spent the rest of the day watching as the smith turn out blades finer than Gavin had ever seen before. Before he left Gavin purchased a short curved sword from Melki for fifty pieces of gold, a fair price thought Gavin for the craftsmanship of it. Gavin also learned that a shipment of lesser blades would be leaving the next day for the Templer stronghold in Jerusalem, and for a very small fee they could join the caravan. Amon thought this was a good idea, for the caravan would be well armed to protect the goods and they would have a better chance of surviving the trip, so Gavin agreed.
The Attack of Salidin.
Gavin was up early the next day, at Amon's insistence he divided most of his gold between his two boots and a pocket beneath his armor so if someone tried to rob them again they hopefully wouldn't find it all. Gavin also stopped to buy a donkey for Amon to ride. When Amon turned to thank him Gavin coldly told him that he only bought him a mount so Amon would not slow him down. The blades were carried on the backs of camels and armed men walked along them. A few other travelers rode with them and tried to talk to Gavin, but Gavin held himself aloof for the conversation and only answered in cool yet polite tone.
The caravan moved at a slower pace than Gavin was used to, but as Amon said "Knowing that you'll wake in the morning is far better than getting there two days sooner never to arrive at all."
The Caravan had stopped at mid-day to let the hottest part of the day pass without exhausting themselves. Gavin however was full of energy and decided to walk around to have a look at the land. That was fine with Amon, that is until Gavin ordered him to come with him. Amon walked ten paces behind Gavin and muttered to himself that if the knight wanted to boil himself in all that armor why couldn't he do it by himself.
Amon sighed. "Yes, lord?"
"Who lives out here"?
"The district of Aram?" asked Amon,
"No, I mean out here in the wastelands." Replied Gavin,
"Oh, no one my lord. Only caravans travel out here. Well, thieves to be sure, but they normally are near some source of water for their animals."
"Oh." Said Gavin thoughtfully.
Gavin stood facing the sun on a dune; Amon seeing that he seemed lost in thought sat down in the shadow that the dune cast.
"What are sand storms Amon?" Asked Gavin without turning.
Amon closed his eyes and said, "When strong winds blow across the wastes it carries the sand with it and can bury men who are caught in it."
"Does it sometimes look the sun reflects off the sand like a mirror?" Gavin asked thoughtfully,
"Nowhy?" asked Amon,
"Then we are under attack." Said Gavin calmly as he turned and ran down the hill. Amon shot to his feet and looked over the hill. Sure enough, what looked like a sand storm, but every once in a while he saw the sun glint off a helm of a horseman.
"Sir, wait for me!" shouted Amon as he plunged after his knight.