Stitched Crosses: Crusade — Vol. I, Number 1

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By the time the last Roman legion to occupy the Britannia provinces were in Gaul coveting more Empire, a certain number of magistrates and officers were wed to Briton land, either in the flesh or in ambition: these desired to fight native enemies and Saxon invaders rather than the politics of the Caesars. And so the senior officers, under Constantine the Usurper, left the country to these men, that Roman civilisation might yet be immortal in this land of rain and rolling green.

Some fell to the wars of the tribes, or political courts. Others, still burning for Rome, were crushed by the seeds of the Usurper: Uther and his son Arthur, the Pendragons. The defeated desired to be catechised, then Baptised into the death and rising of Christ, in accord with the earliest practices of the Church. They became privileged, some by their descendents, to preserve with great deeds that beautiful Realm Perelous, steeped in Christian enchantment—of which so few tales remain in the light of knowledge or belief.

The Arming and Departure of the Knights; Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, John Henry Dearle (1890)
The Arming and Departure of the Knights; Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, John Henry Dearle (1890)

Remembering the Sacred Grail of our Lord Jesus Christ, which passed from that Realm to dwell behind the veil of the Heavens, the blood of the sons of Old Logres grew staunch and unmoving in the kingdom that came to be Mercia.

More battles and more trials followed upon the land with the domination of the Saxon, but also peace and commerce painted the beauty of God’s nature—for God was preached and believed in, pushing out the pagan shadows. And in the age called ‘dark’, still there was the Light of Heaven on Mercia and strong Christian lords rose to count their wealth of land and heirs to be God’s blessing.

One such lord was Markus, second so-named after his forefather of five removed generations, who was descended from one of the lesser officers of Rome to stay and chance his lot with the Britons with whom he mixed. Markus held close council with Offa of Thingfrith, supporting his cause against Beornred, who took Mercia for himself after the murder of his king—the faithless Æthelbald (who once defied even Boniface, the Blessed Apostle of Germania).

When the war was ended and Offa the Mighty upon the Mercian throne, Markus, now also called ‘the Fearless’, was given a lordship in the north of the kingdom, to act as sentinel upon Northumbria. Wielding his storied blade, Audacit’in-Domino, this lordship he and his descendents defended against the Saxons of Wessex and Odin’s sons from across the North Sea.

King Offa of Mercia from Vitae duorum Offarum by Matthew Paris of St. Alban's (c.late 12th century)
King Offa of Mercia from ‘Vitae duorum Offarum’ by Matthew Paris of St. Alban’s (c.late 12th century)

Later, Offred, the Lord of Audaciter-Deus in the age when several peoples coveted the lands of Britain, was counted amongst the alliance of men that routed the Norse invaders for the last time. But their victory was ill-timed for one named William, of the House of Normandy, was arrived to forever shift the course of the great island of the Britons.

The Normans took the lands of many lords and made war on those few remaining who did not bow before their Norman overseers—of which those of Saxon origin were chief. Before an alliance could be forged among those resisting their overlords, the Church hoped to stop the warring afflicting all Western Christendom by turning the focus to giving an answer to those waging war in the name of Allah: the Moors who came to occupy Iberia and nearly all of the Kingdom of the Franks (if not for the heroic deeds of the grandfather of Charlemagne), and the Saracens who would usurp the whole land where Christ had walked, died, arisen and ascended. To prevent this end many sons of nobles came to join the Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple; those who had no great claim or heraldry, and yet would be knightly warriors for Christendom, came to the Order of the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist. By way of service to these Orders, the Church did hope to end the long years of bloodshed and raise up new nobilities where rivalries were cold and lords would remember to Whom they owed their service.

Lord Edelstan and Young Markus

And there was a Saxon lord by name of Edelstan, four generations from Offred, who did sire a daughter named Dawnlyn, because Lord Edelstan thought of her as a rising hope to her people. Also he had a son whom he gave the name Markus, in honour of the great fathers of Audaciter-Deus, for he did intend that his son would preserve the lineage in the faith with noble service to the House.

Alas, Lord Edelstan and his Lady were slain in a secret raid, of which the origin was never determined; this was in the waning summer, two years after granting a begrudging blessing to their son to go to Templecombe for his training to be a Knight Templar. The young lord did hope that his being dedicated to the Holy Order would provide leverage against further molestation of his Saxon House if the oppressors truly be of Christian heart.

With the death of the Lord and his wife, and Markus away to make war upon the enemies of the Church, Dawnlyn became Lady of Audaciter-Deus. She was tall in stature and wise in her councils, and all were thwarted in their secret efforts to overthrow the Saxon House of that land. Thus Audaciter-Deus gave courage to the Saxon nobles and it was oft used as a place of secret meetings and plannings—although the Lady was increasingly known to discourage rebellion and support the rule of the House of Plantagenet in order to best preserve the Saxon lines.

For long years there were no tidings of the Son of Edelstan to Audaciter-Deus Hall so that it seemed to Lady Dawnlyn that she were the last of her long line. Yet she courted hope with each sunrise for she could not despair a death that was not yet revealed; and her faith in God was strong and fruitful.

One moon-filled night, a knock stirred the hall. A Christian knight of the House of Ibelin, accompanied by a woman of simple beauty (whom the Lady did recognise from her childhood) stood in the arch; behind them was a litter bearing the limp—but alive—form of the young Lord of Audaciter-Deus.

When Markus was laid in his bed and inspected by his sister a furrow of confusion did cross her face. Turning to the Knight: “His wounds are not grave and indeed well tended, sir Knight. Why then does he appear as one upon the threshold of death?”

The Knight looked upon Dawnlyn with foreknowledge of the question. “The grave wound is beyond the skill of a physician, milady, for the injury is in the mind and not upon the body. If you would have his recovery then patient love and fervent prayer are the best medicines.”

“Of those remedies there are plenty within these borders.” The Lady turned back to her brother. “Thus, he shall return to us whole.” And she thanked the Knight for his kindness and skill, giving him food and quarter for as long as he dwelled in Audaciter-Deus.

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Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the story!

Note: Except where noted, the illustrations provided are by Paul Cox’s studio30seven, with inks by Jake Nealis and colours by Amanda Nix.

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