11921124 Genoese Scum Selling Scottish Gossip
|Genoese Scum Selling Scottish Gossip|
The bells are ringing out for Vespers in the little church of St Mary the Egyptian, in the quiet easterly quarter of Acre. The place is more crowded than usual, however, as the usual priest today gives way to his superior, the suffragan Bishop of Jericho (whose nominal diocese is now deep in Saracen territory), touring his underling's various places of worship to keep a tight hold, at least, on this post. He's a fair preacher, so the normal congregation is swelled by curious passers-by, but even more of an increase is provided by his guards. Most of these are mercenaries in the Patriarch Rodolfo's pay, hard men who look godless enough, but two among them are quite different, a cut above - the representatives of the two great military Orders, both posted at the doors, eyeing each other warily. Even as the service concludes and the grey little church begins to empty again, the pair, both veterans by their aspect, step uneasily outside together, aware of what binds them in common and what divides them.
The Templar is the shorter of the two, and would once have been the less handsome - but he's suffered less dramatically from the ravages of battle. His dark, suspicious eyes shift from his Hospitaller counterpart to the parishioners, the hireling guards, and even the Bishop. He doesn't seem to think much of the lot of them.
The Hospitaller's face is indeed disfigured by a massive scar that runs down over the right side of his face and his nose shows signs of being broken more than once. It is something the knight has gotten used to, however, like the ever returning nagging of a wife, where he allowed to have one. Alas, the vow of celibacy is one of the things these two have in common. Stepping outside into the fresher but slightly warmer air, Tristan de Fountaineaux eyes the Templar carefully, as he is too aware the Hospitallers and Templars do not only serve different Grandmasters, but even tend to give their support to opposing factions. And while he avoids being openly rude to the man, he choses to treat him with cautious politeness - that is if the other knight will stick to this sort of behaviour as well.
And so, out of a sudden whim, Tristan starts to speak, dropping a casual remark in the common Langue d'Oeuil. "So that's the Bishop of Jericho... I doubt he brought those horns with him? With the stale air inside of that church and that dry sermon of his, I almost fell asleep." A little smirk is offered, while the Hospitaller tries to probe the Templar's sense of humour.
For his part, the Templar continues to examine the Church's less official defenders, the Patriarch's fine professional soldiers, striding about in the wake of his trusty servant, His Grace the Bishop of Jericho. They appear to be an eclectic mixture of Italians - maybe Genoese? - and Brabantines; their liveries are colourful and varied, their conversation easy verging on ribald. If any of the more lowly worshippers are foolish enough to bar their way, they get a mean shove, and one Syriac pedlar actually catches a smack in the face. The brother of the Temple's hand absently traces the filligree on his swordhilt. "Did sic as these deserve Jerusalem the Golden?" he mutters in a sort of thoughtful growl, probably to himself. "Deserve to fight there, e'en deserve to die there...?" It's French he speaks, but a heavily-accented kind. The Norman-French spoken in England is distinct enough, but this has something flintier by far.
The Hospitaller's enquiry takes him completely by surprise, and he glances back over to his 'colleague' with a sullen frown. "Aye, Jericho. A' kenn'd little o' his verbiage, m'sel. A holy man, to be sure, but a' like not his train."
Tristan perceives the answer with some difficulty - the hard accent is something which he isn't used to, but he hears enough to understand that the Templar did not catch his little jest. Instead of trying to persist on it, or even worse, try to explain the fun in his remark, the Hospitaller knight uses his eyes then, and following the worried gaze of the foreign knight, he frowns as he notices the conduct of the Genoese mercenaries. Just like the Templar a few moments before, the hand of Tristan comes to rest on the pommel of his sword without much of his own doing. Then an elderly woman is pushed to the side with so much emphasis that she falls to the ground. "By the love of God, what do you think are you doing!" Tristan calls, his voice loud enough to carry over the crowd, shooting the mercenary in question an irritated glare. With a few swift steps he is at the woman's side and gives her a hand to help her up.
"What do you thinka you are doing, monk?" the mercenary malefactor spits back. "Her, maybe?" His fellows find this all frightfully amusing, and four or five of them - the Italian contingent - even hang back to watch the reaction of the scarred knight of St John, though the Brabantines, in the majority, are passing on with their episcopal employer.
The Templar, by contrast to the Hospitaller, does not seem to see fit to intervene, for all his earlier stated disapproval, and his gaze as he looks on is impassive - but for all that, as attentive as that of the raucous Genoese. His apparent indifference would surprise few onlookers - the Hospitallers are thought to be a charitable and kindly Order who help the weak and impoverished, but the knights of the Temple are proud, hard, avaricious, and stir for none but themselves.
Tristan's brows furrow slightly at the mercenary's counter. The insinuation however, leaves him in relatively cold blood, as it is – for once - completely unjustified. "I don't know about your tastes back in Genoa," he retorts, once the elderly woman is up on her feet again and swiftly moving onwards, "but where I come from we like them young and curvy." The hand resting on the pommel seems to tighten slightly. His face twisted into an outwardly amused smile, Tristan's grey-blue eyes only leave the few mercenaries that are his audience now for a quick glance in the Templar's direction, but noticing his inactivity, Tristan's attention is soon back on the Genoese.
"She could teacha you a lot, monk," another Italian joins in cheerfully, and indeed, however badly they were behaving to the populace, to the Hospitaller the swaggering bullies seem joshing rather than aggressive. "She has experience, you know? You boys, so chaste, you could do with some lessons!" At this juncture, the Templar at last stirs. Walking, it's abundantly clear he's incomplete without a horse, but his step is quick and he's soon amongst them. "File in," he calls harshly, aiming to staunch further examples of Italian 'wit'.
With more grumbling than discipline, the half dozen Italians follow him in muttering, mocking pairs, leaving the Hospitaller either to join his opposite number at the head of the reconstituted column, or to bring up the rear.
"I doubt that." Tristan replies, in all simplicity, to the Italian. The smile on his face turning into a smirk, the hand on the pommel of the sword finally relaxing, he is about to add something when the Templar intervenes. And almost looking slightly disappointed as he sees the Italians obeying and falling in behind the knight, he follows the Templar until he catches up with him. Leading seems the more desirable option here. Where bringing up the rear might look like some kind of defeat. "Genoese scum, but amusing." Tristan mutters with a low chuckle in the Templar's direction. Not really expecting a reply - at least not one he can understand.
"Scum, sure enough," the Templar agrees with a sort of morose pedantry, "but braw fechters, for a' that. When the Turks came on Jaffa agin, I was wi' the King - our King, that is, a' mean to say," he clarifies in evident confusion, "King Richart - he had a horse, and so did I, and so Lord Lester, but none others in the whole company, as we made land fa'. And naught to fecht by us but scum like these. They did braw," he admits with a scowl over his shoulder at the mutinous handful, "though they cannae be trusted far in time o' peace. But a' wouldna let them hear me say as much."
As he is graced with an answer of so sudden eloquence, Tristan looks stunned at first, but when he catches the meaning, he finally nods and grins. "You are probably right, but... I'm not sure they would understand you, even *if* you said as much in their presence. You do have a harsh accent, Sir."
"Do a' now," the other man grunts right back, unoffended, perhaps, after all, not wholly unendowed with a certain dry irony. The Templar leaves it at that, so for some time as they file along King Baldwin's Highway the conversation lapses back into frosty silence, impaired only by the increasingly crowded streets and the occasional quips of the more daring, or defiant, Italians.
Tristan nods to the Templar's short but intelligible answer with a little amused glint showing in his grey-blue eyes, but instead of replying right away he falls silent for a while, to contemplate some of the things the other knight has said. "So you came here with the Lionheart's men?" he inquires after a longer pause, staring pensively at the knight Templar, in a moment of tranquility that is all too soon interrupted by a burst of loud laughter of some of those Italian mercenaries; in response to a remark, uttered in one of those Italian tongues - Genoese, probably? - which might indeed have been another bawdy jest. But not one that requires immediate action, obviously, so the Hospitaller's attention is soon back on the other knight to add more questions to the one he has just uttered: "You are a more recent arrival and addition to the Order of Temple, then? What made you stay and join *them* of all in the first place?" While the tone of his voice is devoid of any reproach, Tristan eyes the man with curious attention. The wish of a knight to join one the Orders out of his own will is hard for him to comprehend - despite this being what his own older brother Hugues did, actually.
The other knight lets guarded moments pass in silence before he replies, silent but for that Genoese under-tempo, that is. He looks as much surprised as reserved, obviously unused to personal questions - and not expecting such things from a Hospitaller! "Aye," he confirms at last, "e'en so. But a' wisnae one among them. I was reared on the farther sider o'th' Border." He speaks that last word as if only one such boundary exists in the universe, and the admission is followed by a wry chuckle, at some private stroke of irony, maybe. It's a very different sort of laughter from the Italian mirth, to be certain.
But any hint of mirth is removed by the Hospitaller's further enquiry. The Templar frowns, his brow blackening. "A' took the Cross, mannie. Swore to free Jerusalem. So did the King, aye, so did we all. But seems to me we havena done it yet. So I stayed."
Tristan listens attentively to what the Templar offers in reply, before he lowers his gaze at the final statement. "Aye, of course. The Cross. But to free Jerusalem will surely not prove an easy task." The Hospitaller shakes his head slowly, as a sudden pensiveness starts to conquer him. "It won't be easy, especially now that the Lionheart has left. When we were almost there, and he decided against it, at the last moment, letting the opportunity pass. Who knows if there will be another chance?" A dry chuckle follows. "But who am I, to contemplate the strategies of our superiors? Being a mere wheel in the cart that drives us all the way to Paradise?"
Something in Tristan's speech and his cynical rhetorical questions has struck vary much the wrong note for the Templar, who scowls vilely, while at the same time looking as if in almost physical pain. "Dinna speak agin him, sir," he mutters, quickly, and in a very low tone - it's probably clear enough what 'him' he refers to here. But then he blushes as scarlet as his brow had been dark, coughs, and, without explanation or apology, shuffles off to take up his station at the rearguard instead.
Not that long passes before he is replaced by one of the serjeants of the Genoese, a sharp, insinuating man. "So, you wanna know about the Scot, crone lover?" he wonders with cheerful insolence. "Maybe the boys calla you Scot lover next!"
The Templar's reaction takes Tristan by surprise - he is indeed perhaps of not strong enough faith in the Lord and the righteous cause to expect someone to truely believe the impossible can be achieved. "Um, forgive me, Sir, have I... I didn't mean to offend you...?" he mutters, as he notices the red colour of the Scot's face, his grey-blue eyes following the man as he moves back towards the rear. Still too stunned he is to take offence, when one of those bawdily joking Genoese addresses him. And curiosity surely gets the better of him, anyway. "What can you tell me about him?" Tristan inquires instead, almost ignoring the insulting addresses the man graces him with. "And don't be ridiculous. Crone lover? Scot lover? Even a Hospitaller will never get as desperate as that!"
The petty Genoese officer bows in mock-respect, "Even as far as our Republic, we hear that da Hospital can pay for da best, if you take my meaning!" He taps his codpiece and rubs his hand together crudely, then extends one as if to offer the monastic knight the sign of peace - or to extract some expenses for his information. "We like you, Sir Ospedale, me an' da boys. We can tell you lots, if you wanna hear. Even Scottish ships find harbour in Genoa...when they do not sink under their own cargoes of herring and oat!"
Tristan looks at the Genoese in mild amusement, yes he is really hard to offend today, and shaking his head in mock desparation he replies: "We knights of the Hospital are as poor as you can imagine - not much coin to pay for anything, least of all, *those* pleasures." The Italian's confession of liking him, though, makes the Fontaineaux smirk a little, the promise of information has him even hesitate for a moment, before he starts digging deep in a small little purse he carries around his neck, usually hidden below his mail and tabard. A coin of silver appears in his hand, and handing it to the Genoese with a grave expression on his face, hinting at what great part of his wealth he is willing to bestow on him, the Hospitaller raises an inquiring brow. "I hope, whatever information you might have, is worth the price."
Into the codpiece it goes at smoothly as though it had never been, and the Italian is now a model o f assiduousness, politesse, and, even, good discipline, standing a little straighter as he gabbles with great fluency in his not wholly grammatical French. "They call him Mordaco the son of Doncano, my lord of the Ospedale," he begins, inflating his generous listener's rank happily. "In Scotland he was a great lord, the son, or perhaps the brother - the stories differ - of their king. You know how kings are, my lord Ospedale, so this king, he shippa Mordaco off with da bigger king, il re Riccardo. He wasn't supposed to come back." The Genoese grins yellowly. "Lucky for them he didn't! This Mordaco, he is close like that with il re Riccardo, even the English vice, maybe, you know? But when the King he wants to go home to Inghilterra, to deal with his brother Giovanni, Mordaco, he is not happy. So he joins up with the Temple! How the Scotch king must have laughed to hear it, I am thinking, no, my lord Ospedale?"
Their procession is now quite near its final destination, the palace of the Bishop of Acre where his suffragan of Jericho also has lodgings.
As he watches that coin of his disappear with a hint of regret in his eyes, Tristan's attention is soon caught up in the Genoese's account of the Scot's story. "I see." he finally nods, when the Italian is finished. "A close relative to a king. It would explain his reaction to my sobering assessment of the situation. To admit he made an unwise choice... when he could have achieved greater things if he'd accompanied the Lionheart home..." The Hospitaller's voice trails off, as he comes to stand now, that the procession has reached its destination. Turning back, his gaze searches for the Scot, and offering him a respectful nod from afar, the Fontaineaux knight chooses to keep any further thoughts to himself.