Enemy of Man

Enemy of Man is a multi-media project built around painstaking research to create an exciting new kind of historical fiction. The story unfolds during the final months of the last Crusader city of Acre in 1291. It follows one of the last surviving members of the English Knights of St. Thomas and his quest to recover the stolen treasures of his Order.

Explore a fully reconstructed Crusader city.

Be the hero or the villain and make the choices that shape your adventure.

The constant clattering shake of the gaoler’s wagon has made the ropes around your ankles and wrists form rings of blisters. Since you are blindfolded you can only guess the itch is blood trickling from your wounds. You shiver in your monk’s robes which give little comfort in the winter air.

You can hear the sound of what can only be London growing ever closer. A hundred church bells from all over the city tell you it is early morning, confirmed by the weak but welcome warmth of the low sun peering through the small barred window at the back of the wagon.

The Mercers’ roads from the port soon become crowded streets within the city walls, and the smell of the waterfront is overpowered by the stench of filth. As you pass the Strand, you feel what must be a tall shadow block out the sun and the chiselling knocking and sawing of masons drowns out the church bells.

“What are they building?” You ask.

“A cross.” Says one of the guards which flank you.

“For whom?”

“Haven’t you heard, the queen is dead.”

“I would genuflect if my hands were not bound.” You say.

The men sneer.

The streets are soon packed with the bustle at the terminus of the great conduit that ferries water from Tyburn spring.

“I remember when it was built, the pipes under the timber are no less than lead.” Said one of the guards to the other.

“Me too.” You say. “I was raised here at the commandery.”

“You’re a knight?” They ask, suprised at their quarry.

“Not anymore, I think.”

You smile at hearing music from Elias’s tavern that stands facing your chapter house. As usual the festivities from the night before trail into the next day. You have spent many such nights and days there in your youth, perhaps never again.

It’s not long before the bolts are drawn back and the armoured fists of what must be the chapter sergeants drag you from the wagon. The ropes at your ankles are cut away so that you can stand on your own feet, the guards gripping your arms tightly. If there is a chance to run, now is not the time. After a moment, it dawns heavily on you that it is too late to escape your fate.

You hear how the noises of the men and horses around you bounce echoes in every direction even ringing out high above, you guess you are in the vaulted courtyard.

Your hood is finally removed and you are left alone in a simple cell, you recognise it as the old main hall. It’s been several years since you’ve been back. The monastery is so quiet, and so white.

Even the winter of Ireland or the landscape of your childhood in the Weald would look gaunt and haunted with its dead trees and stygian mists, but that is God’s country. Here, in the halls of the holy there are no windows to the outside, no trees, no birds singing- not even London rooks and ravens. The thick walls are designed to defend the soul and senses against the worldly. Here there is a single light- a small square in the ceiling vault; the glass segments warped between lead lattices, sending skewed beams of white sterile daylight across the arches and vaulted white plastered walls of the monastery. The simplest sounds amplified and echoed so that one dare not move nor mutter. This world inside these thick smooth walls was colder than the winter and truly dead. Where is the earth? Where is God’s realm of truth? This is mankind’s own little cosmos where the architects of every matins and vespers control the soul with colourless calm and deep deep cold. You shed a single tear for the love you will never feel again and the child lost to you forever. You grimace with hatred and a rising consuming wrath, your nose begins to bleed whilst every muscle in your body tenses and pushes for violence. But the fetters are too strong. Your body goes limp as you let out a roar of rage and despair, the voice distorting and distending with reverberation through the empty cloisters. Finally your face falls to your chest and your eyes look upon the mosaic floor, a Latin inscription floats around a snake crow and skull; momento mori.

As hands grab you and push you forward you realise you must have passed out, the hood is back on your head and it seems almost comical that they hide these rooms from you that you know so well. A series of steps, bolted doors, and winding cloisters end with you pushed to your knees in a warm room. You know exactly where you are, and you guess who is here with you. With your hands still bound and your eyes still blindfolded, a voice at once detestable and familiar tells you to pray. The old man’s voice joins you as does a third voice, less familiar, it is noble and smooth.

Once the Paternoster is spoken, your eyes and hands are freed and the guards on each side of you step back. The old man standing in front of you by the fire is your master and commander. All the men wear the red trimmed white habits of your Order. The third voice belongs to a man with his back turned, facing the fire. His modest crown glimmers gold in the murmuring light.

“Sir Robert, known as Robin, surnamed Outlaw, son of Arthur the king’s thegn. You have been found guilty of witchcraft.”

You say nothing.

“Give him water,” says the commander to the guards “and leave.” The swordsmen bow their heads and leave the room as you gulp down a full flagon in desperation.

“With no guards here, you won’t live long.” You tell your master in anger.

“You won’t dare raise your hand to me.” The old man smiles cruelly. “You may be a heretic, but you are also loyal.”

“You sure about that, Father?”

“I’m very sure.” He replies. “Or else you’d still be back at your priory in Ireland and long since made into a charred cadaver at the stake.”

You consider your fate. Wracked with the memories of being torn from your lover, and your newborn child held hostage as you were bound hand and foot by your sworn enemy, the Bishop of Ossory.

“Then why have you kept me alive?” You spit. “You expect my confession?”

“You live by my grace and at my mercy.” The golden voice rang out, and the crowned figure stood. The commander bowed and stepped back in deferment. “I have plans for you, outlaw.”

Your eyes stare first in disbelief at the king of England, his glare neither angered nor kind. Recognising him you bow your head and mumble “God save the king” in awe.

“A bad Christian but a good knight. That is what they say of you. You fought for the cross in Spain and in the Baltic. Was it the bloodshed that made you lose your faith?”

You raise your eyes to answer but the commander steps forward threatening you to silence.

“God has yet purpose in this world for you. You thought your days of warfare were over, passing your time quietly in Kilkenny whilst you took a noblewoman to bed, broke your vows and sired a bastard. That House of Kyteler is forever shamed.”

You turn to the Master in anger. “And you, you took my son.” You instantly regret your anger and plead instead. “May I see him?”

“You may not!” Shouts the commander.

The king raises his palm. “Your bastard belongs to the Order now. He will serve his king as did his father and his father before him.”

“Will he know me?”

“That depends on you.” Answers the king.

The master continues. “Your Heathen ways have been marked down in the book of eternal judgement. Your soul is damned.”

“I make remedies to heal the sick.”

“You are a Pagan and a witch. Do you deny that you have slaughtered nine cockerels under a full moon at the crossroads to your horned devil?”

The king sighs and waves his hand with finality. “Commander, this is wasteful. His guilt has already been proven. All that is left is to proceed.” Says the king. “You shall go to the Holy Land, Robin. The last bastion of Christendom is about to fall.”

The commander elaborates. “To save Acre we must restore the Chapter House. But Acre is corrupt. Christians will be the undoing of the city before ever the Saracens breach the walls. It was Christians who broke the back of the Order. We don’t know how or who or when. Mere months ago an English priest newly returned from Palestine reported that he saw with his own eyes the chapter house barred and locked, with not one of our knights in sight. All enquiries concerning our Order were met with tales that they were all dead and gone. Whatever the truth of it, there can be no doubt that our treasures have been stolen. There we have our why.”

“Once the Order is restored, Acre will be all the stronger for it. We may yet save the city.” The king affirms.

“Christians must die to restore life to the Order. But a Christian cannot kill Christians in the name of God. Yet a Pagan, a man outside of God’s grace, he can do what needs to be done. A loyal Englishman is a greater servant to God than a good Christian. Blacken your soul and it shall be absolved, washed in the blood of the guilty, and Acre and good Christians will weather the storm of the Saracens in the darkest hour of the kingdom of God.”

“Is this The will of god? That I should be first shunned, to return to the flock?”

The master spits. “You have shunned yourself! Shunned your soul from God! You made yourself a wolf in Ireland. Now you must continue on the road to hell to find the path to heaven.”

The king steps closer and draws his sword, pointing it at your head. “This is the will of the king. Only the king of England can save the kingdom of God on earth now, just as the Lionheart once did, so now do I, Edward, hammer of the Scots.”

The master adds with finality. “If you fail you will be forever known as Excommunicate, and you will never see your son again.”

The king places the blade on your shoulder. “You must never be perceived as an agent of England or of this Order until it is truly restored to power. Until the Knights of St Thomas can defend themselves, and defend Acre from foes within and without, you will be Hostis humani generis.”

“The enemy of all mankind.” Grins the master.

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