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Ramla Pt.2

by GodfreysBouillon

Raindrops fell from the clouds, starting as soft blips and growing into heavy javelins that quickly ran down Estienne’s temples, collecting in the feathery fibers of his beard. Feeling his face soaked from the rain, he stroked his chin and shook the drops off.

Estienne climbed the ladder up to the deck, and watched the crew of the Grendel panic as they hurried to secure crates, move the sails into the correct position, and herd all passengers down below.

A surly bosun in a patched raincoat stomped around the planks, and caught sight of Estienne.

“Get below deck ye’ blashy afterling! Dubh Lacha’s got a good storm for us.

With an unholy boot to the forehead, Estienne was shoved down the ladder. Climbing to his feet, he saw Conrad and a few other knights be shoved below deck as well, falling down through the opening that separated the two floors.

“Estienne! This storm is going to be huge. We ne-”

Conrad’s words were cut off as the ship suddenly surged to the right, and they all fell to the floor.Estienne sensed what Conrad was going to say. Pointing at a young, quiet knight in a padded leather cap, he gestured towards some ropes.

“Hugues, pass those ropes around. We need to tie ourselves down to something or else we’ll be flung around like loaded dice in a cup.”

Hugues tossed bundles around the group, and they tied themselves down to the mast, large crates and various heavy objects.

Estienne pulled his browned rope into a more comfortable position, and whispered to Conrad, who had bound himself next to him.

“Let's hope the crew knows how to handle themselves.”

Through the planks on the ceiling, they heard a destructive wave pour over the ship. Multiple screams rose, then suddenly fell away, lost in the depths.

Fils de pute.” Estienne swore under his breath.

Water leaked through the hatch door, dripping onto the floor and forming a small puddle. Another roar of thunder echoed, and they could all hear the rain intensify.

Conrad gave a weak smile through his blonde mustaches. “This’ll be fun.”

For the next fifteen minutes of watery hell that pounded the Grendel, the knights all stood strapped to objects, listening to the remaining crew struggle to keep her afloat over the immense waves that surged under and above. With a sudden supernatural rush that sucked all the energy out of the commotion around them, the scene fell silent. The knights could hear nothing outside but a quiet pattering of rain.

Some of the knights cheered, and quickly cut through their ropes, stretching their sore torsos.

Estienne felt a dark apprehension run over him, and cried out to warn them.


With an immense crash, the Grendel capsized. A gargantuan wave soared above its tallest sails, and completely enveloped the cog.

Inside the hold, the unsecured knights were slammed to one wall, and Estienne cringed at the crunching noises. The entire ship was flipped to the side, and Estienne struggled to regain his senses. Conrad remained next to him, as well as the young Hugues across the room. With a silent seeping, murky sea water entered from cracks all over the ceiling, covering the floor in seconds.

A shipping crate slid across the upper deck, managing to block the opening from the outside. Despite this, multiple streams of sea water still spurted through, deepening the pool on the floor.

“Cut the ropes!” Estienne yelled as he fumbled to pull a dagger out of his belt.

After cutting loose, Estienne and Conrad clutched to the mast, wading in the ever deepening water.

Conrad spoke up. “How do we get out?”

“I don’t know, Conrad! I’ll figure something out.”

Estienne hastily searched through the haphazard crates, and found an exceptionally large one, marked with the emblem of some Italian craftsman. Prying it open, he found a ballista for use in naval battles. It was nearly six feet wide, with a simple, albeit huge, winding mechanism that pulled back the string. It was rusted all along its main mechanisms, but it would have to do. There were multiple deadly steel bolts in the crate as well.

“Conrad! Hugues! Help me with this!”

The water was now knee deep. They rushed over and heaved the siege weapon out of the crate, Estienne aiming it at the farthest wall.

“I like where this is going!” Conrad bore his yellowed teeth in a dangerous smile.

Conrad and Hugues lifted a steel bolt out of the crate, and placed it in the ballista.

Estienne stepped to one side of the weapon, and grasped the right half of the winding mechanism. Hugues moved to the left, and together they strained to pull the mechanism back with the power of torsion. Hugues was struggling to wind it back, something inside the machine was badly rusted.

Conrad smiled. “Move aside, junge.”

Wrapping his knuckles around the steel handle, he strained with all his might. His arm muscles bulged and surged, and the rusted mechanism was beaten.

With a loud crack inside the ballista, Conrad eased the mechanism into firing position, the bolt locked back all the way.

“Fire away, Estienne.”

Estienne struggled to slosh around the water that reached to his waist, and reached to grab the rope that unleashed the bolt, releasing all the built up energy of the mechanism.

“Step away, lads. As soon as I fire this, the entire hold will fill with seawater. Try not to die, and swim your way out. There’s bound to be debris everywhere, so don’t worry about drowning. We’ll all meet outside. Donne-nous de la force, Dieu.”

With a pull, Estienne fired the ballista. The entire weapon recoiled back, being unrestrained, and slammed into the crate, crushing it. The bolt flew through the air, ripping through the hull like it was parchment. It left a gap four feet wide, and the oaken planks around it were torn and frayed.

Sea water rushed in like a herd of buffalo, filling the hold in a split second, and widening the hole with its force. Estienne, reeling from the shock of the water, managed to swim across the hold, slipping out of the gaping hole left by the ballista bolt. The saltwater stung his eyes as he searched for the top of the water. He only hoped his friends were behind him.

Estienne burst up out of the ocean, gasping for air. He looked up to the skies expecting to see the storm continuing to rage, but the skies were only a light gray, with all the thunder and terror from earlier gone in the wind. He swam towards a section of planking that had been ripped off from one of the waves, and clutched onto its comforting buoyancy.

And then he noticed nobody was around him. Had Hugues and Conrad escaped?Were they still there, under the waves, trapped in the hold? What if his plan failed?He couldn’t bear another death to be on his hands. Only just then had he begun to forget the terrible pains of the past, when he abandoned the women and ch-

Hugues tapped on Estienne’s shoulder, and moved up to hang on the debris with him.

He wasn’t much of a talker.

Estienne was overjoyed to see Hugues had made it, and eagerly grabbed his shoulder.

“Where is Conrad?” Estienne asked, worried.

Hugues shielded his eyes against the torrid mediterranean sun that was peeking through the dispersed clouds.

Dummkopf! Did you think the sea could ever drag down someone like me?”

Conrad pushed up to them in a small rowboat, grinning.

Estienne couldn’t help smiling back, and climbed into the boat along with Hugh.

The group remained silent as they floated off from the wreckage of the Grendel, glad to rest after the stress of the situation. They stayed adrift for over an hour in silence.

Estienne spoke up, eyes fixed to the horizon but his thoughts further away.

“Have I sealed my fate?”

Conrad and Hugues were startled, and looked up to see an Estienne with red rimmed eyes.

Estienne pointed to himself.

“I was the commander, the lord and the leader of the entire crusade. I was counted on by thousands. Thousands of people who spent their life fortunes to band together on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I remember hearing conversations and laughter. I remember hearing them talk about visiting Jerusalem, and carving a cross into one of the sacred walls of the Holy Sepulchre.

They’ll never get the chance, because of me. What if I had seen the Sipahis riders? What if I had devised a new plan, and saved us?

Or if our defeat was truly inevitable, what if I had made my last stand with them? That’s what I should have done. The pilgrims and soldiers may never have gotten the chance to see the Holy Sepulchre, but no doubt they found salvation in other ways. The Pope himself said,

All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.

I have sinned, too many times to be counted, and my cowardice only adds to my sentence.

How could the Lord, even the Christ who forgives many, how could he forgive a man who left thousands of his own to suffer and die because of his cowardice?”

A tear rolled down Estienne’s cheek, landing on his shoulder.

“Have I sealed my fate?

Am I bound to an eternity in the agonal flames of Hell?

All was silent on the rowboat when Estienne finished his proclamation of guilt.

He was not the only one who had fled the battle.

Conrad spoke, his voice barely above a whisper, yet still managing to penetrate the sounds of the waves.

“The Lord always forgives, Estienne. He can always offer another chance, even to the most black-hearted of men, lost and wandering souls, and to the infidels in the East.

Estienne, the Lord will give us all a chance to redeem ourselves. A way to salvation. A path to forgiveness. When He opens that door for us to climb through, we must be ready.

He will give us another chance.

Estienne hoped so.

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59 Reviews

Points: 2273
Reviews: 59

Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:32 am
SirenCymbaline wrote a review...

My earlier sentiments about the way you write action still hold up, so I'll try not to repeat myself there.

You did well at establishing a sense of urgency. I did indeed feel as though disaster was imminent. I liked the bit with the ballista. I'm no historic arms expert, but actually detailing the process of loading and firing it did make it feel more real than if you'd just said 'they fired and loaded it.' So yep, I appreciate that. And as a plus it also made the impact of them firing it feel more rewarding.

Estiennes' speech on guilt and forgiveness is good, but the his line crosses a bit into overdoing it. But then again, he has gone through a lot, so it's not as though his strong feelings are unearned. So I think it's fine.

Damn, this stuff is immersive. I'll see you again in the next chapter, and hopefully I'll actually have some advice.

Thank you, thank you so much!

I'm really glad you appreciate my writing. The ballista I felt was perhaps a little too rushed, so I'm glad it didn't come over that way.
If Estienne's speech here is compared to similar speeches later in the chapters, it can be a little too sappy and overdone for sure.
I had never wrote anything like that before.

Thanks, I'm glad you're taking the time to review all the chapters, you won't believe how much this helps me!

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527 Reviews

Points: 140
Reviews: 527

Sun May 27, 2018 12:05 pm
Jaybird wrote a review...

Hello, GodfreysBouillon! I hope my review can do your work justice.

I haven't read Beowulf yet, but I saw the replies to the review below mine and let me just say that I love some good references. I'm curious to see if you're include more - if you do, maybe I'll be able to catch them on my own with my very limited knowledge of medieval lore.

One of the things that I love about your writing is how brief it is. I often have trouble focusing with large blocks of text, and your formatting and writing style in general helps me digest what I'm reading better. You seem like a clear and concise writer. You give just as much as you need to, and nothing more.

Both Conrad and Estienne are having some character development, though it's as slow as I would expect it to be for the second chapter of a story. Their conversation at the end of the chapter is what really showed the type of people they are. Estienne's constant sense of guilt and Conrad's assurances that things would be alright created a perfect contrast that highlighted the type of characters they are. I hope you do more contrasts like that in the future sections of the story.

I do have two suggestions, but not following them wouldn't impact the story too much. My first suggestion is to use footnotes for the phrases in other languages. It's a wonderful touch to the story, but I don't know what the words mean when the characters say them. Footnotes with the translations would be the perfect way to get around that. My second suggestion is about the ballista. I didn't think about it while reading the chapter, but as I started to write this review I realized it seems like a deus ex machina. If you haven't heard of that before, it's a plot device that lets the characters get out of a dangerous situation without any mention of it ahead of time. A little comment in the last chapter or even in the beginning of this one would hint at it possibility being used later on, and would make the moment where they realize it's there even more impacting than it already is.

I really enjoyed reading your work. While there may have been a few rough spots, it's overall a wonderful piece of writing. If you feel like some parts of my review need further explanation or just aren't good enough, please let me know. I'd gladly clear up anything about this review.

Keep up the great work (which I doubt you'll have trouble with) and good luck on your writing endeavors!

Thank you so, so much!

I'm glad you appreciate my writing style, never have heard that before. I'm glad you like it short like that, I literally can't write any longer, i don't know whats wrong with me. haha
So happy you noticed my references, they continue for the next couple chapters. I love writing in things like that, and its all historically accurate.
I thought about what you said about footnotes for the languages, but I'm not sure how i could place those in without ruining the flow of the story. Perhaps you can suggest a way for the story to remain uninterrupted? I just hate completely ditching the whole flow and feel of the story just for a quick translation. I intended for people to copy the phrases into google translate or something, but if you could suggest something better i would be grateful.
About the ballista, i do see how its kind of an unnaturally easy way out of a tricky situation, and would be more natural if I mentioned it beforehand. I plan to rewrite all of these chapters, (especially this one and the one before it) and put it all into one big story.

Thanks so much!

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72 Reviews

Points: 270
Reviews: 72

Wed May 09, 2018 8:48 pm
ChieRynn wrote a review...

So here’s my review as promised! Mind you, you did very well here, so I’m not sure what to say in terms of constructive criticism, but I’ll give it a try.

So here’s what I really liked first.

- The ship’s name was Grendel. Yes.

- Estienne’s character development is coming along nicely

- Conrad is becoming a favorite of mine, he reminds me of one of my own characters

Your description was vivid but not overwhelming. That’s important. I hardly see historical (let alone medieval) fiction around this site and look forward to reading more of your work.

This had to be my overall favorite thing about the story, Conrad’s reassuring Estienne that God really can forgive. <3
[ “The Lord always forgives, Estienne. He can always offer another chance, even to the most black-hearted of men, lost and wandering souls, and to the infidels in the East.
Estienne, the Lord will give us all a chance to redeem ourselves. A way to salvation. A path to forgiveness. When He opens that door for us to climb through, we must be ready.
He will give us another chance.” ]

Now for a couple of things I noticed that could use work, but mind you not a lot!

- “Raindrops fell from the clouds, starting as soft blips and growing into heavy javelins that quickly ran down Estienne’s temples…” <- I do get the picture here, but “javelins” seems to be an odd thing to compare raindrops to. It works, but I somehow feel there could be something better here.

- “For the next fifteen minutes of watery hell that pounded the Grendel, the knights all stood strapped to objects…” <- On the word “objects”, you could add a teeny bit more description to make a big difference. “Heavy objects” for instance, defines “objects” a little more. No big deal, but a little more definition wouldn’t hurt.

- You did mention that Conrad came up to them in a rowboat. I’d like to know where he got it, for if the ship capsized there’d be a good chance the rowboat would have been dragged under or capsized or bashed to pieces, so I’d just like to know exactly how Conrad happened to find it.

Point being, you’d better write more of this story because I love it! Always was a bit partial to the Crusades. I’ll be sure to hop around and review more of this story when it’s published. Keep up the good work!


Thank you so much!

You know what the Grendel references in medieval lore?

I'm so, so glad you thought Estienne's character was coming along, and I'm glad you're starting to like Conrad. I was told in my last story the characters were bland, skittish, and all the same. I worked to fix that, and I'm glad I actually did.
I'm also happy you liked Conrad's reassurance, I was feeling very inspired as I wrote that. That is the main focus of the entire story and its sequels to come- forgiveness.
Also, looking back on the use of 'javelins' to describe raindrops, I see your point. I wanted to say that they were becoming heavier and wetter, and I see how a javelin is nothing like a raindrop, even a heavy one.
I will fix my sentence about objects, yes.
I also was thinking about how Conrad found the rowboat, but i forgot to explain. Thanks for reminding me.

I'm so glad to have you invested in the series, and I look forward to your wisdom in the future. Have a good one.

ChieRynn says...

Will do! And yes, Grendel was the fearsome beast that Beowulf killed. One of the most famous monsters that he ended, actually.

Good, good I'm glad people caught at least one of the historical 'innuendos' I put in there lol

ChieRynn says...

Haha yes. I love that kind of thing, I just don't know as much about it as I'd like.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
— Martin Luther King Jr.