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Historical Adventures: 1

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Historical Adventures: 1
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Author(s): H. Rider Haggard
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 540
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-993-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-994-7

A four volume collection of period adventures

There are few who have heard of H. Rider Haggard's novels who do not know his principal character—Allan Quatermain—the archetypal white man in Africa. Here was a hero who would take on a Zulu Impi, a charging rhinoceros, a giant gorilla God, a lost tribe, slavers, a magical eternal queen, malign spirits and still come back for more—bringing a host of readers with him. In short, Haggard knew what it took to write a good adventure which is why some of his books have been among the most popular in modern times. Haggard was a prolific author: aside from the Quatermain stories, he produced a sequence of novels concerning the ancient world, four featuring his other great character, Ayesha—'She who must be obeyed’—and a collection of adventure novels taking Africa as their stage but without the presence of Quatermain. All are excellent. In Haggard’s lifetime his public eagerly awaited his next book, but today, while many are aware of his reputation, that knowledge often applies to but a small proportion of the reading enjoyment his books have to offer. Fortunately Leonaur now publish most of these works in matching sets at great value by combining two or more novels in each volume. Now Leonaur is pleased to offer Haggard's historical adventure series. Predictably Haggard's inventive pen was able to create several more lead characters of the stamp of Quatermain and they populate many of the ages of history with gripping adventures set against momentous events in many lands.
This Leonaur collection offers the reader these fine adventures in historically chronological order. The earliest—and first novel in this volume—is The Brethren. From twelfth century England the reader follows the action to the East. It is the time of Crusaders and the Third Crusade is about to begin. It will only come to a close as Saladin storms and captures Jerusalem. The second tale in this volume is set in the fourteenth century. Edward III sits upon the throne of England. The Black Death stalks all of Europe and war grinds on with the French. This is a great tale that draws its characters to the field of battle that was the momentous conflict of Crecy. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket.

“And I would thrust the lie down your throat with my sword’s point!” shouted Wulf.<br>
But Godwin only shrugged: his shoulders and said nothing, and the Master went on, taking no heed.<br>
“King, we await your word, and it must be spoken soon, for in four hours it will be dawn. Do we march against Saladin like bold, Christian men, or do we bide here like cowards?”<br>
Then Count Raymond of Tripoli rose, and said:<br>
“Before you answer, king, hear me, if it be for the last time, who am old in war and know the Saracens. My town of Tiberias is sacked; my vassals have been put to the sword by thousands; my wife is imprisoned in her citadel, and soon must yield, if she be not rescued. Yet I say to you, and to the barons here assembled, better so than that you should advance across the desert to attack Saladin. Leave Tiberias to its fate and my wife with it, and save your army, which is the last hope of the Christians of the East. Christ has no more soldiers in these lands, Jerusalem has no other shield. The army of the Sultan is larger than yours; his cavalry are more skilled. Turn his flank—or, better still, bide here and await his attack, and victory will be to the soldiers of the Cross. Advance and the vision of that knight at whom you scoff will come true, and the cause of Christendom be lost in Syria. I have spoken, and for the last time.”<br>
“Like his friend the knight of Visions,” sneered the Grand Master, “the count Raymond is an old ally of Saladin. Will you take such coward council? On—on! and smite these heathen dogs, or be forever shamed. On, in the name of the Cross! The Cross is with us!”<br>
“Ay,” answered Raymond, “for the last time.”<br>
Then there arose a tumult through which every man shouted to his fellow, some saying one thing and some another, while the king sat at the head of the board, his face hidden in his hands. Presently he lifted it, and said:<br>
“I command that we march at dawn. If the count Raymond and these brethren think the words unwise, let them leave us and remain here under guard until the issue be known.”<br>
Now followed a great silence, for all there knew that the words were fateful, in the midst of which Count Raymond said:<br>
“Nay, I go with you,” while Godwin echoed, “And we go also to show whether or not we are the spies of Saladin.”<br>
Of these speeches none of them seemed to take heed, for all were lost in their own thoughts. One by one they rose, bowed to the king, and left the tent to give their commands and rest awhile, before it was time to ride. Godwin and Wulf went also, and with them the bishop of Nazareth, who wrung his hands and seemed ill at ease. But Wulf comforted him, saying:<br>
“Grieve no more, father; let us think of the joy of battle, not of the sorrow by which it may be followed.”<br>
“I find no joy in battles,” answered the holy Egbert.<br>
When they had slept awhile, Godwin and Wulf rose and fed their horses. After they had washed and groomed them, they tested and did on their armour, then took them down to the spring to drink their fill, as their masters did. Also Wulf, who was cunning in war, brought with him four large wineskins which he had provided against this hour, and filling them with pure water, fastened two of them with thongs behind the saddle of Godwin and two behind his own. Further, he filled the water-bottles at their saddle-bows, saying:<br>
“At least we will be among the last to die of thirst.”<br>
Then they went back and watched the host break its camp, which it did with no light heart, for many of them knew of the danger in which they stood; moreover, the tale of Godwin’s vision had been spread abroad. Not knowing where to go, they and Egbert, the bishop of Nazareth—who was unarmed and rode upon a mule, for stay behind he would not—joined themselves to the great body of knights who followed the king. As they did so, the Templars, five hundred strong, came up, a fierce and gallant band, and the Master, who was at their head, saw the brethren and called out, pointing to the wineskins which were hung behind their saddles: <br>
“What do these water-carriers here among brave knights who trust in God alone?”<br>
Wulf would have answered, but Godwin bade him be silent, saying: “Fall back; we will find less ill-omened company.”<br>
So they stood on one side and bowed themselves as the Cross went by, guarded by the mailed bishop of Acre. Then came Reginald of Chatillon, Saladin’s enemy, the cause of all this woe, who saw them and cried:<br>
“Sir Knights, whatever they may say, I know you for brave men, for I have heard the tale of your doings among the Assassins. There is room for you among my suite—follow me.”<br>
“As well him as another,” said Godwin. “Let us go where we are led.” So they followed him.<br>
By the time that the army reached Kenna, where once the water was made wine, the July sun was already hot, and the spring was so soon drunk dry that many men could get no water. On they pushed into the desert lands below, which lay between them and Tiberias, and were bordered on the right and left by hills. Now clouds of dust were seen moving across the plains, and in the heart of them bodies of Saracen horsemen, which continually attacked the vanguard under Count Raymond, and as continually retreated before they could be crushed, slaying many with their spears and arrows. Also these came round behind them, and charged the rearguard, where marched the Templars and the light-armed troops named Turcopoles, and the band of Reginald de Chatillon, with which rode the brethren.<br>
From noon till near sundown the long harassed line, broken now into fragments, struggled forward across the rough, stony plain, the burning heat beating upon their armour till the air danced about it as it does before a fire. Towards evening men and horses became exhausted, and the soldiers cried to their captains to lead them to water. But in that place there was no water. The rearguard fell behind, worn out with constant attacks that must be repelled in the burning heat, so that there was a great gap between it and the king who marched in the centre. Messages reached them to push on, but they could not, and at length camp was pitched in the desert near a place called Marescalcia, and upon this camp Raymond and his vanguard were forced back. As Godwin and Wulf rode up, they saw him come in bringing his wounded with him, and heard him pray the king to push on and at all hazards to cut his way through to the lake, where they might drink—ay, and heard the king say that he could not, since the soldiers would march no more that day. Then Raymond wrung his hands in despair and rode back to his men, crying aloud:<br>
“Alas! alas! Oh! Lord God, alas! We are dead, and Thy Kingdom is lost.”<br>
That night none slept, for all were athirst, and who can sleep with a burning throat? Now also Godwin and Wulf were no longer laughed at because of the water-skins they carried on their horses. Rather did great nobles come to them, and almost on their knees crave for the boon of a single cup. Having watered their horses sparingly from a bowl, they gave what they could, till at length only two skins remained, and one of these was spilt by a thief, who crept up and slashed it with his knife that he might drink while the water ran to waste. After this the brethren drew their swords and watched, swearing that they would kill any man who so much as touched the skin which was left. All that long night through there arose a confused clamour from the camp, of which the burden seemed to be, “Water! Give us water!” while from without came the shouts of the Saracens calling upon Allah. Here, too, the hot ground was covered with scrub dried to tinder by the summer drought, and to this the Saracens set fire so that the smoke rolled down on the Christian host and choked them, and the place became a hell.<br>
Day dawned at last; and the army was formed up in order of battle, its two wings being thrown forward. Thus they struggled on, those of them that were not too weak to stir, who were slaughtered as they lay. Nor as yet did the Saracens attack them, since they knew that the sun was stronger than all their spears. On they laboured towards the northern wells, till about mid-day the battle began with a flight of arrows so thick that for awhile it hid the heavens.<br>
After this came charge and counter-charge, attack and repulse, and always above the noise of war that dreadful cry for water. What chanced Godwin and Wulf never knew, for the smoke and dust blinded them so that they could see but a little way. At length there was a last furious charge, and the knights with whom they were clove the dense mass of Saracens like a serpent of steel, leaving a broad trail of dead behind them. When they pulled rein and wiped the sweat from their eyes it was to find themselves with thousands of others upon the top of a steep hill, of which the sides were thick with dry grass and bush that already was being fired.<br>
“The Rood! The Rood! Rally round the Rood!” said a voice, and looking behind them they saw the black and jewelled fragment of the true Cross set upon a rock, and by it the bishop of Acre. Then the smoke of the burning grass rose up and hid it from their sight.<br>
Now began one of the most hideous fights that is told of in the history of the world. Again and again the Saracens attacked in thousands, and again and again they were driven back by the desperate valour of the Franks, who fought on, their jaws agape with thirst. A black-bearded man stumbled up to the brethren, his tongue protruding from his lips, and they knew him for the Master of the Templars.