ISLAND OF DESPERATION -
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The county of Adessa has fallen to Turkish rule, and you, the greatest and most respected knight of the court of King Conrad III, have decided to take up the cross, and follow your lord to battle to wrest the holy land from the hands of the savage Turks.
That was seven months ago.
It is now mid December, the year of our lord, 1147. The route along the coast through Byzantine country has been long and arduous. You and your battle-weary men have fought off tireless attacks from enemy raids, and now have arrived in well defended Ephesus, where you can have a few days of well earned rest. On the eve of the day before departure a page informs you the king has urgent need to see you. You enter the royal tent, not expecting the task that will soon befall you.
Conrad III looks up from his super, "Ah, sir knight, you are well rested I hope?"
"And your men? How do they fare?"
You reply, "The joining of Louis's men to the cause has boosted their hopes, and the time of rest here has made their spirits well again, my liege."
"Good!" the king says, "...good. As you know, we march out on the morrow, and perhaps, if God wills, reach Antioch before summer draws nigh. But you, I think, will not make that journey as yet."
"Milord?" you begin to ask.
King Conrad quickly interjects, "What is the status of your arms, sir knight?"
You reply, "Milord, Battle has sundered many pikes and spears, and the men mend them as best they can, but I fear we'll need arms anew, as of soon. The sea air rusts our steel quickly."
"Yes!" says Conrad as he arises from his chair and with a serious look, clasps your shoulder. "You are my greatest knight. I wouldn't entrust this task to any other. You are to embark on an errand hallowed to our cause."
"What would you have of me, Milord?" you ask.
The King replies, "This land has no iron, nor trade to be had, and Louis VII will not donate arms, but he is willing to part with some of his ships. What’s more, the local allies of our embassy here tell of just one place to find iron-ore in this land, a small barren atoll island but half a day’s sail from this very shore. So this is what I require of you Sir; sail to this island on morrow’s break, claim it under our rightful standard. Mine the iron as you will and make what weapons as you can until spring’s conclusion, then sail with all haste to our appointed meeting in Antioch.
“Milord” you reply, “what of time for preparations?”
“All arrangements are made forthwith” he says, “smiths, pole turners, miners, supplies. They all await on ships in the harbor. A guide will direct you to the awaiting island.”
The following morning the King sees you off.
“Now onward we march, and I bid you farewell. Remember your task and by God’s grace may you perform it with steadfast resolve. Your joyous return will be met with celebration in Antioch. God speed.”
Your journey is uneventful and fair winds carry you to the south east shore of the small atoll well. But then disaster strikes. You are not 100 yards from shore, when the winds shift and a violent gale blows your ships towards hazardous reefs. The first three of your eleven ships crash into the submerged barriers, smashing the hulls to splinters. Panic stricken men attempt to cling to the wreckage as the white capped breakers wash them back out to sea. The rest of the flotilla barely manages to avoid this disaster, but you find your ships quickly heading towards the looming cliffs and rocky outcroppings. The sailors are trying their best to slow down, but winds have made the course irreversible. You brace for the inevitable, and one by one, side by side, the ships collide with the deadly cliffs. Men and supplies are thrown about and water rushes below decks as each ship crashes into the rocks, but as luck would have it, only two ships capsized or sank, for rocky shoals beneath the cliffs prevented the others from this fate. You and the remainder of your men manage with hardship to glean what supplies you can, and assist the injured across the decks, into the shallows, and safely onto the beach.
By the time you’ve rounded up the exhausted men and what meager supplies remain, the day has worn on and you decide to go forth with a few of your best men to survey the land while there is still light left. You head for a small knoll of land in the middle of the lagoon, as it appears to be the highest point on the island thus far. As you cross the shoals and reach the beaches of the knoll, you see what you came for – rich deposits of iron-ore and vast quarries of granite. But as you reach the summit of the knoll, an unexpected sight fills your eyes. To the immediate north lies a settlement, and on the horizon to the west and southwest there are clearly 4 others!
“There is people here milord!” exclaims a man to your left, “Let us hope their intentions are well.” Just then you’re spotted! 5 horsemen splash across the northern shoals. One of your men utters, “Turks, my lord. Seljuk by the look of their mounts and dress. This does not bode well.”
The lead rider closes and raises his arm to stop the riders. A rider to his left, apparently a translator, takes the raiment of cloth from his face and speaks on behalf of the leader. “You men of the west are not welcome here! This island has been claimed for the Sultanate of Rum!”
You reply, “Gracious hosts, we do not demand aid or succor. Allow us simply a time to repair our vessels, and we shall be gone from your cursed land.”
The lead rider replies and the translator follows, “We know what you came for, and the Sultanate has paid us well to keep you from it. If after one day you remain here, I swear upon the great Muhamed you infidels will regret this great charity we’ve given you!” One of your men exclaims, “Blasphemy!”, and begins to draw his sword. The riders draw their bows. “No!” you shout, as you stop your man in mid-draw. You utter under your breath, “Now is not the time. We’re outnumbered here.”
Dusk sets in as the horsemen gallop away. “What will we do milord?” asks one of your men, “Is all hope lost?”
You reply, “We cannot repair our vessels in a day, not a week even.” As you turn to face him, the look on your face makes even the most battle-hardened crusader of your group start. “But we can fight. And fight we will. Here we shall make our keep, and through the blackness of night and the light of day we will prepare for battle…and pray…..”
I guess I got carried away with the story. My first attempt at writing dialog, and I hope my attempts to make it sound "Old Englishy" won't make it hard to follow. The story's a bit unrealistic, but the places, times, and names were true to the second crusade (except there's no atolls in the Mediteranean sea. heh.).
Anyway, here's a cool map that will really challenge your ability to build efficiently and successfully defend a keep. On the test run I allied one Wolf, one Saladin, one Caliph, and 2 Lionhearts against me with a 4000 gold computer advantage. 3 restarts and 3 and a half hours later I finally won....yeash. I made this map with computer AI in mind, but I suppose a multiplayer of 3 to the east against 2 to the west wouldn't be bad. Be sure to start in the Southeast. Tell me what ya think. Enjoy!