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PHANTOM OF THE CRUSADE
In a forest a soldier wandered, hushed by the silence that surrounds him. The sun had already begun to set, casting its orange light upon the trees and forest floor. He walked swiftly and quietly as his ashen colored cloak fluttered behind him, hoping to be back before the other crusaders noticed him gone. He ventured into the shadows alone, hoping to get a glimpse of the soldier who he often found on the battlefield, one that always disappeared in the smoke when they returned to camp. Others called this one the ghost warrior, a saint that has been sent among them for battle. But Philip felt certain that they were wrong, for what saint would hide its face from all those surrounding it? Would it not cast down the hood of his cloak fearlessly, so as to inspire fear of God to all those who beheld his form?
These questions Philip sought to answer with his trip into the forest, yearning to find the identity of this secret man; if he be a saint may he find wisdom, if he be a man may he find understanding. Of all of those apart of the holy crusades, it was he who fought along side this phantom the most, he who witnessed the power of this creature’s sword. Silently the ghost will fight, slaying many without uttering a single word and without revealing his identity. Multiple times this benevolent spirit has saved his life from an enemies’ blow, and yet he asked for nothing in return.
A shadow moved in front of him, and out of reflex he drew his blade and held it against the man’s throat. Realizing that he could touch the phantom, he immediately cast off all thought and questions he was willing to ask a saint.
“Who are you?” Philip hissed into his opponent’s ear, surprised at how fearless it appeared to be.
Irritated by the silence that followed, Philip swiped the hood down.
“I thought you stayed home with your father,” Philip whispered as he dropped his sword, stunned to see a familiar face.
“He died six months ago, the plague got to him,” Danielle said softly as she turned to face him.
“But what brought you here? What compelled you to do this?” he asked gesturing at the men’s armor she was wearing, “This is far from woman’s work.”
“There is more work for me here than there is anywhere else! Everyone is dying, Philip, everyone has gotten the Black Death, everyone except me! I have been cursed enough to watch all of those I cared about suffer and die before my eyes while I live untouched by the plague’s fingers. No, there is no more ‘woman’s work’ left for me back at home. Our town has become a living place for the dead,” Danielle shouted.
“But why must you run here?” Philip asked softly as he brushed her hair out of her face, “You used to be gentle and kind, unable to hurt a fly without feeling guilty. Why must you take refuge in murder?”
“Its no more murder for me to be apart of a crusade than it is for you. After father died I remembered what the friar said that made you wish to be apart of the holy crusade, that all of our sins will be forgiven. I don’t know what I have done to anger God so much for him to make me watch as everyone around me died, but after this he has to forgive me…” Danielle whimpered, trying to hold back tears.
Philip wrapped his arms around her, uncertain as to what he should do. Six months ago, he promised the sweet and fair maiden that he would marry her when he returned; but now looking at what she has become he felt unfamiliar and almost fearful at the creature before him.
“You saved my life so many times…” he mused, trying to find some good in the situation.
“I had no choice, I already lost father to death. I couldn’t take it if I lost you too…” She whimpered as she looked up at him.
Philip leaned his chin against her shoulder, the shock of the situation subsiding. She is just scared, he realizes that now, scared just like the rest of the crusaders are, in want of forgiveness, in want of a better life.
“Danielle,” Philip said softly as he looked down upon her, “You search so much for God’s forgiveness that you forget one important thing; forgiveness of yourself. I do not believe that their deaths were your fault in any way, and you need to realize that.”
“Philip!” Danielle shouted as he turned to walk away, “What are you going to do now that you know who I am?”
“You have saved my life multiple times, became my eyes in my blind spots. It is about time I saved yours. If you find it right, go and find work in a small town, and leave your guilt behind. Wait for me, for I will return to you, if it is true that no one else from our town lives. But, if you choose to continue to fight along side me, I promise to protect your life as if it were my own. We will return from this war together, once all is conquered, phantom and soldier side by side,” Philip said calmly, watching her from over his soldier, trying to guess at the decision she will choose.
“I will fight with you,” she said after a long pause, “To ensure that you will return safely home, wherever home ends up. Your battles are my battles, as are your enemies mine. The friar himself said this is God’s work, and if it is so then by my hand it shall be done.”
“You realize you will have to kill many more before this is over,” Philip said, testing her.
“So will you,” Danielle countered.
“Then so be it,” Philip said as he returned to his camp, leaving her behind in hiding. What the future held, neither of them knew, though both were secretly glad that they were blessed enough to face it together.