No collection of medieval tales would be complete without without reference to the crusades. The first third of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, Zombie Killers (aka The Monk's Second Tale) takes place in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade (otherwise known as 'The Kings' Crusade'), but I really wanted to write a tale set completely at a siege and conveying the barbarity of these ill-conceived expeditions. Thrown into the mix of The Dyer's Second Tale are a vicious crusader, a 'hippy' alchemist, a corrupt vizier and a greedy Sultan, all playing their part in the backdrop to the siege of Acre. The excerpt below occurs early on in the text and describes the effects of siege warfare on those waging it and those on those at the receiving end:
With trebuchets and towers we laid siege To Acre for our lion-hearted liege. This harbour on the Medit’ranean shore, This sheltered port, was where the Papal war Played out for months on end while Christians paid A bloody price for mounting their blockade. The walls were thick and strong around the town, So no amount of pounding brought them down. And ’neath those sturdy ramparts, scalding oil And red hot sand, and water on the boil, Rained down upon our soldiers all the time, Augmented by a fog of blinding lime, Whilst rocks and arrows also took their toll, Preventing us from capturing our goal.
To undermine the battlements, we failed -
With ladders, Acre’s walls remained unscaled.
Yet in the town, unable to import Necessities, the populace had nought For nourishment and soon were forced to eat Whatever creatures scurried round their feet. The residents of Acre gnawed on rats And roaches once the harbour’s dogs and cats (Both feral and domestic) were consumed.
Each day, at dawn, hostilities resumed Against this sturdy Saracen redoubt, But still our hardy enemies held out In spite of their malnourishment and though The drift of time intensified their woe.