Pissing against the wind, sir! said the old sergeant, marching next to the litter at the slow pace the soldiers carrying it managed to keep. What was in our generals' minds to put us into such mess? the old sergeant spat on the frozen earth beneath his feet. He was ready to continue this tirade, when an event ahead on the long line of refugees interrupted his deep thoughts: Clear the way, you filthy maggots! Clear the way for the Commander! he shouted, pushing aside soldiers on his path and reaching for a small cart blocked in the middle of the road.
For once, Daniel was fed up with the old sergeant's exhortations. With a grimace, he tried to alter his lying position, only to feel the back of his head vibrating with excruciating pain. Two broken ribs, many wounds on his chest and limbs, and a fine crack in the skull was the excellent record of his last encounter on the battlefield. As through fog he recalled the last events, when he was desperately charging with the Templar vanguard towards Croatian lines, throwing the first lines into disarray when panicked voices turned them to a still halt, facing a new opposing force came from where their allies should have been. And from there to total disaster was but a point of a spear, advancing lines mixing with the retreating soldiers, while waves after waves of foes poured in the circle of battle. Safely brought out from turmoil, granted dead by the soldiers carrying what they thought to be a corpse, Daniel was lastly saved by the Grandmaster's physician, aware enough to notice his barely-noticeable breathe slipping through his pale lips.
Although the fine doctor told him, when he last was awake from his coma, that he should feel happy, as the broken ribs did not pierce through any vital organs, Daniel was still contemplating ironically his nickname when instructed he would not ride or move for another two months. He was of course under full recovery, but strained to a bed he was not feeling up to the task entrusted to him in the near future. Yet, the pile of parchments spread all over his chest stood witness of the mission he was supposed to carry, as well as the importance of it.
He bit his lips hard when the litter started moving again, the path alongside cleared, and the voice of the sergeant came close again, ready to proceed further with the measure of his eloquence. Sorry, 'bout that, Sir! Damn peasants, I should have... but the hand waved at him from the litter interrupted. I have a hard task ahead and we moving too slow Daniel whispered to the man's ear, trying not to moan at every bump on the road. I need you to go forward to the citadel and prepare, we cannot delay any further. Sergeant's disappointment was no secret, as pulling a long face he lowered his head. Granted, his Commander was anything but his idea of fun to be with during long marches or the camping nights. For once, he dreaded alcohol or any petty talks soldiers fill their time with, and he showed a rather distasteful lack of propensity for casual encounters with representatives from the opposite sex, a behavior he would rather reprehend. But the prospect of riding at best speed, all by himself, to the South of the peninsula and then embark and suffer a voyage at sea in the company of sailors seeming only interested in the consistency of the droppings of seagulls, was definitely far worse. With a deep sigh meant to soften even the hardest of hearts, he murmured: At your orders, Sir!
Totally impervious at the man's show of sacrifice, Daniel continued through the clenched teeth: There is a man, locked up in a monastery in our shire. His name is Michael, and he is of Arab breed. He...the litter took a small bending to the left, causing him to moanhe was a good friend of my father, but for years is living there. Hopefully he's still alive. Tell him to prepare for his last voyage, perhaps, and both of you in Krete wait for me. While there...Daniel took a long, painful breath, waiting for his strength to gather up before continuing you shall purchase the carrying assets of a merchant from South. Fabric, carpets, doesn't matter, as long as it's genuine and it's not heavy load. Some merchant clothes will be required, too. That would be all. Farewell.
Unable to add more to this cold good bye, the sergeant saluted and head back to the end of the column to fetch his horse and gear. On the way, the hit with his boot a lying soldier ready to fall asleep in the ditch adjacent to the road. That, at least, made him feel slightly better.