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Thread: Ransom

  1. #1
    Member Member Alexander the Pretty Good's Avatar
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    Post Ransom

    Ludwig strode quickly forward through the enemy camp. He was careful to keep his gaze along the narrow dirt path, which parted the dirty tents and huddles of soldiers. Few took notice of him, but almost all who did threw Danish cat-calls at him. He only understood one or two, but guessed most of the others challenged his intelligence, character, manhood, and family. He willed himself to ignore the jeering as he prayed that his diplomatic immunity would protect him.

    He heard one heckler switch effortlessly from coarse Danish to flowing Latin. This caught Ludwig off guard, and he nearly tripped over a halberd strewn across his path. Stumbling, he muttered a curse as some onlookers laughed at his misfortune. "Latin? I haven't heard that spoken outside of church in a long time. Damn, I miss Italy." He dusted himself off and continued walking, but his mind was on the past. "Curse the Emperor for sending me here. I don't even speak Danish!"

    Ludwig had not wanted to go north to the Danish front. Rather, he preferred the diplomatic sword-play of the papal court or the pleasure of sun-washed beaches in beautiful Italy - and the company beautiful Italian women. He had ruined his perfect assignment with an incautious comment about some duke's new mistress. Unfortunately, the duke was the Emperor's cousin. One angry letter later and Ludwig packed his bags for the royal court of the Holy Roman Empire.

    Ludwig had thanked God that he was spared fines, imprisonment, or worse. He was less thankful for his rushed order north, to the site of a total defeat of Imperial arms near Hamburg. He was to bargain the ransom of important prisoners that the Danes had no doubt captured, using the five thousand Imperial florins he had at his disposal.

    His thoughts gradually sank back to the present as he moved deeper into the camp. He could see the Danish king's tent about fifty yards down the foot-worn path. The enemy's banners stood proudly, swaying gently in the wind, mocking him. Then he began to hear German.

    His countrymen, captured, under guard. They looked thoroughly beaten. Ludwig inhaled sharply at their state. Many were wounded. Low conversations mixed with screams to God - some begging for mercy, some death. Their Danish guards leaned heavily on their polearms, bored.

    One of the Germans saw Ludwig. He shouted, a question - are you for us? Ludwig was startled - how could some common prisoner know he was a high-ranking German diplomat?

    Once high-ranking, he automatically corrected himself.

    He decided that the best course of action was not to announce his presence to both the Germans and Danes. He walked on, quickening his pace and keeping his eyes on the ground.

    His efforts were for naught. Whoever had spotted him spread the word. The captives' low murmur grew to a buzz, full of inquisitiveness and hope. A few ragged cheers of "God bless" rose above the prisoners. One or two guards made as if to move against the hopeful, but they quieted down.

    Ludwig was stopped before the king's tent by four large Danes, armed with decidedly large halberds. They bellowed an order for him to stop, and punctuated their command by waving their weapons menacingly.

    Ludwig cursed to himself again. He still could speak only a few words of Danish. He looked around nervously. The guards grew visibly angrier at his lack of a response. God smiled on Ludwig, and his end was postponed by a man who ran up to the guards, babbling in their own tongue. They weren't amused, but cooled slightly.

    The man turned to Ludwig. "You're here to ransom us, right?" The man was young, rustic, probably conscripted off of a farm somewhere.

    "I'm here on behalf of the Emperor, yes. Who are you?"

    "Rolf, from Hannover." He paused, unsure. "You are here to ransom us, right?'

    "Yes. And how do you speak Danish?"

    "Easily - my father was Danish." To this, Ludwig grunted affirmatively. They stood there in silence for a moment as the diplomat worked to process this new information.

    "Rolf, I need an interpreter. Will you help me?"

    "Me?" The response was not filled with confidence.

    "Yes. Now tell these apes to get out of my way."

    Nervously, the man turned to the Danish guards. After a short conversation, one of them left. He returned with an impressive officer and a tankard of rich, brown beer. Ludwig's mouth dried up at the sight of it.

    The officer barked a few orders and motioned for the diplomat. Rolf whispered, "He wants us to follow him."

    Ludwig snapped back, "Just because I don't speak Danish doesn't mean I'm soft in the head." Rolf turned red.

    They were brought before a large table, around which many officers and generals squabbled and pointed at scattered maps and papers. In their center was the Danish king. Middle-aged, he seemed graver than his minions, though no less a warrior. He still wore his mail hauberk, which was dull and red-stained. He wore a simple campaigning crown atop a balding head of chestnut. He turned to his visitors and spoke. Ludwig tried to catch some of it but quickly gave up and waited for Rolf.

    "He asks your business here. He also said to spare the niceties."

    "Tell him I'm here on behalf of Emperor Konrad to negotiate a release of our prisoners."

    The Danish king smiled slightly to be reminded of his crushing victory. Rumors had it that the Danes had killed ten thousand Germans and captured another five thousand. Ludwig thought that was an exaggeration, but the number of prisoners outside ate at his surety.

    The king talked more. Around him, his generals and lieutenants argued in hush tones. One or two tried to gain the king's attention, but their attempts were vanquished.

    "He says he wants 'thirty thousand' florins for the prisoners." Rolf looked worried and confused - such a sum was barely conceivable for one of his social stature. Ludwig didn't know if the peasant could count that high. He'd have wagered against it.

    "Ask him how many prisoners he has here, along with a list of all the knights and nobles among them."

    The query caused more talking among the officers, and one handed a parchment to the king, who read from it.

    "How many is that?"

    "I don't... there's..." Rolf stammered unhelpfully.

    "Ask him for the list!"

    It took several minutes of exchange to get the parchment to Ludwig, who read over it unhappily. There were many nobles on the list, including favorites of the Emperor's court. In addition, the Danes reckoned they had seven thousand soldiers of various stature in the clutches. Ludwig turned to Rolf sadly. "Tell him he will receive five thousand florins for the knights and nobles."

    This response shocked the king and his council. The shock passed quickly, turning to scorn and anger. The king bellowed at Rolf, who gulped.

    "What did he say?!"

    "He said that is not enough! You have more, right?"

    "Damn." Rolf eyes went wide. "Ask him how many he would ransom to us for five thousand florins."

    Rolf stammered the questioned.

    One of the generals spat on the ground. The king was quiet for a moment, then spoke calmly. Although it meant nothing to him, Ludwig's heart sank. Rolf began to cry silently.

    "What? What!?"

    "He said - he said that he's done with negotiations. You don't have enough. We're to be..." He trailed off, and gulped again.

    Ludwig stood there and watched. The king nodded to an officer, who walked out of the tent. Two burly guards escorted Ludwig and Rolf out of the tent. Rolf struggled, but the diplomat shambled on his own power, dumbstruck.

    He heard the cries from the prisoners. The Danes began their work quickly, efficiently. One of Ludwig's escorts began to drag Rolf away.

    He yelled, first in Danish. Then, crying, he broke from their grasp for a moment. He fell before Ludwig, who could only stare on.

    "Please! Tell my family!"

    Rolf gasped as he was retaken and thrown among his comrades. The screams continued, growing in volume and number. Ludwig turned away, shaking.

    ----

    This was inspired by a Danish (!) campaign I was playing in M2TW. I had captured a bunch of Germans and tried to ransom them. The ransom was denied.

  2. #2
    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Re: Ransom

    Short but good.
    Looking for a good read? Visit the Library!

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