In my travels I have met many people. Most are crude, dingy nobodies, distinguished only by the severity of their bumpkinesque manners, debilitating intoxication, boorishness, or shameful personal hygiene. Occasionally I meet people that are notable for being important. They too are just as bumpkinesque, intoxicated, boorish, and foul-smelling. The only difference is that somehow they’ve managed to accumulate power and fame. Often these personages become Generals, Caliphs or Emperors years later. What follows is a few of their stories.
Soldier of Fortune – The Jura Mountains
As my party and I made our arduous trek across the mountains towards the Swabian plateau, we were suddenly beset by a small party of horsemen that had recently killed five men and injured two others. They proceeded to steal a good deal of our baggage before finally withdrawing. As we gloomily descended, we came upon a tavern and nursed our woes. Sure enough, within an hour, those very same horsemen arrived, grieving the deaths of one of their friends who had been killed randomly by a bear. Soon however, as the mead and bawdy tavern songs we shouted united us in camaraderie, we put aside our differences. They were mercenaries that had nothing to do since Lotharingia and Bavaria had ended their pointless century-long conflict. Their leader, Rudolf, turned out to be a good chap and paid for our prostitutes, yet kept our stolen gear, that swine. I learned that he later led an army that successfully burnt the city of Erfurt to the ground, after which he came to grief when he led that same force against the Tartars. He was captured, briefly employed as a fool to amuse their commander Subodai, and then thrown off a cliff.
Exiled King – Öland
When a boat I was traveling on capsized off the coast of Sweden, I was swept onto the shore of the island of Öland. It was my third time there and an inopportune time to visit, as I owed money all over the place. Hence, I hid out in a Royal hunting preserve where the Swedish crown had set aside a refuge for Wenceslaus IV after his kingdom in Wallachia had been overrun by Tartars. There, I lived on wild berries and fish for months until I was able to sneak aboard a ship and escape to Muscovy. After learning of my presence, the Royal hunters occasionally hunted me for sport. I was lucky to have come away with my life, especially considering I raided their abandoned hunting camp once and robbed them of a trunk of valuable trinkets, baubles, and ancient Egyptian sexual utensils.
Yusuf Abd Ziyad – Kairouan, Ifriqiya
Once while visiting the ruins of ancient Carthage, I bought a pomegranate from a young man by the side of the road. As he claimed to know the history of the area well, I hired him to show me around the ancient sites. He turned out to be insane, however, and declaring himself to be the reincarnated form of Pontius Pilate. Luckily, I managed to lose him in a bazaar and never paid him anything. I learned that he later came to Rome claiming to be the Pope’s bastard in an attempt to acquire fame. After being exposed as a fraud he was beaten up by a mob and thrown off a cliff.
Rich Man – Athens
Twenty years ago, when I was still young and idealistic, on a trip to Athens, I saved a man drowning near the harbor. To my great fortune, it turned out to be the richest man in town. He was a tax farmer, a hideous, disreputable, cruel, violent, murderous man, yet who proved to be a great friend. Any trip to Athens was made sublime by his generous gifts of the finest lodgings, food, wine, and women the ancient city had to offer. Athens hasn’t been the same for me since he died of a tooth infection a few years ago.
Polish King – Balearic Islands
I met the future King of Poland on a trip to the Balearic while I was inspecting the amazing crafts the islanders weave with their native Esparto Grass. After an afternoon of stocking up on baskets, a young man that had overheard me talking about my travels to the Abbasid Caliphate asked me to educate him about my travels there. He turned out to be the Crown Prince of Poland. I traveled with him and his royal entourage for the rest of my stay in the islands. I learned later that when Tartars besieged him in Lomza, he vowed to not change his clothes until the siege ended, so as to inspire his troops. When the city was seized after nearly a month, he was himself captured and thrown off a cliff.