Treatment: The Curse of the Crusaders

A story in two parts

PART ONE: THE STEALING OF THE HAND

Caption: Jerusalem, October 2, 1187 C.E. – Rajab 583 A.H.

The following words are displayed on screen:
“Arise, let us depart this place, for it is full of Djinn and Marids.”
John Payne, Tales from Arabic (1884)

Scene: The walls of Jerusalem

Christian clergy lead a procession calling on God to save them from the Muslim forces besieging the city.

A priest declares: “Our Lord does not deign to hear the prayers or noise that is made in the city. The stench of adultery, of disgusting extravagance and of sin against nature does not allow our prayers to rise to God.”

Muslim forces charge down the Mount of Olives, crying “Allahu Akbar!”

Scene: Richard the Lionheart’s camp

Richard decides to leave the Crusaders since defeat is certain. He and his men will return to England.

Scene: Inside the ciy

HandOfFatimaA group of renegade Knights Templars, led by Wolfram, run through the streets, stripping off their red cross tunics as they run. They are fearful of Islamic retribution since they have committed great atrocities against captured Muslims during the fighting.

Looking for loot they can carry away with them, they break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque and steal the silver-and-sapphire “Hand of Fatima”, a sacred object said to represent the hand of the daughter of the Prophet Mohammad  (ṣállā Allāhu ʕaláyhi wa sállam).

Scene: Outside the mosque

As they leave the mosque, shadowy figures follow them, but allow them to leave the building. The robbers are captured  just outside by a group of irregular Muslim soldiers who attack them and demand to know what they were doing in the mosque. Things look bad for the Templars, but they are rescued by Saladin’s men, who take them to their leader, obedient to his edict that no prisoners or civilians were to be killed. The Templars are searched, and their theft is revealed, but the Muslim soldiers leave it in their possession, since they feel it has been made unclean by being handled by Christians.

Scene: Saladin’s tent

The Muslim leader is more than just a great warrior. He is also a generous man and a philosopher. He welcomes the thieves and sees they are made comfortable. He tells them they are safe since he has given orders that no prisoners or women or children are to be harmed.

He criticises them for abandoning their Templar tunics. “Are you ashamed of your faith?” he cries.

Aware of their theft, Saladin advises them to return the Hand to the Mosque, lest ill-luck befall them, but Wolfram objects, saying it would be suicide to attempt to re-enter the city during the battle. Saladin sets them free to rejoin the English king, Richard the Lionheart, who is already on his way home.

One of Saladin’s lieutenants warns them to beware of djinn on their journey, evil spirits created out of fire, implementing the wrath of Allah. Saladin pooh-poohs this, saying that evil spirits are merely embodiment of men’s evil desires.

One of the Templars speaks of the shadowy figures who had followed them out of the Mosque – and as they leave Saladin’s tent, the figures are seen again.

PART TWO: THE CURSE WORKS ITSELF OUT

Scene: The Templars’ camp, in the desert, nightfall

At the end of the first day of their journey home, they examine their booty. One of the Templars scratches his hand on the silver jewel. He wraps his injury in a bandana as all prepare to sleep. But his hand is throbbing, and he lies awake a long time, gazing at the sky. As, eventually, he closes his eyes, shadowy figures obscure the stars.

Next morning, his hand has swollen up. His lips are dry and he drinks greedily from their meagre water supply. As they travel onwards, he falls behind and collapses. Wolfram comes back to him and helps him to his feet. His whole arm is now swollen.

They make camp before nightfall, and the injured man is now delirious, tossing and turning in his blanket. He wakes in  the dark and sees in terror that both his arms are now swollen, and also his legs. He tears the bandana off his injured hand, and it has the appearance of  prickly cactus. He staggers to his feet and wanders into the desert.

In the morning, his comrades look for him and bury his body. As they continue their journey, the shadow people dig him up and drag his body away.

Scene: A desert caravan

The Templars join a camel caravan, travelling westwards. Wolfram has eyes for a seductive woman, travelling in a palanquin. She is Marid, actually a female djinn. She invites him to travel with her, and plies him with cold drinks. His men are jealous of this favoured treatment and begin to quarrel among themselves.

One kills the other in a drunken rage and the dead man’s body is left to rot in the dunes. As the caravan travels over the horizon, shadowy figures life up the corpse and carry it away.

The Hand falls out of his tunic and Marid is clearly aware of its value, both in terms of its silver and jewels, and also as a religious object. She urges him to give it to her to keep it safe from the Djinn, but he refuses, though she seduces him.

One by one, Wolfram’s companions are left behind, and by the time they reach a Moroccan seaport, only she and he are left alive.

Scene: On board ship bound for Malaga, in Spain

Marid is pregnant with Wolfram’s son and her contractions begin as the ship nears the port of Malaga, in the Muslim kingdom of Granada. She screams, and her cries summon up a hurricane. The sailors accuse her of being a djinn and throw her overboard. Wolfram jumps after her, but instead of him rescuing her, she takes him into her arms and rises above the storm, collapsing wearily on the shore, where both lie unconscious

Scene: The seashore

Wolfram comes to. Marid is nowhere to be seen, but a Muslim stranger stands over him, with a bundle in his arms. “You have a son,” he says.

He introduces himself as Asim, a Muslim doctor in the Almohad emirate of  Southern Spain and North Africa, who had been trained on obstetrics in the techniques pioneered by the 11th century doctor known in the West as Albucasis. But he is actually a friendly djinn.

He urges Wolfram to settle in Granada, where Christians and Jews live peacefully alongside the Mujslims, but he prefers for his son to be brought up in Christian lands. Asim helps him to travel to Toledo, where the Christian armies are massing for an assault on the last Muslim principality in Iberia.

Caption: Castile, July 19, 1195 C.E. – Sha’ban 9, 591 A.H.

Scene: Inside Alarcos, the castle of King Alfonso VII

Wolfram is putting on his armour, including the Templars’ white over-tunic, emblazoned with the red cross. In the background, a baby gurgles in its crib.

As he leaves the room, he is met by Juan, Archbishop of Toledo, who reproves him for wearing the hated garment since defence of the castle was taken away from the Templars forty years before and handed over to the warrior priests under Saint Raymond of Fitero. The archbishop denounces the Templars and says they should be burned at the stake for heresy and unnatural practices. Wolfram brushes past him to join the defenders on the castle walls.

Scene: Outside the castle walls

A woman leaves the castle by a small breach in its defences. She is Marid, the djinn. Shadowy figures follow her as she makes her way to the Muslim camp.

Inside the camp, she is met by a Castilian nobleman, Pedro Fernández de Castro, who has forged an alliance with the Muslim leader, Abu Yusuf. Though she is surprised to find Christians fighting on the side of the Muslims, she tells him about the breach in the castle’s defences through which they can get behind the defence line.

Meanwhile, however, the castle’s defenders are making a surprise attack on the Muslims. Wolfram fights gallantly alongside them, but they are beaten back by the Castilian cavalry. Marid leads the Castilians to the breach in the castle walls.

She makes her way to the room where Wolfram’s baby is sleeping, and takes him from his cradle. She searches inside his clothes and finds the Hand. She is about to leave with it when Asim appears. They struggle and he seizes the Hand from her.

Wolfram appears, his head bloody. Marid stabs him, but while he is dying he asks Asim to protect his son, and take him to Pedro Fernández, to be taken to England. Marid stabs him again, and he dies. But Asim escapes with the child. We do not know who now has possession of the Hand.

Caption: London, 1348 C.E. – 748 A.H

Scene: An upper room in a ramshackle house

The Black Death is scourging London. Shadowy figures push carts through the streets, crying “Bring out your dead!”

Wolfram’s descendant (also named Wolfram)  is beleaguered in his home in the city, along with a group of Templars who continue the old traditions. One of them has brought with him a beautiful young woman who anoints their bodies with a protective potion. He is not aware that she is Marid, the djinn who stabbed his ancestor to death, two centuries before.

Wolfram discovers her holding the Hand. She has been going through his belongings. She explains that the Plague is a result of the theft of the Hand. If he entrusts it to her, she will take it back to Jerusalem. He refuses. She flies at him in a rage, but Wolfram’s followers push her out of the house. Shadowy figures drag her away, screaming her fury.

In the street, Asim nods his head approvingly at this turn of events.

The Templars gather round the Hand, which glows mysteriously on the table between them.

Caption: London, February 8, 1661 C.E. – Jumada II 8, 1071 A.H.

Scene: The Fleece Inn, Covent Garden

Wolfram is boozing with Samuel Pepys, author of the famous diary and Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under King Charles II, at the Fleece Tavern in Covent Garden where they meet with two men who have been slaves of Barbary pirates in Algiers. The two men are always scratching, because of fleas they picked up during their captivity.

Wolfram is amazed to learn that the Barbary pirates have been attacking villages along the shoreline throughout Britain and Ireland, and have even enslaved men from Iceland and taken  them to work on their galleys.

Scene: The street outside a tavern

Again, a cart passes by, laden with corpses. Shadowy figures cry “Bring out your dead!” Wolfram meets a pretty London girl, Rebecca Andrews, and they enter the tavern, disregarding the mayhem going on in the streets. They hit it off, but he is put off taking the matter further because of her continual scratching.

The next day, he comes to her door to visit and it told that she has died of the plague, one of 100,000 Londoners to do so.

Back in the tavern, he and his fellow descendants of the Templars resolve to leave the city and travel to Sheerness, on  the Isle of Sheppey, which is reputed to be plague-free.

Scene: A tavern in Sheerness

In his cups Wolfram brings out the Hand and shows it to the other drinkers for them to admire.

At that very moment, the port is attacked by Barbary pirates, led by Jack Ward. Wolfram runs out of the tavern, still clutching the Hand, and encounters a group of pirates, who seize him and take him to Ward.

Ward seizes the Hand.

Scene: On board Jack Ward’s ship, the 60 ton “Reniera e Soderina”

Because he is thinking of converting to Islam, Ward says he will return it to Jerusalem, though actually he intends to keep it for himself. There is murmuring in the crew, who say it should be sold in Holland, and the proceeds shared among them.

The Barbary galley sails home but on its way it encounters the Rainbow, a ship of the Royal Navy. In the melée, Wolfram escapes and swings on a rope over to the English vessel, but Ward still has the Hand.

As the pirate sails away, the female Djinn emerges from Ward’s cabin and embraces him.

Caption: London, June 10, 1666 C.E. – Rajab 7, 1076 A.H.

Scene: The sea battle between the Royal Navy ship and the Barbary pirate

A reprise of the previous scene. Wolfram is on board Jack Ward’s pirate vessel, but the pirates are busy holding off the British sailors from the Rainbow, which has grappled alongside. Wolfram climbs the rigging and swings on a rope on to the Rainbow.

The pirates free their vessel from the British grappling irons, and sail away. The female Djinn emerges from Ward’s cabin and embraces him.

Scene: The Sheerness tavern

Wolfram and his comrades are drowning their sorrows. He resolves to follow Ward and regain the Hand but the others say they should cut their losses. A pressgang raids the inn and the men are taken.

Scene: Tunis harbour

Ward’s ship docks and the British captives disembark under the watchful eyes of the captain. He wears the Hand on a chain round his neck.

He leaves the ship and rides away on a magnificent Arab stallion.

Scene: The streets of Tunis

The captives are led in chains through the streets. The populace jeers at them, pulling down the men’s pants and lifting the woman’s skirts, feeling muscles, opening mouths to look at teeth, etc.

Scene: Ward’s palace

He is watching the parade of the slaves through a window. He is stripped to the waist and a blonde slavewoman is washing his back. He still has the Hand on a chain round his neck.

She urges him to remove it and we see that she is in fact Marid.

The grand vizier of the Bey of Tunis enters, sees the Hand, and recognises it. He urges Ward to convert to Islam if he wishes to keep it. He should also see that the captives are treated with more respect.

Those that become Muslim should be freed.

Marid realises that the grand vizier is in fact Asim and the two look at each other with undisguised hostility. Ward observes this with a cynical smile. But he does not know the reason.

Ward starts scratching an itch. He says he must have got a flea from one of the captives.

Scene: Port of London

A fleet is being assembled to go and rescue the slaves in Tunis. Wolfram is engaged in scrubbing decks but he is allowed to see the captain. He explains his Knights Templar ancestry but the captain demands proof, which he cannot provide since his ancestor’s tabard is in his baggage back in Sheerness. He is sent up to the crow’s nest to look out for enemy ships.

Scene: The Bay of Biscay

Wolfram spots a Barbary galley and calls out the alarm. British slaves are shackled to the oars, guarded by shadowy figures. A heavy mist descends, and the galley disappears into the murk.

The much heavier British ships cannot hope to catch it, but it is essential that the galley be stopped from warning Ward of the fleet that is coming to overthrow him.

A fast skiff is lowered with a troop of marines on board. Wolfram jumps in as it hits the water.

Meanwhile, the pirate galley has come about and is lying in wait. The skiff is taken by surprise. Wolfram and the marines are taken prisoner.

Scene: Ward’s palace

Wolfram is dragged into the presence of the pirate chief. Marid is by Ward’s side. He realises he has known her in London, and there is a shock of recognition between them. She puts a finger to her lips advising silence.

Wolfram claims that Ward has stolen the Hand, which is his property. Ward offers to return it if he will divulge details of the British fleet and its plans to attack Tunis. Wolfram says he is just a common sailor and knows nothing of the admiral’s plans. Ward orders him to be thrown into the cells.

Scene: A cell in Ward’s palace

Wolfram is shackled to the wall. Food and drink have been placed just out of his rteach. Marid enters and feeds him. She says she will try to obtain a key to his shackles and help him escape. He says he won’t go without the Hand. She agrees to help him get it from Ward.

She returns with the key and frees him. They make love.

Scene: Tunis harbour

The British fleet shells the harbour. Marines land and run through the streets, killing everyone they see. They are about to kill one, seemingly an Arab, who throws back his head-covering and speaks to them in English. He says he will guide them to the prison where the newly captured slaves are held.

Scene: Ward’s bedroom in the palace

Ward is very ill with the plague. His followers burst in with news of the British attack, but he is delirious and can give them no help. Marid and Wolfram enter and he goes to take the Hand from its chain around Ward’s neck. In the melée, he is fatally injured. Marid is about to seize the Hand when British marines burst in and capture her. She claims to be a British woman, enslaved by Ward and made his concubine. The officer in charge of the marines is enchanted with her and puts her under his protection. He grabs the Hand and declares it to be part of the spoils of war.

She says she, also, is a spoil of war. They embrace and the Marines loot the bedroom for any valuables they can find.

Wolfram is dying. Asim enters and comforts him, saying his descendants will regain the Hand and return it to Jerusalem.

Shadowy figures roam the streets of Tunis, gathering up the dead..

Caption: London, January 15, 1759 C.E. – 16 Jamada I, 1172 A.H.

Sir Wolfram is rich, and dining with Sir Hans Sloane, who invites him to join the Board of Trustees of the newly-established BritishMuseum, where the Hand of Fatima is to be displayed in the “Cabinet of Curiosities”. Wolfram suggests that he and descendants of the Knights Templar wish to meet overnight on the last day of April every year to recall the exploits of their ancestors.

Wolfram meets the beautiful young wife of Sir Hans, who asks that she attend their April meeting. At first he refuses, but Sir Hans insists, so he agrees. She seduces Wolfram as a reward.

Six Templars meet in the Museum on a Monday night at the end of April. The wife of Sir Hans attempts to steal the Hand, but Wolfram prevents her. She stabs him fatally. She is about to smash the glass case in which the Hand is displayed, but is foiled by figures who lurk in the shadows. When these figures try to drag her off she screams, and Sir Hans enters and rescues her. As Wolfram dies, he declares he and his fellows will never escape the Crusaders’ curse.

Caption: London, April 30, 1851 C.E. – 28 Jamada II, 1267 A.H.

The year of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, which will open in Hyde Park the next day, and the Hand is to be on prominent display. The Templars are met in the museum for their annual assembly.

Over the port and cigars, Wolfram reviews the ill luck which has dogged them individually, and the whole country, since the theft of the Hand – the failure of the Crusades, the Black Death, the dissolution of the Templars in 1312, the Wars of the Roses, and so on. He makes a risky proposal, that they steal the Hand on its way to Hyde Park, and return it to Jerusalem.

A beautiful woman is spying on them and enters their meeting room. She says she will assist them in their enterprise. Wolfram takes a fancy to her and they embrace.

The theft is almost foiled by the Bobbies of the recently-formed Metropolitan Police, but shadowy figures intervene and Wolfram sets sail on the Channel ferry with the Hand in his baggage and the woman at his side. However, a storm blows up, the ship sinks, and the bag floats away. Wolfram and the woman stagger ashore in France, and she helps him search for the bag.

Shadowy figures lead them to where it lies, half-buried in the sand. Exhausted, Wolfram falls across the bag. The woman tries to move him off and they struggle. The tide comes in and they appear to drown.

Caption: Gibeah, in the British Mandate of Palestine, 1922 C.E. – 1340 A.H.

William H. Albright, an American archaeologist, is supervising a dig in the Iron Age “hill of beans”, three miles north of Jerusalem. Wolfram, an officer in the British army, comes seeking assistance in his quest for the Hand of Fatima, which was stolen from Jerusalem by his ancestor, a Knight’s Templar, but was lost at sea during the last century. One of Albright’s diggers says that the ancient artefact has been offered for sale by a Jerusalem dealer.

Albright’s beautiful wife (who is actually Marid) persuades him to check out the rumour, though he believes it to be nonsense. Before he leaves for Jerusalem, Mrs Albright arranges an assignation.

By the time Albright gets to the dealer, the Hand has gone. What he does not realise is that it has been bought by his wife.

Caption: KingDavidHotel, Jerusalem, July 22, 1946 C.E. – 22 Sha’ban, 1365 A.H.

Wolfram is now a Colonel, attached to the Headquarters of the British Forces in Palestine and Transjordan. Marid left her husband when he returned to USA and is now Wolfram’s mistress. They are both staying at the KingDavidHotel with their young son, who is a lance-corporal in the army.

Young Wolfram is out on the town when the hotel is rocked by an explosion which kills his father and ninety others. Marid scrabbles through the rubble to where the hotel safe lies opened by the explosion.

The Hand has gone.

Young Wolfram returns to find the corpse of his father. But his mother is nowhere to be found.

He resolves to try to find her and deserts from the army, joining the Irgun terrorist gang. One of their number has stolen the Hand from the hotel safe. In a fight, Wolfram obtains the hand and escapes back to England with it.

Caption: Jerusalem, the present day

Occupied Palestine. Wolfram, now a middle-aged man, dodges Israeli patrols and enters the OldCity through the Damascus gate. As a non-Muslim, he is denied entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where he wishes to return the Hand. He tries to explain his mission but the Israeli guards know nothing of the legend and will not let him enter..

He is waylaid by a beautiful woman who disguises him in Arab dress and shows him a way in. She persuades him to leave the Hand in her safe-keeping while he checks out the lie of the land.

On his return to his hotel, he finds she has vanished, taking the Hand with her.

Outside in the street, a Palestinian demonstration is confronting Israeli soldiers. Looking through the window, he sees her making her way through the crowd, and he runs out to join her. In a fusillade of bullets, he falls to the ground. One of the shadowy figures grabs the woman, takes the Hand from her, and carries her away.

“No one can escape the wrath of Allah!” cries the crowd.

THE END


Notes:

The Hand of Fatima is sacred not only to Muslims but also to Jews, who call it the Hand of Miriam, or Hamsa (five).

In Islamic theology, Djinn may be either good or evil, male or female. Their role is to testify to the power of Allah. They are referred to several times in Qur’Anic sura.

This story is aimed at a so far neglected demographic, the millions of young Muslims throughout the world whose diet for horror has to be satisfied by Judaeo-Christian myth (eg Raiders of the Lost Ark), but the intention has been to tell the story in such a way that would also interest the non-Muslim demographic.

The story also has potential for development as a video game.

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