Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saladin Book 10. Friends or Foes

“How dare you place the flag of a mere duke besides those of a king?”….Richard Lion-hearted.

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, the most powerful monarch of Europe

In those days, Germany was known as the Holy Roman Empire, and it was the most powerful nation in Europe. Its Emperor Frederick I was renowned for his red beard or Barbarossa. His grandfather Conrad II had led the Second Crusade against myself, and he had challenged the papal-sponsored Lombard League. Though he defeated the Lombard League, an alliance of north Italian city-states, he wanted to make peace with the Pope by sponsoring the Third Crusade along with his English and French allies.

So Barbarossa sent his vassal Duke Leopold of Austria along with his allies first, and would later follow with his vast legions later…but alas, the Lord Allah decided to punish the infidel, so he sent a strong gust of wind, more like a tornado against the Emperor’s ship. For five days and nights, the Emperor who put down the power of his Welf cousin and rival, Henry the Lion (duke of Saxony and Bavaria), fought his greatest battle against the Almighty.

But powerful as he was, Barbarossa was but a man. On the sixth night, all of his ships were drowned, and Barbarossa’s dead body could not even be found. Because of this, he couldst not send the vast legions that would have overwhelmed our forces.

During the trace between Acre and Jerusalem, I developed a new found friendship of sorts against Richard the Lion-hearted or Cours de Leons, as he liked to be called. I learned that the English royalty were originally Norman French who had married into the royal family. When conflict arose, the Normans defeated the Saxons and seized the throne for themselves. Playfully, I thought of how I myself was married to Fatimah and if I could one day become a Sultan myself.

But such was playful thinking. I was too loyal to the Seljuk empire to do such a thing, even though the Sultan Ahmed Shah clearly disliked me. His contempt for me was hard to understand, for we were now brother-in-laws, not to mention that I was his Grand General. Anyway, I resolved to keep these feelings under control by not attending his court in Bagdad.

Richard (smiling):  “In a different place and time, we may have been friends, Saladin.”

Saladin: “Umm…it’s Sala-hu-din, but thanks anyway, my mispronouncing infidel comrade.” (laughing).

And so, I watched Richard and his knights led by Ivanhoe joust for many days inside his court at Acre, and no harm came to me, for Richard was as noble as the Crusaders came. I made sure that he paid for everything, because these costs were eating into Richard’s power base. Though the Visitor was one of Philip’s former vassal, most of the warriors respected Richard more, so he easily overruled the wily French, who suggested that I be kidnapped and ransomed.

Meanwhile, Richard learned how to shave from me and the taste of truly good wine. One day, he would ask me, “You say that you do not drink, and that is what brings you salvation. How thus did you come up with such fine wine?”

Saladin: “We? Don’t Drink? You must be kidding, Richard! The word ‘alcohol’ itself is an eastern word much as algebra. Come. I will drown you in wine.” (laughing).

One day, however, Leopold placed the Austrian flag on the walls of Acre, and Richard was fuming. He went straight up to the top of the battlement, tore the flag down, and sent it flying to the ground below. Then, he said, “How dare you place the flag of a mere duke besides those of a king?”

Leopold was angered and shameful, but it would take a hundred men to take down as fierce a warrior as the King of England, so he bowed his head in disgrace, unable to do much. But even then, I knew that the cracks in the Third Crusader’s alliance was beginning to show.

One day, Leopold confronted Richard before Philip and the Visitor of Acre, “He consorts with that Saracen Saladin, and yet, he will not allow me to put my flag beside those of kings. Does he not know that I am the representative of the Holy Roman Emperor himself? This insult will not go unpunished.”

Richard moved up and struck Leopold so hard he fell to the ground and said, “Saladin, enemy and Saracen though he may be, was a far greater warrior than yourself. Learn to show respect before thy betters, Leopold.”

Leopold was fuming and hurt. Once again, he could do nothing. Taking this opportunity, I thanked Richard and returned to my court in Jerusalem. I had taken great risks to be in Acre, but I smiled when I met Nassur, for now the opportunity to defeat the Crusaders presented itself in all its light, for I knew Richard and Philip too well not to lose. Their strength depended on Richard’s valor in combat and Philip’s cunning in strategy, but the bonds between them was as loose as a broken string.

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