Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saladin Book 12. Counterattack

“There is a time for patience, and there is a time for action.”…Kung Ming (Three Kingdoms)

Robin Locksley, the last defender of Acre

After the retreat of Richard from Acre, I led my army of 200,000 strong against them. The Crusaders abandoned by the king of England and his nobles must have had fewer than 5,000 in Christendom’s greatest stronghold of the East, and yet, they chose to defy my valiantly. I could not help but show some respect for these infidels. In fact, with no nobles to lead them, it seems that Acre was not led by a common archer by the name of Robin Locksley.

At my orders, Prince Nassur met with Locksley and offered him peace. “Your valour in defence of this fine city has come to the notice of my Lord, Prince Sala-hu-din of Jerusalem. Hence, we are here to offer your truce, life, and honor. If you will accept circumcision and embrace Allah, he shall grant you his daughter’s hand in marriage and make you leader of Order of the Jeweled Sword.”

But Robin laughed at Nassur’s suggestion and asked his men for comments.

A large yeoman called Little John couldn’t help laughing, “What will your wife Maid Marian say to this, “Lord” Robin?” He faked a polite bow that triggered even more laughter from Locksley.

“Surely, a man who gains as much favor from Prince Sala-hu-din can afford to have more than one wife”, Nassur tried to maintain his diplomacy and composure with some difficulty. He could see that Little John was built like a warrior more than seven feet tall.

A burly, drunk monk rudely appeared in Nassur’s presence and said, “Such is the nature of a heathen that a man can abrogate the bonds between man and wife and take another woman. Do not consort with such men, Robin, Prince though he may be. Perhaps, he is no better than our own spoiled child of England, Prince John.”

This bought Nassur almost to the point of breaking his temper, but he still tried to retain his composure again, “…And who may you be, lowly monk?”

“I am Friar Tuck,” the drunk monk replied. “And the holiest man in your presence today, godless Prince.”

Nassur ignored Tuck’s introduction. For all his virtues, he was a true-blood Seljuk prince and to be accosted with such familiarity by common peasants with such rudeness took a toll on him. Finally, he blurted out, “Robin, thy name amongst these westerners indicate that they think no more of you no more than little bird, but Lord Sala-hu-din offers you greatness. Fine, I shall inform him that you choose to remain amongst these peasants!!”

And so, Nassur left, and the war against Acre began in earnest.

I ordered heavy catapults and onagers to attack the Crusaders with plaque, stone, and fire, and the toll on the city was heavy. Within less than a month, half of the defenders had perished, and yet Locksley would not surrender. He believed that he was doing his god’s work and was willing to die in the mindless battle. Such a waste of talent I thought.

That day, as I slept in the camp, a group of enemy soldiers cloaked in the dark of night with pitch black, managed to break through my guards. A good deal of brave Seljuk guards were killed by a giant assassin amongst them, and soon, two of the assassins managed to approach my bed chamber.

Nassur fought with the giant. Though Nassur was swifter, the giant fought well and would have slain him if more of our soldiers had not arrived. Soon, the giant assassin was captured. The other assassin shot an arrow that was so accurate it hit my heart’s position!!

But then again, I was Allah’s favorite. That day, I had decided to try on one of the captured Norman chain mail and see if I could actually sleep in this thing. Only marginally injured, I began to attack the assassin with my own curved blade. The man was a much better archer than he was a swordsman, but nevertheless, he fought well with the long dagger.

But I was not commander of the Army for nothing. Having fended off many of his attacks and dodged his feints, I finally disarmed him.

At the sentencing, I ordered the masks of both assassins to be taken off. The great archer was Robin Locksley himself! And the giant was Little John!

“A fine archer you make, Robin, and much loyalty do I see in you, Little John. Let us test both these qualities.” I said.

Then, I ordered Little John bound to a tree and placed an apple on his head and told Locksley to split the apple blindfolded. Nassur laughed, for he realized that now, Locksley would have to kill his own trusted lieutenant, and it gave him great satisfaction for he was insulted by the arrogance of these peasants.

But perhaps, the Almighty guided the hand of Locksley, for blindfolded as he was, he split the arrow without a moment’s wink.

And then, because I was a man of my word, I let both Locksley and Little John go. “Great may your futures be, little bird. Your temerity in challenging your betters will not serve you well once you go back to England. You came to me cloaked in the black of night, and for this, I shall call you Robin of the Hood.”

“Robin Hood” Little John smiled. “Yes, that name will stick.”

And Robin replied unto me, “Rise and rise again, till Lambs become Lions.” He was trying to tell me he would never give up, and that he was able to challenge royal men like myself.

I believe what he said, for he would need it if he did not take my pardon and generosity. For Acre hath once again fallen into my hands, and men will always look for someone to blame. Perhaps, he will have to take to hiding in some forests and escape the authorities in England himself. Perhaps, he will succeed, if Richard were not such a fool. Or perhaps, he would not, but I will always remember him as a worthy adversary.

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