“Know thyself, know thy enemies. Hundred battles, hundred victories.”…Sun Tzu, Art of War
Ivanhoe, a knight of Richard Lion-hearted, defended Cyprus against Saladin
Our conquest of Acre was deemed as a great success, but one Crusade stronghold remained, and that was the island of Cyprus. Sultan Ahmed loved this island, because it supplied the Empire with the finest olives and wines. He demanded that I reconquer it at once. I was disgusted by his lack of concern about the Empire’s glory and expenses and instead love for these luxuries. The ill feelings brewed in me, but he was Sultan and I was general, so I obeyed.
At the same time, I could not help to develop great admiration for the Crusaders who remained to defend Cyprus against us even after Richard’s departure to England and the fall of Acre. Amongst them was a English knight called Ivanhoe. He was one of Richard’s best.
Ivanhoe was Saxon, not Norman like his king, but his might in war made him one of Richard’s favorite. He was charged with the murder of Jullien de Gaspard, the French Visitor of Acre, but it was something impossible to prove. I personally believed that Ivanhoe was too noble to commit such a crime. I did not even bother to send a messenger to ask for truce, for I knew that Sir Ivanhoe was far too honorable to accept a peace treaty with a Saracen prince like myself.
In Cyprus, a few English knights remained with even far fewer numbers of Frenchmen and Germans. They were thus arranged as the Knights of St. John, and as Ivanhoe’s renown was the greatest amongst his peers, he was elected as Guardian. It was said that Ivanhoe fought like a lion, not unlike Richard himself, and I was sure he was more than a match for me or Nassur combined. But did he have our guile? That I would soon find out.
The Knights of St John lined themselves along the shores of Cyprus, and they defended it well. They were the crème de la crème of the Crusaders, and with the leadership of Ivanhoe, they were fearless. Many of my Seljuk troops were destroyed. One of Ivanhoe’s knights could easily
fend off five of us. Suddenly, I realized the heavy losses we were facing and decided that something had to change.
I ordered all my men back on board the ship and made for a larger distance. The Crusaders cheered wildly as they perceived my defeat, but it was I who was confident of victory now. For Ivanhoe did not use his men to pursue us, even though they had ships. Next, I ordered my men to load firebolts and boulders into our catapults. Then, I gave out the order to fire!
Suddenly, it was the Crusaders’ turn to die by the tens and hundreds. Ivanhoe’s men were forced to retreat, and then, we waited until nightfall. I ordered the ships to be anchored where they were to give the impression that we were not doing anything. Then, I ordered men in small groups to board little boards and go ashore on Cyprus. Soon, almost a third of our forces landed in Cyprus. Seeing that we had made a landing, Ivanhoe ordered the Crusaders to take refuge at the fortress at Makarios.
Then, my entire army of 100,000 men landed and besieged the fortress. After two months of conflict, we managed to break into the fortress, kill most of the defenders, and captured Ivanhoe himself.
Sala-hu-din: “I shall set you free, brave Ivanhoe.”
Ivanhoe: “Why? I will not serve you or your false god, and if we should meet again in battle, I will not show thee mercy, Saladin, for I serve only King Richard.”
Sala-hu-din: “And rightly so, for Richard was a dear friend to me. And because I am better than you folks. Many years ago, the Neapolitan prince Bohemund the Giant spared my life at Antioch, and I shall return his favor, if not to him, then to the bravest of the Crusaders.”
And then, Ivanhoe’s stance softened, and tears welled up in his eyes, though he still stood there with his arms bound behind his back…a true knight in shining army, as the Christians say. For our admiration of Bohemund the Giant, a legend amongst the Crusaders, were mutual.
Ivanhoe: “You are as noble as any knight of Christendom, Prince Saladin. I shall not forget this day, though we remain enemies.”
Sala-hu-din: “I would expect no less, Sir Ivanhoe.”
Then, I ordered men to untie his hands and allowed Ivanhoe to return from Cyprus back to England.